Manama: French violinist Renaud Capucon was enthusiastically pleased with the stunning hidden trove of Saudi archaeological treasures last weekend.
"It’s a wonderful area," he said following his performance on Friday evening as part of 'Winter at Tantora' festival in Al Ula, part of the ancient city if Madain Saleh.
In the Northwestern region of Saudi Arabia is Madain Saleh, famous for its golden sandstones and mesmerizing oasis. A region that is over-five-thousand-year-old and home to Nabateans’ second-largest city after Petra and a Unesco World Heritage Site.
And now is set to become a new destination for music lovers across the region. This year marked the jump start of 'Winter at Tantora' festival, with eight consecutive weekends full of art and cultural events, planned to take place in Al Ula every year.
"It’s quite incredible to feel this nature all around and to be there for the first time and to know that nobody was here before … and to be able to play here. I think it’s the first classical music concert here ever, and I feel much honored and very inspired by what I see around us," he said.
Capucon is the latest internationally renowned musician to perform at the festival, with famous Majida El Roumi performing on the last weekend of 2018, in concert series dubbed 'Stars Under the stars'.
She kicked off her concert saying “it is an honour for me to perform at “this great global event” in Saudi Arabia,” adding “world was eagerly waiting “for the Kingdom to open its doors."”
The eight-week-long extravaganza 'Winter at Tantora' will run until February 9, celebrating the winter planting season, and will have a list of renowed composers and singers like Egypt Omar Khairat, Chinese pianist Lang Lang, popular Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, the concert series will be wrapped on February 8 by the legendary world music star Yanni.
On January 25, the Egyptian diva Um Kulthum, will come back in a hologram mode and backed by a real life orchestra to be present at such a prestigious event in the region.
Visitors of Al Ula will be able to take a tour of the many historical sites around Al Ula, from the small oasis town some 380 kilometers north of Madinah founded in the 6th century.
To the archaeological site of Madain Saleh, the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site built 2,000 years ago and carved into the stones by the Nabataeans, who also built Petra in Jordan,
Madain Saleh is expected to become one of Saudi Arabia’s premier tourist destination as the Kingdom builds its tourism and hospitality industry.
What has been uncovered of Madain Saleh till today, is a vast burial ground of more than 131 immense tombs.
Nabataean builders have carved them with inscriptions that have provided insight into the names, relationships, occupations, laws and gods of the people who lived there.
Madain Saleh is unique as the Nabateans left no extensive written history, so these texts, are extraordinarily valuable for the experts of Nabataean civilization.
In July 2017, Saudi King Salman ordered the establishment of the Royal Commission for Al Ula (RCU) to protect and reinvigorate the region that boasts outstanding natural and cultural significance.
According to RCU, Al Ula has the potential to be a beacon for the Arab world, a gateway that embraces local and international visitors to experience Saudi Arabia’s culture and the stories built on ancient civilisations.
In other "Winter at Tantora" activities, hundreds of multi-colored hot-air balloons were released into the sky above Al Ula to stay for over a week, until the 9th of February.