Luxury travel guide ‘AlUla Ever’ pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s ‘spectacularly preserved cultural, historical masterpiece’

Special Luxury travel guide ‘AlUla Ever’ pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s ‘spectacularly preserved cultural, historical masterpiece’
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At the heart of AlUla is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, main, where the Nabataeans buried their dead in elaborate tombs carved from the sandstone rocks. (Alamy)
Special Luxury travel guide ‘AlUla Ever’ pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s ‘spectacularly preserved cultural, historical masterpiece’
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A view shows the Maraya concert hall, the world's largest mirrored building, in the ruins of Al-Ula, a UNESCO World Heritage site in northwestern Saudi Arabia, on February 19, 2023. (AFP via Getty Images)
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Updated 22 September 2023
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Luxury travel guide ‘AlUla Ever’ pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s ‘spectacularly preserved cultural, historical masterpiece’

Luxury travel guide ‘AlUla Ever’ pays homage to Saudi Arabia’s ‘spectacularly preserved cultural, historical masterpiece’
  • New York-based publishing house Assouline has released a new collection of essays and photography celebrating AlUla
  • The Kingdom’s premier cultural attraction is being transformed into a “living, open museum,” complete with luxury hotels

LONDON: When the American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys played a concert in Saudi Arabia in February, she was the latest in a series of international stars to perform at the spectacular mirror-walled Maraya concert hall in AlUla.




Alicia Keys performing in AlUla in February 2023. (Instagram)

But it was the moment when she was joined on stage by the Dar AlUla traditional band, for a unique performance of her hit “Girl on Fire,” that perfectly summed up AlUla’s rapidly emerging reputation as an international cultural destination as forward-looking as it is firmly rooted in the ancient past.

After spending time touring the historic surroundings of the AlUla valley, meeting local people and taking part in a “Women to Women” panel at the Wadi Ashar resort, Keys gave her impressions of her visit.




A traditional band performs in AlUla. (Kleinjan Groenewald)

“There is no denying the beauty and enchantment of AlUla,” she said. “I have always been an explorer, and I adore discovering ancient places and what has been left behind of times long gone.

“I visited a women’s music school in the old town and got to see first hand the continuation of the timeless artisan traditions here. I feel the future emerging in a way I was never aware of before.

“And as an artist, I feel a sense of belonging and connection — with nature, with humanity, with the magic of this special place.”




A page of the book, "AlUla Ever", containing the impressions made by American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys during her visit to AlUla. (Supplied)

Now Keys’ words have found their way into a new book, the publication of which represents another landmark moment in the emergence of Saudi Arabia in general, and AlUla in particular, as a global cultural destination.

The book, “AlUla Ever,” published by New York-based luxury travel and culture publishing house Assouline, is the latest in a series paying homage to the world’s leading travel destinations.

Assouline, which specializes in high-quality books on travel, art, design and culture, was founded in Paris in 1994 by Prosper and Martine Assouline, and now has stores across the world, including in Doha and Dubai.

Its latest travel book is in excellent company.




The book is pictured at AlUla's Harrat viewpoint. (Supplied)

The 288-page hardback tribute to AlUla, featuring more than 200 images, many taken by internationally renowned photographers, joins a portfolio of travel books dedicated to iconic destinations, including Mykonos, Lake Como, Ibiza, Miami, Gstaad and St Tropez.

Only two other Arabian destinations have so far been featured in the series — “Dubai Wonder,” which was published in 2021, and last year’s “Red Sea: The Saudi Coast.”

“AlUla Ever” features an essay by French journalist and author Jerome Garcin, deputy editor and head of the cultural section of the weekly French magazine “L’Obs,” previously known as “Le Nouvel Observateur.”




Jerome Garcin. (Supplied)

Garcin described AlUla as “a travel destination unlike any other, a breathtaking oasis in Saudi Arabia where ancient sites are placed in conversation with modern progress.

“A spectacularly preserved cultural and historical masterpiece, AlUla has existed for millennia and was only recently opened to international travelers. From Old Town to rare wildlife, this destination offers a plethora of marvels to discover.”

Garcin told Arab News: “I had the great pleasure of discovering AlUla in February 2020 and was lucky to return before the French lockdown. For two months, when we couldn’t leave our house, I lived in AlUla’s bright and magical places.

“I really enjoyed writing this book … Everything in AlUla inspired me, but the treasure of Jabal Ikmah is what amazed me the most.”




A page of the book containing a picture of ancient rock inscriptions in Jabal Ikmah is displayed in the mountain, located 5 km north of AlUla. (Supplied)

Jabal Ikmah is a mountain 5 km north of AlUla, where ancient travelers left thousands of inscriptions carved into the rocks, dating back to the first millennium B.C. and written in several languages that predate modern Arabic.

“All those inscriptions in many languages, left on the mountain by caravanners 3,000 years ago, form a great poetry,” Garcin said.

At the heart of the AlUla valley is Hegra, an ancient city carved from the spectacular rocky terrain of the Hejaz by the Nabataeans, a people whose empire of trade dominated northwestern Saudi Arabia and beyond more than 2,000 years ago.

In 2008, Hegra, the southern capital of the people who built Petra in modern-day Jordan, became the first place in Saudi Arabia to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, as a site of outstanding universal value.

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“AlUla Ever” released by New York-based luxury travel and culture publishing house Assouline.

288-page hardback features more than 200 images, many taken by renowned photographers.

The honor came after decades of archaeological work that unearthed many of the secrets of the ancient city and its collection of 111 tombs, cut out of the sandstone rocks, many of which feature decorated facades and intricately carved inscriptions.

As well as bearing mute testimony to the Nabataean civilization, which thrived between the second and third centuries B.C. and the first century, in the words of the UNESCO nomination Hegra bears “outstanding witness to important cultural exchanges in architecture, decoration, language use and the caravan trade.”




An illustration in the book, AlUla Ever, which features eaturing more than 200 images, many taken by internationally renowned photographers. (Supplied)

Although the Nabataean city was abandoned during the pre-Islamic period, the route through it from north to south continued to be plied by trade caravans and then, following the coming of Islam, by camel trains carrying pilgrims to Makkah.

Before the First World War, AlUla became a stop on the new Hejaz railway, which brought pilgrims — and Ottoman troops — from Damascus to Madinah. The station, which survived a bombing raid by the British air force during the war, is now being transformed into a luxury boutique hotel.

The Chedi Hegra will incorporate several existing structures, including the station, an old Ottoman fort and a number of historic mud-brick walls, which are being preserved and integrated with modern architecture.




In the oasis of AlUla. (Supplied)

As the UNESCO listing puts it, Hegra was “at a meeting point between various civilizations of late antiquity, on a trade route between the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world and Asia.”

Today, the beautiful valley is once again a meeting point for international cultures, as the Royal Commission for AlUla pursues its mission to transform it into a “living, open museum,” complete with a unique network of museums, archaeological sites and luxury hotels.

By 2035, AlUla is predicted to attract more than 2 million visitors a year, creating 35,000 jobs for local people and, in the process, raise Saudi Arabia’s profile as a world-leading cultural destination.

“AlUla Ever,” which measures 25×35 cm and features over 200 photographs and illustrations, is published in linen and available from selected stores and through Assouline.com for $105.

 

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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Saudi, Ireland foreign ministers discuss Gaza developments in Brussels

Saudi, Ireland foreign ministers discuss Gaza developments in Brussels
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi, Ireland foreign ministers discuss Gaza developments in Brussels

Saudi, Ireland foreign ministers discuss Gaza developments in Brussels

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday met his Irish counterpart Micheal Martin in the Belgian capital, Brussels, to discuss developments in the situation in the Gaza Strip and the efforts made to solve the conflict.

During the meeting, they also discussed bilateral relations between their two countries and ways to strengthen and develop them in various fields, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of a meeting of the ministerial committee, headed by Prince Faisal, which was assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.

It also comes a day before Ireland, along with Spain and Norway, plan to make official their recognition of a Palestinian state.


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Saudi industry minister begins official trip to Netherlands
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi industry minister begins official trip to Netherlands

Saudi industry minister begins official trip to Netherlands
  • Bandar bin Ibrahim Alkhorayef’s visit seeks to strengthen ties in industrial, mining sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources Bandar bin Ibrahim Alkhorayef traveled to the Netherlands on Monday for an official visit with the objective of strengthening cooperation in the industrial and mining sectors, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The visit aims to explore and expand joint investment opportunities between the two countries.
Alkhorayef is scheduled to meet with several Dutch ministers and senior government officials, along with key leaders from the private sector, to discuss collaboration in the industrial and mining sectors.
The minister’s itinerary will also include several visits to Dutch factories and companies operating within these sectors with the hopes of fostering collaborative ventures between private sector entities in both countries.
The visit underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to diversifying its economy and strengthening international ties, SPA added.
In 2023, the Kingdom’s non-oil exports to the Netherlands were valued at about SR2.6 billion ($706 million), while its non-oil imports from the Netherlands amounted to almost SR8.5 billion.


Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union praises Saudi Arabia’s ‘tremendous effort’ to support Palestinian cause

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Updated 27 May 2024
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Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union praises Saudi Arabia’s ‘tremendous effort’ to support Palestinian cause

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RIYADH: The Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union has praised the “tremendous efforts of Saudi Arabia, led by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in supporting the Palestinian cause,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The AIPU released a final statement following the 36th Arab Parliamentary Union Conference, which ended on Monday in Algiers.

A Saudi delegation, headed by the chairman of the Shoura Council, Sheikh Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh, took part in the conference alongside heads of parliaments and councils, and several regional and international organizations and institutions.

During its sessions, the conference discussed developments in the Palestinian issue and the current situation in the Arab region.

The statement also praised the Kingdom’s hosting of a number of Arab, Islamic and African summits to support the Palestinian cause and put an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people.

On Yemen, the statement stressed the importance of the initiatives undertaken by the Kingdom, which call for constructive dialogue to achieve sustainable peace and a comprehensive political solution.

The conference endorsed the recommendations of the political committee, “which highly praised the pivotal and leading role played by Saudi Arabia, which has never hesitated in its significant achievements, contributions, initiatives, and authentic Arab stances aimed at unifying Arab ranks and elevating the status of the Arab and Islamic nations in all international forums,” SPA said.

The conference also praised the Kingdom’s hosting of Sudanese talks in Jeddah between the two conflicting parties to consolidate a truce and reach a final ceasefire agreement to end the crisis in a way that preserves Sudan’s sovereignty and unity and enables it to restore its security and stability.


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Saudi economy minister holds talks with UN, OPEC officials in Austria
Updated 27 May 2024
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Saudi economy minister holds talks with UN, OPEC officials in Austria

Saudi economy minister holds talks with UN, OPEC officials in Austria

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim on Monday met Executive Director of the UN Office in Vienna Ghada Waly in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

During the meeting, the two discussed “collaboration between the Kingdom and the UN on the Sustainable Development Goals and other topics of common interest,” the ministry said in a statement.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the minister’s visit to Austria to participate in the ninth session of the Saudi-Austrian Joint Committee.

Al-Ibrahim also met Abdulhamid Alkhalifa, president of the OPEC Fund for International Development, to explore the fund’s upcoming initiatives.

He also held talks with Austrian Minister of Labor and Economy Martin Kocher on strengthening trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, and the latest developments of joint interest.

The meetings were attended by the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Austria Abdullah Tawlah.


Kuwait emir receives Saudi minister of state

Kuwait emir receives Saudi minister of state
Updated 27 May 2024
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Kuwait emir receives Saudi minister of state

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Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah received Saudi Minister of State Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz and his accompanying delegation on Monday at Bayan Palace in Kuwait.

Prince Turki conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

They reviewed the strong fraternal relations between their countries and ways to strengthen them across various fields.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Ambassador to Kuwait Prince Sultan bin Saad bin Khalid and dignitaries from both sides.