The first international flight arrived in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla on Friday, opening a new path for travelers to visit what is being billed as the largest living museum in the world.
The Saudi low-cost carrier Flynas, which took off from the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai International Airport, was welcomed by a water canon salute in the presence of representatives from the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) at around 3pm local time.
“It was all beautiful, from the top of the descent all the way through the approach and landing,” Captain Mohammed bin Asker told Al Arabiya English.
“It is such a pleasure to see our history and how our Kingdom has evolved over the past few years. In the future I’m sure we will see a lot more than what is happening now.”
Regular tourists at AlUla Khalid al-Maqbool and Mohammed Tar Ahmed, from Abu Dhabi, spoke to Al Arabiya English about how the new flight has significantly cut down their travel time.
On a previous visit, the pair had driven nearly 2,000 kilometers from Abu Dhabi, much of the distance off-road, in a journey that had taken them two days.
“This [flight] is one of the best things,” al-Maqbool said. “Now instead of wasting your holiday driving, it’s only three hours and you are here. It’s easy to rent a car and enjoy your leave.”
The two friends are so enchanted by the tourist destination that they plan to return again in just over a month.
When asked what was attractive about AlUla, al-Maqbool said: “I don’t know how to express it but it’s very nice. The people are very nice here. And there are lots of places for camping and sightseeing.”
As for the future of AlUla, which seems likely to see an influx of tourists after the new flight path has opened up, al-Maqbool believes the change will be for the best.
“Always there is area for improvement, and this will come because of the feedback you get from the people,” he said.
“It will definitely change the culture, the way people think dealing with each other.”
Located in northwest Saudi Arabia, AlUla has only recently been re-discovered by the world.
Visitors will have the opportunity to explore over 110 well-preserved tombs at the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site Hegra.
On the same day marking the arrival of the first international flight, Middle Easter singer Faia Younan will perform a live concert as part of the AlUla Moments to be held in the mirrored building ‘Maraya’.