Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan in AlUla is recreated in the metaverse

Virtual tourists can enter the prominent Hegra tomb, which visitors in the real world can't do

Ancient Nabatean-carved tomb at the archaeological site of Hegra in AlUla. AFP
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Tourists can now virtually visit Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan in AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

The Unesco World Heritage site has been recreated digitally with a 3D model and rendered in Decentraland, an Ethereum-powered virtual platform.

It marks the first venture of AlUla into the metaverse, as well as the first time a Unesco landmark has been rendered in the digital world.

Virtual tourists will be able to enter the Hegra tomb, says the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), which visitors in the real world can’t do. They will also be able to interact with virtual touchpoints to access detailed information about the destination.

The digital site also features a rendering of the surrounding desertscape.

The move “represents an exciting evolution of AlUla's unique heritage, acting as an open invitation to travellers, academics and digital explorers to log in and witness AlUla like never before”, said RCU chief executive Amr AlMadani.

He said entering the metaverse is an important step in AlUla’s regeneration, “moving from the physical to the digital realm and accessible to everyone, everywhere”.

The commission is also preparing a calendar of virtual events to be hosted at the new digital Hegra site, which “will digitally introduce people to the wonders of AlUla through the fascinating, high-tech lens of the metaverse”.

Located 20 kilometres north of AlUla, the archaeological site is known for its prolific tombs and rock formations. The Tomb of Lihyan is the largest at 22 metres tall. Hegra is also considered to be the largest preserved site of the ancient Nabatean civilization.

Creative consultancy firm Frog will develop and facilitate the metaverse debut of Hegra, which adds to the growing list of Middle East tourist sites recreated in the virtual world.

Last month, it was announced that Yas Island in Abu Dhabi would be venturing into the metaverse. It was one of the initial steps taken in rendering the UAE capital digitally.

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa also got its digital twin last month, promising virtual visitors an immersive experience in the world’s tallest tower.

More information and access to the Hegra metaverse experience is at play.decentraland.org

Hegra: a Unesco World Heritage site in Saudi Arabia — in pictures

Updated: November 14, 2022, 9:52 AM