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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RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made reassuring comments about King Salman’s health during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan met in Tokyo on Tuesday his Japanese counterpart Masahito Moriyama.

The pair discussed enhancing cultural cooperation between the two countries within the Saudi-Japan Vision 2030.

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Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
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Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia, Japan leaders exchange views in video summit meeting

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday. (SPA)
  • The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan
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TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a productive video meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the prime minister of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.
Kishida offered his best wishes for King Salman’s health, a gesture that was appreciated by the crown prince.
The crown prince expressed his desire to visit Japan as soon as possible to further strengthen ties with Japan. Kishida expressed his wishes for King Salman’s early recovery and said that he was also looking forward to strengthening the strategic partnership between Japan and Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo.
As the two countries approach the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the Japanese prime minister expressed his desire to work even more closely with Saudi Arabia. He emphasized the shared goal of realizing peace and stability in the Middle East, a sentiment that was echoed by the crown prince. The leaders agreed to establish a “strategic partnership council” chaired by them to further strengthen bilateral relations.
Kishida expressed gratitude for Saudi Arabia’s stable supply of crude oil to Japan over the years. He also expressed his anticipation for Saudi Arabia to continue playing a leading role in stabilizing the global oil market, including through production increases, a sentiment that was appreciated by the crown prince.
Kishida added that he would like to cooperate in establishing a global supply chain for clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonia, and promote cooperation in the field of mineral resources while using Japanese technology under the “lighthouse initiative” agreed between the two countries in July last year.
The crown prince said that Saudi Arabia would like to cooperate with Japan in various areas, including clean energy, and the Kingdom remained committed to providing a stable supply of crude oil to Japan.
Kishida expressed interest in creating business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, and making direct investments in Japan in a wide range of fields, including construction, power transmission, hydrogen, digital fields, information and communications technology, space, health, medicine, food and agriculture.
He also said that he would like to work together to achieve an early realization of the Japan-GCC free trade agreement. This agreement, once implemented, will significantly boost trade and investment between Japan and the GCC countries, creating new business opportunities and fostering economic growth. Negotiations are scheduled to resume soon.
The crown prince said that he welcomed the resumption of negotiations for the Japan-GCC free trade agreement and cooperation with Japan in fields beyond energy.
On peace and security, Kishida explained Japan’s diplomatic efforts and contributions in Gaza, including humanitarian aid and diplomatic initiatives. The crown prince said that he envisioned continued cooperation with Japan on diplomatic efforts to realize peace and stability, appreciating Japan’s active role in the region.
Kishida said that he would be pleased to hand over the symbolic “torch” of the expo to Saudi Arabia following Expo 2025 in Osaka-Kansai. This act symbolizes the continuation of the spirit of international cooperation and cultural exchange. He added that he would like to encourage cultural exchanges in entertainment, tourism, academia and football.
The crown prince said that Japan was an outstanding country in terms of culture and that he sought to strengthen cooperation with Japan in this area.
Read More: Saudi, Japan discuss ties at Vision 2030 business forum in Tokyo