What is the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, the newest addition to AlUla Moments?

The event unpacks the history of the significant cities that formed Saudi Arabia

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A new festival has been added to AlUla Moments, the annual initiative transforming the ancient desert city in Saudi Arabia with art, music, food and wellness.

Running from November 11 to 27, the Ancient Kingdoms Festival will focus on three interconnected, historic oases — namely AlUla, Khaybar and Tayma. The event will explore the history of these cities, showing how they served as crossroads for explorers, artisans and intellectuals for millennia.

A dense ‘funerary avenue’ flanked by Bronze Age tombs, leading out of a wadi near Khaybar in north-west Saudi Arabia.

The AlUla region is located more than 1,000km from Riyadh. Historically, it lay on the incense trade route, a land and sea network spanning the Mediterranean, north-eastern Africa, Arabia and India.

The region surrounding the walled city of AlUla, established in around the 6th century BC, hosts remnants of civilisations dating back more than 7,000 years.

The city of Hegra, the second-biggest Nabataean city after Petra, is located in AlUla and marks the first Unesco World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia. Dating back to the 1st century BC, it served as the southern capital of the Nabataean kingdom, believed to have stretched from Yemen to Damascus and western Iraq to the Sinai Desert.

A new Guinness World Record for largest hot air balloon glow show was set in the area in March — with a show of 142 brightly-lit balloons taking to the skies.

Other historical sites in the area include the stone city of Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms; AlUla Old Town; and Jabal Ikmah, a mountain inscribed with pre-Arabic texts, described as an open-air library.

The Ancient Kingdoms Festival will unpack the historical significance of these sites — becoming the third to take place in the 2022 AlUla calendar.

AlUla will first host the returning Azimuth Festival on the weekend of Saudi National Day. The three-day event will take place from September 22 to 24 and feature regional and global entertainers, artists and chefs. The festival will include performances and artworks exhibited around the heritage sites in AlUla and chefs adding fresh takes on Saudi cuisine. The line-up is yet to be revealed.

The Wellness Festival will then follow from September 29 to October 16. The event, which was inaugurated in March, will take place in a spa, fitness and wellness centre called the Five Senses Sanctuary.

After the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, Winter at Tantora will be returning from December 21 to January 21, the event concludes the AlUla Moments calendar with intimate performances by internationally acclaimed musicians, as well as a series of events in theatre, fashion and arts.

Updated: August 11, 2022, 6:08 AM
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