Each winter night, under a clear sky in the mysterious mountain sanctuary of AlUla, a young Saudi starts a fire to keep the evening’s guests warm at the ultra-peaceful Habitas resort.
That young Saudi’s job is to help AlUla’s visitors press pause on the frenetic pace of modern life. So, he points their eyes to the night sky and under the warmth of the fire, and traditional farwas, he tells his guests of another age.
It was a time when Arabs traversed the desert at night only with the help of a billion stars. They were such brilliant students of the sky that they would hide their treasured possessions in a nondescript place in the desert knowing that analyzing the stars alone could guide them back to the place where they hid what they’d buried from home.
“The Arabs not only knew these stars,” he says as he points to them, “but we only know these stars because of the Arabs: to this day many of the stars in the world’s skies have Arabic names.”
The guide’s native Arabic is accentuated by immaculate English, when it is needed, and his fascinating observations reveal a golden age when this corner of the world—Arabia—represented a crossroads of all civilizations. It was a place naturally open to others because everyone passing by had come from somewhere and its extravagant culture of hospitality not only gave shelter to visitors, but it caused everyone to learn from everyone else. It fostered art and science, innovations of every type, and a rare resilience that was undeterred by the extremes of life during a pre-modern era.
So much of this history, and the blessings of Arabia, have been hidden in these deserts for generations, but not anymore. Thanks to the incredible transformation happening in Saudi Arabia, the treasures of Arabia are being unpacked again for a waiting world beginning with Saudis themselves.
Any frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia these days observes that once again Arabia is being opened to the world with all its history, all the blessings of its natural beauty, all the mysteries of its far-flung places, and all the brilliance of one of the world’s most ancient civilizations rising again.
The modern Saudi Arabia is not being built up by tearing down the past, but by celebrating, rebuilding and cherishing the past as the foundation for its future.
The modern Saudi Arabia is not being built up by tearing down the past, but by celebrating, rebuilding, and cherishing the past as the foundation for its future.
From Diriyah in Riyadh to future wonders of Neom to the crystalline Red Sea to the solace of AlUla to the faithful in Mecca, today’s Saudi Arabia isn’t a departure from its culture but a revival of it—in all of its glory.
And the message is clear: everyone is welcome here, and they’re welcome to stay as long as they like.
The pace of change in Saudi Arabia may be unparalleled in history but what’s most remarkable is how masterfully the Vision 2030 plan, fashioned by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, is unfolding in front of the world’s eyes exactly as promised.
Its progress is undeniable.
Any visitor can see it. Any local conversation reinforces it. Any honest person must acknowledge it.
The energy among young Saudis is especially contagious, the diversification of the economy is proceeding as scheduled, the social developments are not only accepted but encouraged and expanding.
Saudi Arabia is now the place to be in a world filled with interesting places.
In a time of global anxiety, with many reasons for pessimism, there really is no room for pessimism in this ancient place. It’s time for the world to recognize that Vision 2030 long ago passed from being simply a “vision” alone to being today’s “reality.”
It is all more real every day. All the smart bets are on Saudi Arabia—like those stars in AlUla’s skies, Arabia shines again because of it, inviting the world to the adventures of another golden age.
• Johnnie Moore is president of The Congress of Christian Leaders and president of JDA Worldwide.