The first direct flight by Saudi Arabia's national airline from Paris to the historical AlUla city touched down on Friday night with 75 passengers on board.
Saudia's Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane departed from Charles de Gaulle Airport in the French capital and arrived at AlUla International Airport at 10:30pm, after a five-hour journey. The flight marked the first direct flight to the tourist destination, dubbed “the world’s largest living museum”.
The weekly non-stop flights will operate until March 27, when the ongoing Winter at Tantora festival comes to an end. The four-month programme of events, running from December 21 to March 27, features an expansive array of offerings spanning music, arts, fashion, food and wellness.
Guests onboard the Saudia flight included ex-Olympic Champion show-jumper Pierre Durand; Phillip Jones, chief destination management and marketing Officer, Royal Commission for AlUla; and Gerard Mestrallet, executive chairman of the French Agency for AlUla Development. They were welcomed at the AlUla airport by Saudi officials including AlUla airport director Abdulwahab Bokhari.
The Paris-AlUla flight follows the launch of the first direct flight to AlUla, which took off from Dubai and Kuwait City on November 19 via Saudi Arabia's low-cost airline flynas. The airline operates three weekly direct flights from Dubai while two weekly direct flights operate from Kuwait City. Additionally, four flights a week from Riyadh and three weekly flights from Dammam and Jeddah were also added.
Held in the historic Al Ula region, which dates back more than 2,000 years and is the former capital of the ancient Arabian kingdom of Lihyan, Winter at Tantora aims to offer an immersive experience with four eclectic festivals set amid stunning surroundings.
The region includes Hegra, made up of Nabataean rock formations, offers a glimpse of history hard to find in the region and has been granted Unesco World Heritage status. More than 110 well-preserved tombs, ancient inscriptions and carvings give visitors an insight into a bygone era in the country’s dramatic orange and red-hued desert landscape.
AlUla has been establishing itself not only as a historical destination in recent years, but also a cultural one, with a host of international artists performing at outdoor concerts and at the majestic mirrored Maraya Concert Hall, where Andrea Bocelli recently performed a sold-out gig.
The concert hall is also home to Michelin-lauded chef Jason Atherton's newest restaurant, Maraya Social. Located on the rooftop of the futuristic structure, it is open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday. Its menu takes inspiration from AlUla with produce sourced from local farms, “all served up in Atherton's signature style”.