Until recently, you mustn't have heard much of AlUla, but now its promotion is all over the place. Why? This is because this historical region was closed to foreign tourists until 2020, but now it is set to become the face of Saudi Arabia's tourism as per the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 plans. With its history dating back to the 6th century BCE, AlUla is an important landmark for Arabia and the Middle East. As per UNESCO-
"A meeting point for societies of the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world, and Asia, AlUla has borne witness to 200,000 years of human memory and served as a setting where the arcs of common cultural heritage, the Arabic language, and humanity's relationship with the natural environment has evolved and endured."
tourHQbrings to you the hidden gems of one more city- AlUla, an oasis of mystery. Read along to learn about these unique landmarks of AlUla and why you should visit them at least once in your life!
One of the main reasons you should visit AlUla is Hegra, also called Mada'in Salih. It was the first site in Saudi Arabia to be recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2008. It is a picturesque landscape of numerous rock carvings and writings from the Thamud's days, the Nabatean Kingdom's settlements from the 1st century AD and around 131 rock-cut tombs from many eras. Taking a walk in Hegra is truly like sharing the stories of the desert people who walked the land! So on your visit to Hegra, remember to check out Jabal Ithlib, a sacred place for the Nabatean people, also Hegra's highest point. You'll find inscriptions, shrines, altars and sanctuaries within the area. On your visit, walk through the naturally formed passage called the Siq, which leads to a sacred area within the Jabal Ithlib outcrop.
Do you know that Hegra finds a mention in the Quran? Yes, it is a significant place even in the holy Quran, known as Al-Hijr to Muslims. In the Quran, it is mentioned as the location where the Thamud tribe lived and was punished by God. Since then, it is also referred to as a 'cursed' location in Islam. However, it is this belief that the Saudi government is trying to surmount.
It wouldn't be wrong to say that Elephant Rock has become more famous for being a picture-perfect location than a natural marvel!
Well, as the name suggests, it's a rock that mimics an elephant. It is an incredible sight formed by water and wind erosion across millions of years. Now, it has become a popular spot for stargazing too. The best time to visit the Elephant Rock is during sunset, when you can witness the shades of the sun creating magical reflections on the rock. Interestingly, it is not just a desert! There is a famous SALT Restaurant and many other dining options to enjoy a nighttime view of Elephant Rock while savouring typical Saudi dishes.
Another must-visit on your AlUla trip is the Old Town. You will not only get a glimpse of the old mudbrick houses and stone buildings dating back to ancient settlers, but you will also get to meet the warm people of AlUla. Filled with about 400 shops selling a range of goods from traditional and historic crafts to modern-day establishments, as well as having many different restaurants to dine in, Old Town is the perfect place to be. There are five town squares to visit as well. The best way to explore the town is by hiring tourHQ's local guide and visiting the AlUla Museum.
For those who may miss the taste of their homeland, worry not. With the city being a big part of the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 plans, modern entities such as department stores of Harvey Nichols have also opened up in the town to meet diverse needs and boost tourism.
To add a diverse experience to your visit, hike up the stones of Harrat Uwayrid to get to Harrat Viewpoint. The journey up Harrat Uwayrid is certainly worth the exercise to soak in the gorgeous views of the natural rock installations of Alula, the Old Town and AlUla Fort. Moreover, you will not only get scenic views, but you will also be able to say that you have scaled a volcano! Yes, Harrat Uwayrid is a volcano with its last known eruption in 640, yet its black lava stone terrain is still very prominent. An absolute must-do in AlUla and a huge reason to visit AlUla.
If you are in AlUla for a shorter visit, then walking through this trail is the best option to make the most of your visit. In fact, this trail is very popular amongst tourists looking for a mixed adventure of hiking and history. The Heritage Oasis Trail is a 3-kilometre trail from Dadan to Orange Path in the heart of AlUla. You can stroll through the remains of the ancient city walls, recharge in some cafes serving Arabic coffee and take pictures with the scenic palm trees along the way. Whether day or evening, it is an idealistic trail to leisurely saunter through!
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