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Saudi Arabia: 5 cool things to do in AlUla

What can you do in AlUla? Click to read on!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

AlUla in Saudi Arabia is an astonishing part of Saudi Arabia famous for its historical heritage. But you can not only explore the Hegra and Dadan past of this region but also attend some cool and well organised activities with a modern and frequently luxurious twist that take place in AlUla throughout the year. 

Read on to see what I was lucky to experience and where we stayed during my trip to Saudi Arabia with the Saudi Arabia Tourism Board. 

1.Maraya

No surprise Maraya with its 9,740 mirrored panels means ‘reflection’, or ‘mirror’ in Arabic. Initially this architectural masterpiece was built as a pop up in the middle of desert in 2018 as part of the Winter at Tantora festival but later it was decided to fortify it and to make it permanent. Its motto is ‘Reflecting on the past but thinking about the future’.

Maraya is primarily known as a concert hall (and a location where all the Instagrammers make their pilgrimage) – the hall is definitely a highlight of Maraya with its interior mimicking the sand dunes and praising Dadan heritage. However, In reality it’s a multi-purpose event venue where art exhibitions, corporate and private events take place too. They also have a restaurant called Maraya Social. 

2.Old town of AlUla and Oasis trail

Historical Old town of AlUla is a nice addition to your itinerary not only from the historical point of view and the castle nearby but it’s also a great place to find a dining spot! What about raspberry croissants for breakfast at ‘Pink Camel’ inside the Oasis trail, Arabic cuisine at ‘Somewhere’ with a fantastic interior or Italian cuisine at ‘Circolo’?

Also you can just go enjoying the shadows and the freshness of the citruses of Oasis trail all surrounded by mighty palm trees. Pay attention to the traditional mud houses too!

3.Five senses sanctuary 

We’ve been lucky to attend the opening of the Five senses sanctuary in AlUla this year that took place between 29/09 and 08/10. That’s an all inclusive all day wellness program that allows you to connect with yourself and astonishing nature around you.

For this, they created a magical space surrounded by mountains and including the Align main pavilion, Glass house, treatment and chill-out pods, Wildflower Café and other zones, and Awaré played at the opening evening for the guests. Also we were presented with goody bags from patchouli and oud collection from Rituals Cosmetics.

4.Date Festival in AlUla

Date Palm is probably one of the most prominent symbols of AlUla and the region in general. Another event we visited was the Date festival where we not only were able to see different varieties of dates from local producers but also to shop some local arts and crafts: soap, incense, baskets and souvenirs. 

5.Stargazing at Gharameel  

Stargazing was probably my most favourite activity to participate in AlUla! It took place far away from the tourist centre of AlUla, in Gharameel Alrola where you can still see some remnants of the mountains that once stood there. Just imagine: you take a seat on carpets, aka a modernised version of Bedouin camp surrounded by beautiful rock pillars, sip tea or coffee with dates and look at hundreds of stars and the milky way. Our evening was elevated with delicious barbecue, mac’n’cheese, and traditional Arabic mezze as well.

Meanwhile, a guide takes you through some of the most famous stars and constellations such as the North Star, Cassiopeia, Ursa minor and Ursa Major,  Summer triangle formed by the brightest stars of  Lyra, Aquila, and Cygnus, Pleiades (or 7 sisters) and Aldebaran and many more. We were also able to spot Saturn, Jupiter, and Moon in the telescope! By the way, we were told that the Milky way used to be associated with cow dung in Arabic countries because cow dung sometimes glows in the dark and that reminded people of the Milky way! The tour was performed by Husaak agency, and all the photos of stars are taken on iPhone 12 Pro.

Where to stay in AlUla?

We were lucky to spend our time at the Habitas hotel, a breathtaking resort in AlUla with individual villas, pool and restaurant called Tama that serves local cuisine. The reception is quite unusual too because it’s detached from all the other hotel territories.

The hotel also hosts a few modern art installations including falling stones Garden by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim, Now you see me, now you don’t by Manal Aldowayan, One two three swing! By superflex, and Najma by Albuquerque. 

The views are amazing – and you can observe them right from your own terrace or even from the cosiness of your own bed thanks to the glass walls of your villa. For travelling around you can call for a buggy or ride an e-bike. 

You might also like my other blogs about the Arabic Middle East:

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