AlUla launches wellness festival with Lionel Richie concert

The event is running from March 17 to 27 and includes holistic wellbeing with celebrity yogis, neuroscience, astrology discussions and more

Five Senses Sanctuary AlUla
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AlUla's new wellness festival began on Thursday, bringing in experts from around the world, alongside a line-up of immersive art installations and activations.

The first-of-its-kind wellness event is offering more than 300 activities, including yoga sessions with celebrity instructors, wellness talks, workshops, live music and massage therapy.

On March 18, famed American singer-songwriter Lionel Richie will also perform at Maraya Concert Hall as part of the festival.

Inside the Five Senses Sanctuary

As part of the festival is the Five Senses Sanctuary, located on one of AlUla’s summer farms, which is hosting engaging experiences over the next 10 days, including guided yoga and meditations, workshops, talks and mindfulness activities to help "connect the senses" to nature. Visitors enjoy all this in the astounding ancient surroundings alongside magnificent mountains and relics of the world's oldest civilisations. The programme aims to help people with their mental, emotional, and physical health.

The new sanctuary offers tailor-made classes for the five senses, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in nature, interacting with sound, space and light.

The Five Senses Sanctuary is spread over three pavilions and a central community area that aims to bring together like-minded people who are looking for growth and inspiration.

The day begins with an awakening session and breakfast, with a cooking demonstration and a moonrise musical gathering every day. Each pavilion offers different classes that people can book in advance. These include yoga, meditation, sound healing, mindfulness, Tai Chi, talks, arts, treatment rooms and private spaces for wellness treatments.

Designed by international architecture firm Lulie Fisher Design Studio, Pavilion A has a theme of "move, sweat, flow", and it offers more robust yoga classes.

Pavilion B focuses on meditation, breathing and alignment. The area includes the Theatre Dome and plays host to talks on both ancient and modern wisdom such as astrology and neuroscience. It's also home to the Central Cafe, which has chefs creating healthy meals inspired by AlUla.

People can also engage in perfume and jewellery-making workshops, as well as nightly handpan lessons, and go shopping at ShopatCulture, a Saudi e-commerce business that supports up-and-coming local fashion designers.

Eight celebrity yogis arrive in AlUla

Chelsea Kauai, the notable acro yogi from Hawaii, is leading the celebrity instructor panel at the Five Senses Sanctuary. These include Manish Pole, chief executive of Artistic Yoga and disciple of Himalayan master Bharat Thakur, who is performing the daily sunrise and moonrise gatherings, and Dylan Werner, yoga instructor, lecturer and educator in health, well-being and mindfulness.

American yogi Kino MacGregor will focus on the spiritual and physical practice of ashtanga, and Nicholas Coolridge will share his expertise in acro yoga.

Motivational speakers include regional and international names such as Manal Alsadhan, a Saudi self-development expert; Nelly Attar, a Lebanese athlete and mental health professional; and Egyptian athlete Manal Rostom.

Lionel Richie, EcoTrail, Alicia Keys and other attractions

Richie is scheduled to return to perform at Maraya Concert Hall on March 18.

No stranger to AlUla, Richie also performed in the area in 2020. “Last time I was there, it was such a magical experience; I can’t wait to return and play for a new audience in Saudi Arabia," he said.

EcoTrail AlUla will make a comeback on March 18 and 19, as part of the wellness festival. The running, hiking and walking event will allow those of all levels of fitness and ages to participate.

Trail-running is a growing sport globally and AlUla will offer 80-kilometre, 50km, 25km and 10km routes for participants this year.

Guests of Five Senses Sanctuary also have the exclusive opportunity to experience The Keys Soulcare Affirmation Zone, created by Alicia Keys. Visitors can listen to Keys’s voice reciting affirmations via headsets.

Other experiences include the Tranquility Garden, which is equipped with four treatment areas offering massage, facials, sound healing and reflexology, or the AlfaOne Retreat, where people can engage in nature and rest among the citrus and mango trees.

Sadu Escape, a luxury bohemian camp nestled in the heart of AlUla, is also open to guests attending the wellness festival, as is Thuraya Wellness Centre at the new Habitas resort. It offers a lounge space with an alchemy bar, spa treatment rooms, a fitness centre, an outdoor wellness agora and a yoga studio.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 3:26 PM