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.

FASTFACTS

“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 Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Mideast

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Mideast
Updated 2 min 42 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Mideast

Saudi Arabia expresses concern over military escalation in Mideast

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Sunday expressed deep concern over the military escalation in the Middle East and urged all parties involved to exercise restraint, the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned of "serious repercussions" on the region and its peoples from the dangers of a wider war, according to SPA.

Iran on Saturday launched drones and missiles against Israel, making good its threat to retaliate against the Israeli air strike that destroyed an Iranian embassy annex building in Damascus, Syria, killing at least 13 people, including two generals of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard.

The Saudi ministry "affirmed the Kingdom’s position calling for the need for the Security Council to assume its responsibility towards maintaining international peace and security, especially in this region that is extremely sensitive to global peace and security, and to prevent the escalation of the crisis that will have serious consequences if it expands," said the SPA report. 
 


Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call
Updated 14 April 2024
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Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

Saudi, Norway foreign ministers discuss Gaza during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Saturday received a telephone call from his Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
During the call, they discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and efforts to contain the crisis.
The call comes a day after Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said that Norway was ready to recognize a Palestinian state together with other countries,


Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream

Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream
Updated 13 April 2024
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Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream

Saudi fashion graduate who dared to dream
  • Manal Marvelous’ tips for aspiring designers have turned her into social media star

RIYADH: Saudi fashion and lifestyle content creator Manal Marvelous discovered her love of design and sewing while at university and soon began sharing her work on social media.  

“My passion for fashion was a coincidence; actually, I had to take one semester of fashion classes in college because of some weird situation I got myself into and I was supposed to transfer after the semester ended, but I fell in love and never looked back,“ Marvelous told Arab News.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“I love out-of-the box and creative ideas I can share with my audience, which consist of girls around my age with similar interests who either love fashion or got inspired to start their journey after watching my content,” she said.

She loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers.  

HIGHLIGHTS

• Marvelous took part in the Sony Creators Convention, where she showcased her work on models, and offered advice to aspiring content creators about the business, how to succeed, and how to make their passions their careers. 

• Marvelous believes that with an abundance of talented and creative Saudi designers, as well as the diversity of Saudi fashion and traditional costume, the KSA scene needs more useful fashion events.

• Aside from TikTok, Marvelous supports up-and-coming fashion designers on her YouTube channel, paving a path for them to enter the industry. 

• She said that constructive criticism is always appreciated, and that she tries to hear what people have to say to improve her material, gain insight into her audience, and receive feedback.

“It felt like magic to me how can you transform a piece of fabric into art just by cutting here and stitching there,” she said.

Marvelous took part in the Sony Creators Convention, where she showcased her work on models, and offered advice to aspiring content creators about the business, how to succeed, and how to make their passions their careers.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“My work as a fashion and lifestyle creator takes me around the Kingdom to collaborate with global and local brands ranging from clothing to skincare to makeup,” she said.  

Aside from TikTok, Marvelous supports up-and-coming fashion designers on her YouTube channel, paving a path for them to enter the industry.  

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

“In my YouTube channel, I share my love of sewing, but with a twist. From sewing pants out of bandannas and a corset with plastic, to recycling my old jeans into a denim jacket,” she said.

Marvelous had the backing of friends and family from the start, and they were her supporters.

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

She did, however, mention how some elements of social media, like cyberbullying, were deterring her from sharing and how she overcame it.

“Bullying on social media has become the norm lately. What I do and what I recommend everyone do is ignore the comment, especially when it’s obvious that the person is just trying to hurt you.”

Manal Marvelous loves to share how she develops and sews her creations, and her TikTok has 3 million views and 700,000 followers. (Supplied)

She said that constructive criticism is always appreciated, and that she tries to hear what people have to say to improve her material, gain insight into her audience, and receive feedback.

“But people who just want to put you down and make you feel bad should be muted,” she added.

Marvelous believes that with an abundance of talented and creative Saudi designers, as well as the diversity of Saudi fashion and traditional costume, the KSA scene needs more useful fashion events.

“Saudi Arabia has some of the most talented and creative designers in the field, and their work should be appreciated and celebrated nationally and internationally. Having more shows in the Kingdom could be beneficial not only to the designers but to the country as well.”

Marvelous said that the Fashion Commission has been a significant asset to the sector for many years, planning events and providing support for emerging designers through programs such as 100 Brands.

“I advise upcoming designers to never stop dreaming big; this is our time to shine and create the unexpected. There’s space for everyone.”

Marvelous offers three tips for aspiring fashion content creators seeking to be authentic: “Don’t try to copy other creators; it’s good to follow trends, but only when it suits your content and your personality. Consistency is key. Pick the schedule that suits you and make sure to stick to it.”

 


Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil

Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil
Updated 13 April 2024
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Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil

Thriving gardens: Growing and nurturing plants without destroying soil
  • The foundation of a successful garden is soil health
  • It is critical to take care of the soil before planting seeds by creating organic elements in the soil rather than relying on chemical or synthetic fertilizers

RIYADH: Caring for plants at home reduces stress and increases satisfaction. Gardening allows people to connect with nature and enjoy the beauty of their home garden.
However, it is important to use sustainable methods to ensure that plants are healthy, and the environment is protected from damage. Soil preservation and care are therefore very important for sustainable gardening.
The foundation of a successful garden is soil health. It is critical to take care of the soil before planting seeds by creating organic elements in the soil rather than relying on chemical or synthetic fertilizers.
Compost food scraps, garden waste and other organic products to improve soil fertility will provide nutrients to plants, increasing microbial activity and boosting the health of the soil.
“Synthetic fertilizers aren’t used in the Kingdom. It is rare. Most people use organic products such as animal waste mixed with food waste,” said Haitham Sharbaji, an agricultural technician who works in Riyadh.
Sharbaji, who operates his own nursery, explained how different plants require specific techniques.
When asked about examples of plants that are grown in hot, dry weather like in Saudi Arabia, he mentioned trees including poinciana, racosperma and oleander. According to Sharbaji, these species are especially suitable for the weather in Riyadh.
He highlighted the importance of planting trees in healthy soil.
“Firstly, the soil must be healthy and suitable for the type of plant you want to grow. For example, there are kinds of soil for indoor plants and others for outdoor plants,” Sharbaji said.
“Lighting is also important, as each plant differs in terms of its need for lighting.”
Another method gardeners can use to prevent soil depletion is controlling the rotation of plants. Rotating plants grown in different areas of a garden helps reduce diseases and pests, and prevents nutrient deficiencies.
In addition to changing the position of the plant, covering it with a layer of organic mulch like wood chips or leaves helps maintain soil health. This technique captures moisture as well as moderates the temperature of the soil, which in turn improves the structure of the soil. Over time, it enriches the soil with beneficial organisms.
Chemical pesticides are another tool to avoid or reduce, as they can harm beneficial insects, damage organisms in the soil and disrupt the garden’s ecosystem. Natural pest control methods like introducing insects such as ladybugs and lacewings are a useful alternative.
Water in Saudi Arabia is a precious resource for growing any plant, and using it efficiently is vital. An optimal way to regulate watering plants is to install drip irrigation systems to control the amount of water that is used and deliver it directly to the roots.
People should be mindful of the hot climate in the Kingdom, which may speed up the evaporation of water. Therefore, watering the garden late in the afternoon or evening hours reduces water loss because of low temperatures.
“Water is the biggest enemy for indoor plant soil. The soil that is prepared for indoor plants doesn’t need too much water because it can create toxic fungi,” said Sharbaji.
He recommends watering indoor plants according to room temperatures. Generally speaking, a person can water an indoor plant every 15 to 20 days, he added.
Excessive use of synthetic fertilizers can lead to nutrient imbalance and environmental pollution. It is best to test soil regularly to detect any signs of nutrient deficiencies such as decolorization of leaves or irregular shapes.
Synthetic fertilizers can be useful but only when necessary, and they must be used wisely. This ensures the plant receives the nutrients it needs while minimizing the risk of biomagnification — the increase in concentration of a substance in the tissues of organisms at successively higher levels in a food chain.
By practicing sustainable gardening practices, people can grow and protect their gardens while maintaining soil health. Healthy soil preparation, mulching and natural pest control methods are some examples of healthy gardening, keeping in mind that a thriving garden starts with the soil.


Saudi Arabia arrests 20,667 illegals in one week

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
Updated 13 April 2024
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Saudi Arabia arrests 20,667 illegals in one week

Saudi police have arrested hundreds of illegals breaching country’s law. (SPA)
  • The report showed that among the 959 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 53 percent were Ethiopian, 44 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities

RIYADH: Saudi authorities arrested 20,667 people in one week for breaching residency, work and border security regulations, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

According to an official report, a total of 14,805 people were arrested for violations of residency laws, while 3,860 were held over illegal border crossing attempts, and a further 2,002 for labor-related issues.

The report showed that among the 959 people arrested for trying to enter the Kingdom illegally, 53 percent were Ethiopian, 44 percent Yemeni, and 3 percent were of other nationalities.

A further 58 people were caught trying to cross into neighboring countries, and nine were held for involvement in transporting and harboring violators.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to be facilitating illegal entry to the Kingdom, including providing transportation and shelter, could face imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, a fine of up to SR1 million ($260,000), as well as confiscation of vehicles and property.

Suspected violations can be reported on the toll-free number 911 in the Makkah and Riyadh regions, and 999 or 996 in other regions of the Kingdom.