Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 30 October 2020

What is Al Ula's Azimuth Festival? Three-day event coming to Saudi Arabia in March

A festival of music, food, film, history and art is coming to the north-western Saudi Arabian region

Azimuth, a three-day cultural festival, has been announced for Al Ula in Saudi Arabia.

From Thursday to Saturday, March 5 to 7, music, food, film, history and art will be celebrated at the Unesco World Heritage Site.

"Guests will witness a clash of Eastern and Western cultural influences, with a live music experience at its heart, bookended by a world class food experience," the Azimuth website said.

Details remain scant, but on the food front plenty of top chefs have been announced, including Brazilian-Palestinian restaurateur Alex Atala, Nuno Mendes from Portugal, Indian chef Garima Arora and the pair behind New York’s Contra and Wildair, Fabian von Hauske and Jeremiah Stone.

No musical acts have been announced yet, but judging from this promo video, it looks like there will be a lot of EDM on offer:

The event will mark the end of Winter at Tantora, a festival that has been running every weekend since December 19.

Single-day tickets to the event are available, and three-day season passes are coming soon. Single-day tickets are 1,828 riyals (Dh1,790). Itineraries to choose from are here, with organised ground transfers, meals and refreshments, live performances all included in the price. Flights, excursions and accommodation are not included in the one-day ticket price.

The one-day itineraries include lunch cooked by Alex Atala, a live musical performance and a Michelin-starred gastronomic experience from Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske of Contra.

The three-day schedule includes luxury SUV transfer from Al Ula airport to Camp Ashar, lunch at Annabel's, cocktails at mirrored building Maraya, dinner at Sass Cafe, an excursion to the Desert X art exhibition, a behind-the-scenes look at sunrise of the filming of a documentary directed by Paul Dugdale and featuring legendary electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre and all of the activities included in the one-day itinerary as well.

The three-day weekend package itinerary includes accommodation at Al Ula's most luxurious accommodation, Camp Ashar. The price has not yet been announced.

Measures to protect Al Ula

This week, rules to ensure that Al Ula is protected and remains "unspoiled" were announced.

There are plans to make the historical site, described as the kingdom's "crown jewel" its one heritage tourist destination within 15 years, but the regulations will ensure that the site's development will not detract from the landscape and historic sites.

“Everybody is amazed to discover there is such a pearl which is unknown,” Francesca Arici, the site’s chief planning officer, told The National. “Everybody knows Petra but nobody knows Al Ula and I see a lot of excitement when people discover it.”

“We need beds, we need to give people a place to sleep if we want them to come. But we are looking for the right way to develop, which is not the case everywhere,” Arici added.

“We’re setting up a planning system from scratch, learning from other global planning systems, not to make the same mistakes ... We don’t want to just be forbidding things, but to give a set of rules that allow development in the right way.”

More details about Al Ula's Azimuth Festival are at azimuthfestival.com

Updated: February 12, 2020 06:54 PM

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