Al Ula
Al Ula, the open-air museum of unprecedented historical and cultural significance in northwest Saudi Arabia, will be re-opening its heritage sites on October 31. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In a move to realize its tourism ambitions, Al Ula, the open-air museum of unprecedented historical and cultural significance in northwest Saudi Arabia, will be re-opening its heritage sites on October 31, local media reported.

The Royal Commission for Al Ula (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 re-open to the public, having been largely closed off to visitors for over two years.

In addition, RCU has announced that residents of Al Ula will have the opportunity to access the sites exclusively on October 30-31 for free on a first-come-first-served basis for the entire opening weekend.

Visitors are encouraged to sign up to to be first to hear when bookings become available for the heritage sites and when other bookable experiences are live.

Warm welcome

Visitors to Al Ula will enjoy significant airport enhancements, new comfortable transport options around town and the heritage sites, and information provision at two new visitor centers. Al Ula’s new quality assurance program also ensures visitors will receive a warm and professional Al Ula welcome.

Significant COVID safety measures have been put in place, adhering to the Ministry of Health protocols, which align with the ‘safe travels’ guidelines published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The measures include mandatory pre-booking of tickets, temperature checks at the airport, distancing and limitations of visitors at the 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 the first quarter 2021. Al Ula Old Town too will be open as a visitor experience to the public for the first time from December 2020.

Full team onsite

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 Al Ula — our heritage sites, natural assets and of course the Al Ula 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 Al Ula 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 Al Ula from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam. Al Ula is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, a 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.