Tantora Celebration begins in AlUla as part of ancient winter traditions

Immersive experience highlights rich history of famed sundial in Saudi city

Winter at Tantora festival gets under way in Saudi Arabia

Winter at Tantora festival gets under way in Saudi Arabia
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The Tantora Celebration is under way in AlUla.

The event aims to educate, entertain and inspire visitors with a host of activities that include 200 performers showcasing the essence and history of the region. It is part of the Winter at Tantora festival and runs until Saturday.

The Tantora is a sundial used by local residents to tell the time and mark the beginning of the winter planting season. It begins with the shadow cast by the sundial in the Old Town.

“The Tantora Celebration is reliving and celebrating the centuries-old cultural event when people, families and communities would gather,” says AlUla resident Abu Hamza.

The opening ceremony for Tantora Celebration began with a beautiful spread of Saudi Arabian coffee, with varieties from each region of the country, and traditional music and dance performances.

It was accompanied by light projections on the landscape surrounding the area, with interactive live immersion performances where actors replayed scenes from the history. Visitors were then led through a walkway designed as a street from AlUla’s past.

Scenes acted out included children playing games in the sand outside their mud homes, women making traditional crafts and men farming.

AlUla was located along Incense Road, a network of major land and sea trading routes that enabled trading silk, spices and a variety of goods. It was also a major hub for Islamic pilgrims travelling from Damascus to Makkah.

“Tantora is fascinating as it not only revives ancient tales of the past but helps connect the present to the future,” says Zahra Abdulmajeed, who was at the event.

AlUla musicians and an international orchestra also teamed up to perform classics together.

“We came to watch my husband perform,” says Abeer Harbi.“My daughter and I came to see him. She loves to see them perform. The event is great for children.”

"I love how western and eastern sounds mix and this collaboration with musicians from AlUla and abroad play together creating a beautiful harmony and that’s what AlUla is all about, embracing diversity as its been used to traders all throughout its history," says Harbi.

As part of the continuing Tantora Celebration, people will be able to enjoy a host of activities such as hot-air ballooning, shopping, trail walks and new restaurant experiences.

Shows for the Tantora Celebration run from are from 6pm to 10.30pm until Saturday. Tickets priced at SAR 80 ($21) for adults and SAR 20 ($5) for children

Updated: December 24, 2022, 2:06 PM