Saudi Arabia: AlUla Moments to host inaugural ‘Ancient Kingdoms Festival’ Nov. 11-27

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The inaugural ‘Ancient Kingdoms Festival’ will be hosted in the three linked ancient oases of northwest Saudi Arabia – Khaybar, Tayma, and AlUla – from November 11 to 27 under the event umbrella ‘AlUla Moments.’

In a statement on Thursday, organizers of the highly anticipated AlUla Moments mega-festival said that the first-of-its-kind event will include a jam-packed schedule of unique activities for visitors of all ages to enjoy.

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Visitors will be able to learn more about the history of the ancient kingdoms through open-air galleries and tailor-made experiences and excursions.

There will also be after-dark light shows, carriage rides at dawn, hot-air balloon and helicopter flights to highlight the area’s monumental prehistoric architecture, as well as culinary pop-ups, historical re-enactments and guided trails through the oases.

The ancient kingdoms of AlUla, Khaybar, and Tayma have shaped the history of the region and its connection to the world for thousands of years.

While AlUla has been welcoming visitors to its ancient sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, since it reopened in 2020, the Festival will also open up Khaybar and Tayma, both of which are of major historical significance.

Activities in Khaybar and Tayma

Khaybar is known for being a historic market town and for its surrounding geology of white and black volcanoes. It also has a range of mysterious prehistoric stone structures in the shapes of keyholes, rectangles, and kites which are best seen via aerial view. Tayma is famous for its historic position on the legendary Incense Road.

AlUla Moments: Aerial view of Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Aerial view of Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Khaybar, which will permanently open up on November 24, will include a host of different activities. Some of these activities include an off-the-grid culinary and glamping experience at Khaybar Camp, vantage point viewing of the area’s first point of entry AlRawan, adventure trails through Umm Jirsan lava tubes and caves, and ‘Stories From the Skies’ aerial spectacle using drones to showcase the remarkable landscape.

AlUla Moments: Aerial view of Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Aerial view of Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Khaybar in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Tayma will open up on November 11 and remain open to visitors until March 31 next year. As part of the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, visitors will be able to visit the the Ancient Temple of Salm, Suq AlNjam Oasis trail and marketplace, the ancient well Bir Haddaj which is believed to have been built by the last Babylonian king, and the Qasr Ubn Rumman (Governor’s Palace).

AlUla Moments: Tayma Old Town in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Tayma Old Town in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Tayma is two hours away from AlUla while Khaybar is three hours away. Visitors can drive to the locations or opt for a hop-on-hop-off bus or luxury/VIP car service moving between the sites. There will also be an escorted journey with storytellers called ‘Ride with a Rawi,’ giving visitors a more in-depth tour of the route.

Other festival highlights

Once a vibrant city of Nabataeans and a vital hub on the Incense Road, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra is one of AlUla’s most anticipated by tourists.

AlUla Moment: Hegra After Dark, in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moment: Hegra After Dark, in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

‘Introducing Hinat: Nabataean Facial Reconstruction,’ launched last month, is a technological and archaeological feat which gives visitors a deeper look into the ancient world of Hegra through the forensic, digital reconstruction of a Nabataean woman experts call ‘Hinat.’

Other festival highlights in Hegra include a horse-drawn carriage experience, available until March next year, which will give visitors a chance to explore the area during the golden hours of dawn and dusk, as well as an after-dark tour by candlelight and a sound and light show to highlight the story of the Nabataean king al-Haritha.

AlUla Moments: Hegra After Dark in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
AlUla Moments: Hegra After Dark in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

Already underway is an expert-led excavation season at Dadan, the capital city of the ancient kingdoms, offering explorers a chance to join in as part of the ‘Apprentice Archaeologist’ program designed to inspire younger generations into discovering the area’s cultural heritage.

Family-friendly archaeology tours will also be hosted in Dadan, offering visitors a chance to interact with expert archaeologists who are making discoveries in the area in real-time.

A mountain near the ancient city of Dadan and the ancient capital of the Dananite and Lihyanite kingdoms, Jabal Ikmah has been described as a huge open-air library. The festival will also include an after-dark tour along candle-lit pathways that showcase the ancient remnants of civilizations and their religious rituals recorded onto the rock face of the canyon and a family-friendly workshop at the Ancient Inscriptions Academy.

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