With a much-needed boost from the national government given to its tourism sector, Saudi Arabia is looking to surpass its counterparts in the region in terms of being the best tourist destination in the Middle East.
And there's a lot to be looking forward to if you're a fan of the country, as the government now supports new attractions and festivals, but there's still plenty to discover if you decide to take the off-beaten tracks as part of your kingdom vacation.
The ancient city of Al Ula dates back millennia and is a remarkably preserved historical and cultural masterpiece. With 200,000 years of undiscovered human history, it was once the capital of the North Arabian Lihyanites and later the Nabataeans, serving as a meeting place for pilgrims, merchants, and explorers. For history lovers, this key location on the incense, spice, and silk routes linking Arabia, Egypt, and India is an intriguing puzzle with countless mysteries to hide.
The cultural oasis of Al Ula was officially opened to full-time international travelers only in 2020. Saudi Arabia itself began issuing tourist visas for the first time only in 2019. Al Ula is a key part of the national plan to move away from over-reliance on oil and become a major player in the world tourism market.
In this post, we will direct our navigator's eyes to the charming city of Al Ula in the Medina region to discover some of the most beautiful places and destinations that the city has to offer.
1. Jebel Khuraibah
The fortress, as well as the three peaks of Jebel Khuraibah, were once part of the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lihyan. At the foot of the peaks are rock-cut tombs, the most imposing of which is the "Lion Tomb," named for the two carved lions on either side of the entrance.
Al Khuraibah is a massive headless sandstone figure; climbing to the top of the central peak reveals stone stairs and walls connecting the three cliffs in a ruined fortress city.
There is a small visitor center close to the entry point that is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.
It is one of the tourist attractions of the region, combining fascinating natural beauty and cultural heritage. Al-Tantura is located in the center of Al Ula. Tantura Al-Ula witnesses a magical atmosphere, as the Tantura festival is organized in winter, offering the opportunity to practice a variety of activities for lovers of music, culture, and history.
3. Mount Almejder
This 300 m high mountain east of Al Ula features stone settlements and caves with pre-Islamic inscriptions and designs but was not accessible at the time of the investigation. Please contact local guides Shahad Bdyr or Fayiz Al Juhani if you wish to visit, as they are likely to know when it will be accessible in the future.
4. Jabal Akma
Explore one of the treasures of Al Ula Saudi Arabia, "Jabal Akma."
Jabal Akma in Al-Ula, Medina, is considered the largest open library in the Kingdom because it includes many archaeological inscriptions and heritage writings that narrate historical details that happened in the city of Al Ula.
5. Al Ula Heritage and Antique Museum
This small museum is attractively designed, with some intriguing and informative exhibits on the area's history, culture, flora, and fauna, as well as Madain Saleh and the Nabataean culture.
6. Al Ula Historic Village
There are prepared plans to transform it into a formal tourist spot in the near future, but for now, you can enjoy wandering freely among the beautiful mud ruins where the people (the ancestors of the current residents of Al Ula) have lived for centuries.
In addition to visiting the Al Ula Fort, it is worth trying to locate the tantura (sundial) and the old mosque.
The ruins are dissected from the state highway: those on the upper west side have been significantly restored, while the lower east side is wonderfully jagged.
7. Madain Saleh
Madain Saleh, once upon a time, was the capital of the Lihyan Kingdom. It is believed that the Thamud people began to inhabit this place around 800 BC. (i.e., around 2900 years from now).
This area has been discussed both in the Holy Quran and in a Hadith. There is a story of a prophet of Saleh and his camel, which makes it the most popular tourist place to visit in AlUla.
You need to book a 2-hour tour package to enter Madain Saleh at the cost of SR95 per adult and SR45 per child. It will take you to the following areas:
Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza- 72 feet tall
Jabal Albanat- 29 graves
Jabal Al Ahmar- 18 tombs
8. Elephant Rock