AlUla Heritage sites reopen window to ancient world
AlUla, the open-air museum of unprecedented historical and cultural significance in North West Saudi Arabia, reopened its heritage sites on October 31 in a move to realise its tourism ambitions.The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has confirmed that the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra; the ancient kingdom of Dadan; and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah will be the first sites to reopen to the public, having been largely closed off to visitors for two-plus years. In addition, residents of AlUla had the opportunity to access the sites exclusively on October 30 for free on a first-come first-served basis for the entire opening weekend. Visitors are encouraged to sign up to experiencealula.com to be first to hear when bookings become available for the heritage sites and when other bookable experiences are live. Visitors to AlUla will enjoy significant airport enhancements, new comfortable transport options around town and the heritage sites, and information provision at two new visitor centres. AlUla’s new Quality Assurance Program also ensures visitors will receive a warm and professional AlUla welcome. Significant Covid safety measures have been put in place that adhere to the Ministry of Health protocols, which align which the ‘safe travels’ guidelines published by the World Travel and Tourism Council. Measures include mandatory pre-booking of tickets, temperature checks at the airport, distancing and limitations of visitors at heritage and other sites, increased sanitation measures and mandatory mask-wearing. Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer, RCU said: "There is no doubt it’s been a challenging year for all industries but our teams have worked hard to deliver this important stage in our tourism journey, and in the next chapter of AlUla’s journey through time." Activations and immersive experiences at the heritage sites, as well as adventure experiences and events will be announced over the coming weeks and will be phased in over the winter months, with the full suite of experiences planned for the winter season to be expected by first quarter 2021. AlUla Old Town too will be open as a visitor experience to the public for the first time from December 2020. Jones said that this is just the beginning, and he will be excited to share more details in the coming weeks. "We are developing engaging, authentic, light-touch tourism experiences that hero the essence of AlUla - our heritage sites, natural assets and of course the AlUla community," he said. "We have a full team onsite to get the destination ready to welcome those first visitors and we’re excited to give the local community a chance to revisit their heritage sites before the rest of the world, while we continue to build on the experiences. "Through our team of travel industry professionals, we are setting up the foundations for a fully integrated booking and travel distribution system to make visiting AlUla an easy, value driven and seamless experience, and to get international ready for when visit visas are re-instated," Jones added. Flights are available with Saudia to AlUla from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. AlUla is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, 7-hour drive from Jeddah, and just over three hours from Madinah and Tabuk Airport. It’s also only a 2.5-hour drive to the Red Sea, which visitors can add on to their trip.