AlUla Spring 2024 Newsletter - News, openings and developments – - TravelMole

AlUla Spring 2024 Newsletter – News, openings and developments –

Thursday, Mar 21, 2024 0


Located in the North West of Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a place of extraordinary human and natural heritage that holds over 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. AlUla holds a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites including Ancient Dadan, as well as offering some of the most awe-inspiring events and activities and achieves a fulfilling experience for visitors to immerse themselves in spectacular views, enthralling history, bucket-list adventures, unique accommodation, culinary delights and intriguing people.


AlUla – Forever Revitalising global brand campaign


On 29 February 2024, AlUla launched its inaugural global campaign, ‘Forever Revitalising’, which encapsulates the essence of the oasis city. It is more than a traditional destination marketing campaign as the creative communicates the purpose-driven investment in AlUla. The campaign presents a refreshing and authentic perspective crafted to captivate travellers worldwide and made its debut across nine core global source markets in six languages and will be integrated across multiple channels.


New hotel openings


In 2024, AlUla will welcome two spectacular hotels, Dar Tantora (Q2) and Hegra Boutique Hotel (Q4), joining Habitas and Banyan Tree – both core hotels which opened in 2021 and 2022 respectively. In the coming years, AlUla will also welcome AZULIK AlUla Resort, Sharaan Resort & International Summit Centre – a global architectural landmark designed by the legendary Jean Nouvel, Autograph Collection Hotel, three Aman Resorts and Six Senses.


Opening in 2024:


Dar Tantora – Opening in Q2 2024


Dar Tantora is an upscale eco-lodge launched by The House Hotel in historic AlUla Old Town. The hotel has 30 guest rooms created by restoring and repurposing historical mud-brick buildings using modern engineering in tandem with traditional materials and techniques for a truly authentic Old AlUla experience. The hotel also has a lobby lounge, coffee bar, retail facilities and pool, spa and fitness facilities. The fusion of heritage and contemporary comfort is set to deliver a truly unique and immersive experience in the vibrant Old Town precinct, dating back to the 12th century.


Hegra Boutique Hotel: Opening in Late 2024


Hegra Boutique Hotel will be the first hotel located at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra. Set to welcome its inaugural guests by late 2024, the heritage boutique hotel will offer 35 guest rooms, each offering a distinct connection to Hegra’s monumental landscape. The hotel will occupy several existing structures, including an old railway station, Hegra Fort, and other surrounding buildings. Each of the hotel’s three restaurants will offer a unique dining experience for guests and other visitors to Hegra.


More new openings planned:


Autograph Collection hotel, The Bethesda: Opening in 2025


In September 2023, Marriot International Inc announced the signing of an agreement with AlUla Development Company to open the first Autograph Collection hotel, The Bethesda in central AlUla in 2025. The Autograph Collection Hotel will be situated in central AlUla, adjacent to the AlUla Museum and opposite the AlUla Farmer’s Market. Plans for the hotel include 250 rooms and suites, and extensive recreational and entertainment offerings including four dining venues, a spa, swimming pool, fitness centre, business centre, meeting facilities and retail space.


AMAN: Opening from 2025


True to the pioneering spirit of Aman, the three new resorts will offer an incomparable insight into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its magnificent unspoilt natural landscapes and archaeological sites.


Six Senses: Opening in 2027


AlUla Development Company signed a hotel management agreement with Six Senses to open Six Senses in AlUla in 2027. Six Senses AlUla aims to span across 1,200,000 square meters and will have a breathtaking natural oasis surrounded by lush palm groves, overshadowed by red-sandstone cliffs. It will feature 100 guest villas and 25 residences, designed to integrate with AlUla’s natural landscape.


AZULIK AlUla Resort: Opening in 2027


AZULIK AlUla Resort is an eco-luxury property slated to launch in 2027. Creating a connection with AlUla’s heritage and the area’s ecology, AZULIK AlUla Resort will protect and incorporate nearby ancient rock art inscriptions. It will be made up of 76 luxury villas of six varieties.


Sharaan Resort and International Summit Centre: Opening TBC


Construction has begun on Sharaan Resort and International Summit Centre, a global architectural landmark designed by the legendary Jean Nouvel. Carved into the sandstone cliffs of AlUla, Sharaan’s construction is inspired by the ancient techniques of the Nabataean inhabitants who crafted their monuments as integral to the local landscape more than 2,000 years ago. It will be home to 51 suites, hospitality pavilions and two villas.


New restaurants


AlUla has become an exciting culinary destination, welcoming a diverse range of local and international restaurants. At the end of last year, AlUla welcomed Entrecote Café de Paris, as well as Saffron and Harrat at Banyan Tree. Recent restaurant openings also include Tawlet Fayza and Daimumah Restaurant.


Entrecote – Café de Paris, opened end of 2022


The dining experience at Entrecote Café de Paris brings a taste of the finest French cuisine to AlUla Old Town. A small set menu – perfected with time – serves a delicate green salad, the illustrious Entrecote cut of steak, homemade French fries, and butter sauce (the recipe is kept secret and specifically flown in exclusively from Geneva!).


Saffron, opened end of 2022


Saffron is Banyan Tree’s signature Thai restaurant, offering guests the quintessential taste of contemporary Thai Cuisine prepared by Thai chefs – the first of its kind in AlUla. Originating as a simple curry house, Saffron has grown into an award-winning dining experience, well-renowned as the signature Thai restaurant of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts. The scent of lemongrass and the unmistakable flavours of coconut milk and spices give guests the true taste of Thailand in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula.


Harrat Banyan Tree


Harrat is set in the stunning Banyan Tree AlUla, local chefs use produce directly sourced from AlUla’s sustainable farms to create their eclectic fine dining menu. From relaxed lunches to lively evenings, this vibrant restaurant offers a range of dishes, from seafood to Middle Eastern mezze, pasta, and fresh grills; there is something for every taste. Decorated with handmade rugs and local earthenware, guests will find a truly authentic experience at this rustic restaurant.


Tawlet Fayza, opened in February 2023


Located in the oasis, Tawlet Fayza offers farm-to-table organic food inspired by the founder’s grandmother who is originally from the area, with an evolving menu and communal tables – ideal for food talk and meeting new friends.


Daimumah Restaurant


Daimumah Restaurant is an open-air eatery, offering diverse dining among the ancient farmland and palm-scattered oasis of Daimumah. It is located near the western entrance of a picturesque part of the Oasis. Guests can take a seat on the shaded deck surrounding a trio of citrus trees, and choose from an eclectic menu of local flavours and international favourites. With shareable starters, mouth-watering mains and a palette-cleansing selection of sorbets, it’s a wonderful spot to stop and have a bite in this magical part of AlUla.




Offering contemporary Greek cuisine and developed by one of the top-rated chefs around the world, Chef Ntinos Fotinakis, OKTO’s exclusive menu has an all-black theme inspired by the volcanic geology of AlUla. Panoramic views overlook the oasis city below and the sprawling desert landscapes that stretch into the distance. Sit at the bar for sunset and sip one of their signature mocktails, and as the sky fills with stars, make use of the telescopes. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten- or dairy-free options are available.


Heart of the Oasis


Heart of the Oasis restaurant is located in the shadows of AlUla’s authentic date palm trees and nestled in the mud-brick dwellings. The restaurant is a regenerative experience that bridges the connection between the mind and body. The dining space features fire lamps and a large open kitchen for a comfortable atmosphere to ease guests while enjoying a fusion menu. The experience is rooted in nature and guests can enjoy marinated meats and oasis-to-table inspired dishes.


New cultural attractions


The Royal Commission for AlUla signed a partnership with leading French cultural institution, the Centre Pompidou to develop an architectural landmark as a world centre for regional and global 21st-century art. The heart of the museum will represent the art of our time with artists from the Arab world along with global art. The museum will be designed as an archipelago of pavilions scattered with a mosaic of artists’ gardens, striving to symbolise AlUla’s living legacy as a cross-cultural beacon to attract global collaborations.


AlUla’s two upcoming museums, The Museum of the Incense Road and The Contemporary Art Museum both will redefine the cultural landscape of AlUla.


The Museum of the Incense Road: Opening around 2027


The Museum of the Incense Road, opening around 2027, will take visitors on a journey through time, back to when the oasis city served as a crucial crossroad of civilisations. It will be the world’s first museum that will present a network of ancient trading routes through land and sea. The museum will also showcase the archaeological excavations in the region and highlight the Incense Road’s enriching impact on AlUla’s cultural heritage. The design of the museum will be led by London-based architect Asif Khan.


Contemporary Art Museum: Opening in 2027


The Contemporary Art Museum, opening in 2027, will represent the work of artists from the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Eastern Mediterranean regions in its Three Seas Collection; a worldwide cross-section of immersive installations in its Continents Collection; and work that relates to the unique environment of AlUla and Wadi AlFann in its Desert Collection. The design of this museum will be led by award-winning Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh.


Wadi AlFann (Valley of the Arts): Opening in 2026


Wadi AlFann (translated from Arabic: Valley of the Arts) is an upcoming large-scale outdoor sculpture park set against the breathtaking backdrop of AlUla’s majestic sandstone cliffs and canyons. Wadi AlFann will be a unique showcase for esteemed local and international artists, when it opens in 2026. New, large-scale, site-specific commissions by Manal AlDowayan (b. 1973, Saudi Arabia), Agnes Denes (b. 1931, Hungary), Michael Heizer (b. 1944, USA), Ahmed Mater (b. 1979, Saudi Arabia) and James Turrell (b/ 1943, USA) will be the first five works to be conceived for Wadi AlFann, a spectacular valley spanning approximately 65 square kilometres.


This year, as part of Wadi AlFann’s pre-opening programme, Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan launched an exhibition to highlight the stories such as Oasis of Stories, a large-scale installation inspired by AlUla’s Old Town.


Design Space AlUla: A Home for Creative Minds (opened 15 February 2024)


Created for both seasoned and aspiring designers, students, young individuals, and the public, the upcoming Design Space AlUla is set to be an inspiring hub featuring an exhibition space, an archive, and a workshop area for various programmes and events. On the first floor, the workshop area provides well-equipped workstations and a comprehensive materials library, fostering a comfortable and inspiring environment for diverse designers, including local talents from AlUla, creative minds from across Saudi Arabia, and international designers. This collaborative space also hosts experts, transforming it into a design hub for meetings and discussions. The overarching goal is to create a collaborative place where designers can create, find inspiration, share ideas, and unleash their creativity.


‘I CARE’ campaign


On 1 February 2024, The RCU launched a new, inclusive heritage conservation campaign to celebrate and enrich the public’s knowledge of AlUla’s diversity and ancient history. In the first stage of the campaign, the RCU has partnered with international artist David Popa to create a unique, landmark piece that is set within the landscape of AlUla, such as the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site at Hegra.


A key audience of the ‘I Care’ campaign is AlUla’s younger generation. The RCU will engage with schoolchildren from AlUla through specially created kits that explain the importance of cultural conservation and host school visits and community events at AlUla’s diverse collection of historic landmarks, such as Hegra. The ’I Care’ campaign truly aims to fill any knowledge gaps and promote future discovery amongst residents, visiting tourists, and Saudi citizens.


AlUla Moments


AlUla Moments is AlUla’s home of events. The brand was launched at the end of 2021 and introduced four new festivals to celebrate and unlock AlUla’s stories, uncover its secrets, and celebrate local and international cultures. With 7,000 years of human civilisations and home to some of the most sophisticated ancient Kingdoms of antiquity, AlUla is no stranger to social gatherings and cultural celebrations.


In 2024, AlUla Moments presents major festivals and several key events, including Winter at Tantora, AlUla Wellness Festival, AlUla Arts Festival, AZIMUTH, Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, AlUla Camel Cup, and the Ancient Kingdoms Festival.


Upcoming AlUla Moments events


AlUla Camel Cup April 2024
AlUla Desert Blaze June 2024


AlUla Camel Cup, also known as ‘The Pinnacle of Camel Racing’ will bring together some of the world’s finest racing camels to compete in one of the region’s oldest sports. Visitors can have the opportunity to cheer on these magnificent animals as they compete for the high prize.


AlUla Desert Blaze is a unique running challenge where runners from all over the world will participate in this sweltering desert race, across distances ranging from five kilometres to a full marathon.


AlUla Moments – Music


AlUla Moments announced new dates and artists to join its critically acclaimed concert series in early 2024. The list consists of renowned pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, the prestigious Swiss Orchestra and award-winning singer-songwriter James Blunt.


Outdoor activities in AlUla


AlUla is one of the leading adventure destinations in the region with temperate weather all year round offering walking, hiking, soft and extreme adventure experiences.


  • The Adventure Hub – offers visitors unique and thrilling adventure experiences such as Abseiling, Rock Climbing and Zip line, the Giant Swing and Giant ladder.


  • Hikes – Summer trails and hikes in AlUla offer an idyllic walk through palm-shaded paths and picturesque scenery, with the chance to try out traditional meals along the way. Trails such as AlUla Oasis – The Heritage Oasis Trail and Hidden Valley Night Hike are great routes. The latter allowing hikers to immerse themselves in nature under the stars with a night hike through the spectacular Hidden Valley to experience the stillness of the Arabian desert and AlUla’ s clear night skies.


  • Zip lining – thrill-seekers will have the opportunity to try the longest and fastest dual zip line in Saudi, which extends to 15km and hits speeds of up to 120 km/h with incredible canyon views, or the Giant Swing which, suspended 85 metres above ground, takes adventurous in a 70-metre arc with outstanding views.


  • Horse riding – a unique experience in AlUla as the Arabian horse is so integral to the DNA of the destination and is offered in the Asher Valley and beyond. AlUla has recently announced the AlMuatadil Equestrian Village, which will include a main equestrian race track with a 3,000-seat capacity; an endurance race track, a grass court with a capacity of 600 seats and a sand polo field with a 400-seat capacity.


  • Helicopter rides – available all year round over the stunning landscapes of AlUla.



  • Buggy rides – an unforgettable wild ride across the sand dunes.


  • Vintage car tours – taken place at Hegra, guests are prepared for a wild ride, cruising from carved tombs to secret ceremonial chambers.


  • Cycling – AlUla offers adventures for cyclists across all levels of ability and expertise. There are plans to develop three priority cycling disciplines: road cycling, gravel cycling, and mountain biking.


  • Stargazing – incredible experiences in one of the darkest skies of the world.


Activity News


Hero Balloon Flights


AlUla has introduced an all year round aerial attraction with Hero Balloons Flights. Saudi Arabia’s first commercial hot air balloon operator. The inaugural balloon flight took off on 1st October 2023. The experiences give guests the chance to unlock their inner explorer. They are curated and executed by experts, promising unique, luxurious, and safe airborne vistas of spellbinding landscapes and verdant oases from 4,000ft.


AlUla on Wheels


AlUla on Wheels II, an open-air roller-skating experience now has a home in the AlJadidah Arts District, the creative heart of AlUla. The first round of the program launched on 25th January and will take place until 27th April 2024. There will be further programs to be announced on the Experience AlUla website in the coming months of this year. The event was an unexpected success last year and has been redeveloped this year to give a blend of cultural resonance, nostalgia and forward-thinking vision.


AlUla Experiential Tramway


AlUla recently announced a future project to build a 22.4km low-carbon tramway which will connect 17 stations and stops, including AlUla’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, historic oasis towns, and urban centres. The initiative will strengthen AlUla’s blend of luxury, culture, nature, heritage and green mobility to another level. This project highlights the Royal Commission for AlUla’s commitment to sustainable transportation. Alstom, a global leading sustainable transport manufacturer will supply the trains and systems to the tramway, which is inspired from the historic Hejaz railway, built in the early 1900s to carry pilgrimages to the Holy places in Arabia. Passengers riding the tramway will be closely connected to AlUla’s history.


Equestrian Village


The Royal Commission has AlFursan Equestrian Village, a high-level equestrian hub in the region. AlUla hosted a number of events in the past few months including Fursan Endurance Cup, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup, Tent Pegging World Championship and horseback Archery World Cup, and Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo. There are plans to increase the facilities of the village and increase the number of hosted events in the coming months, including a training centre, equine hospital and air-conditioned stables.


Heritage News

Giant Stone ‘Hand Axe’ Discovered in AlUla


A team of international archaeologists working with the RCU in AlUla discovered what is likely to be the largest stone ‘hand axe’ artefact found anywhere in the world. The giant artefact is more than a half a metre long (length: 51.3cm, width: 9.5cm, thickness: 5.7cm) and is believed to date back to the Lower-Middle Palaeolithic period, over 200,000 years old. The research team has been surveying a desert landscape to the south of AlUla, called Qurh Plain, looking for evidence of human activity in the ancient times. Archaeology is a crucial element in AlUla’s portrayal as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage. 12 archaeological missions are in progress from October to December 2023, with additional missions planned in winter and spring 2024. The fall 2023 period attracted an international gathering of more than 200 archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists. The RCU’s research team continues to unlock ancient mysteries as there is high potential to write new chapters of human history in Arabia and beyond.


Getting here and away


AlUla’s Destination Management Companies


At the start of 2024, AlUla announced five new Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to its list of preferred travel partners, now joining a group with three existing DMCs – Go Zahid, AlUla Guide Tours, and The Travelling Panter. The five new DMCs are EXO Travel, DMC Arabia, Tetrapylon, Discover Saudi, and Abercrombie & Kent. This expansion strives to provide travel agents, operators, and visitors with a diverse range of specialised services.


New airport terminal


The Royal Commission for AlUla officially announced the winning design for AlUla’s new airport terminal, chosen from a competitive global bid. The new terminal seeks to blend modernity, culture, and nature, incorporating a sustainability-focused design to link with AlUla’s breathtaking landscapes and luxurious amenities. The new terminal is part of a wider plan for AlUla International Airport designed to connect AlUla with the rest of the world. The winning design includes a luxurious five-star hotel, spa, and a spectacular range of retail outlets to redefine the standards of international airport experiences. The new airport terminal is expected to boost annual capacity from 400,000 to 6 million, and the terminal is set to revolutionise AlUla’s connection in a global platform making it accessible for international travellers to visit the fantastic destination.


Tourist Visas


Visitors can travel to Saudi Arabia with three types of visa available:


E-Visas – Saudi Arabia has a simple and fast e-visa system, making travel to The Kingdom straight forward for international travellers. Citizens across 49 countries can apply for an eVisa through the Visit Saudi website. The eVisa is one-year and multiple entry visa is allowed, giving tourists the chance to spend up to 90 days in the country.


Visa-on-Arrival – An alternative option for US and UK holders or Schengen visas can apply for the visa upon arrival.


Consulate Visa – Tourists from other countries can apply for a consulate visa through Saudi embassies and consulates.


Flights – Visitors wishing to experience more of Saudi Arabia can combine their visit with the attractions of Riyadh and Jeddah using the direct services from London and Manchester with Saudia Airlines.


AlUla’s International Airport is also served with direct services, 2 weekly flights between Dubai (DXB) and AlUla (ULH) from Dubai International Airport (DXB) with flydubai as part of a code share agreement with its parent company Emirates.


Since October 2023, Qatar Airways launched direct services from Doha into AlUla, operating twice-weekly flights on Fridays and Sundays, providing excellent connectivity from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, and Edinburgh via Doha. This opportunity has increased accessibility to AlUla’s treasures.


AlUla International Airport is also served by flynas, one of the Saudi national air carriers and leading low-cost airline in the Middle East, and includes services from Dubai and Cairo, as well as domestic services between from Riyadh and Damman.


In January 2024, AlUla announced three new flight options with three major airlines providing enhanced connectivity and accessibility to the luxury boutique heritage destination.


The first announcement is a partnership with Saudia launching flights from Paris (CDG) to AlUla (ULH). The inaugural flight commenced on 28th January and will continue until 28th April. The flights are scheduled for every Sunday, operating one direct flight per week from CDG to ULH. Initially, there were three flights covering a one-way multi-city journey from CDG-ULD-RUH, but starting from 18th February this will transition into a one-way direct journey from CDG-ULH.


The second announcement is a partnership with Gulf Air covering flights from Bahrain (BAH) to AlUla (ULH). Gulf Air plans to operate flights twice a week, scheduled for every Wednesday and Saturday with direct flights 2 cabins from BAH to ULH and back. This is a seasonal service which began on 3rd February until 6th February and then resume from 10th April until 27th April.


The third announcement is a partnership with Royal Jordanian launching flights from Amman (AMM) to AlUla (ULH). The flights are scheduled for every Tuesday and Friday, twice a week with direct flights 2 cabins from AMM to ULH and back. Royal Jordanian is launching a seasonal service to AlUla, beginning on 16th February until 15th March and then from 19th March until 22nd December.

Learn more about Saudi Tourism Authority (STA)

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