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AlUla, Saudi Arabia's ancient city hosts 41st GCC Summit [In Gallery]


Saudi Arabia’s ancient city of AlUla. (Saudi Press Ageny)

Saudi Arabia's ancient city of Al Ula hoists the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit of Gulf leaders for the first time on Tuesday.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been a crossroads of ancient civilisations — a place of deep history that is continuously evolving. AlUla is an extraordinary example of this wonderful heritage.

Located in the northwest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its main city of the same name is located on the original pilgrimage route to Makkah, approximately 325km north of Medina.

AlUla is a county in the North-West of Saudi Arabia.

Al-Ula, which houses dozens of artefacts that date back to 900 B.C., is also on track to becoming the world's largest open museum. It is known for its rocky structures, and ancient engravings.

A place of extraordinary human endeavour, visitors to AlUla are immersed in a land of ancient civilisations spanning more than 200,000 years of human history.

Historically, AlUla became a vital crossroads along the famous incense- trading routes running from southern Arabia north into Egypt, the Mediterranean and beyond.

With oases dotting the area, it offered a much-needed respite for weary travellers, becoming a popular place to rest, commune and recharge. Centred around its famed oasis and framed by sandstone mountains, AlUla's geography, geology and climate have enabled successive civilisations to flourish here.

Today, AlUla is rich in both human heritage and natural beauty, acting as a home for a wide range of flora, fauna and a living museum of human societies spanning thousands of years.

Visitors walk outside the tombs at the Madain Saleh antiquities site, AlUla. (File photo: Reuters)

In 2018, the carved mountains of AlUla became Saudi Arabia's first historical site to be placed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) World Heritage List.

A view of the facade of the Maraya (Arabic for "Mirror") concert hall hosting the first "Winter at Tantora" music carnival in the ruins of Al-Ula. (File photo: AFP)

The Royal Commission for AlUla has driven forward efforts to develop the county of AlUla into a preeminent global tourist destination since 2017. Modern visitors to AlUla experience an authentic journey through time, in a place of wonder and discovery, adventure and cultural immersion.

AlUla is now at the center of a project to raise awareness of the country's ancient history, inspire national pride, and fuel tourism, all objectives within the purview of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's roadmap to a different future.

AlUla's landscape is as monumental as its vast history. It features sandstone canyons, volcanic plains, mountains, valleys, an oasis covered in palm trees. Architecture in AlUla merges with the landscape, and creates outstanding works of art. It is within this union that the uniqueness of Al Ula is found.

AlUla is considered a living museum of preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments, both natural and human-made, that hold 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history.

Everything here reflects the authenticity of a landscape that has remained little altered for centuries. Of the countless landmarks AlUla offers, the most well-known is the Nabataean city of Hegra, a 52-hectare ancient city.

For today's visitors, travelling to AlUla by air or by road is convenient, and once you have arrived, there are several options for getting around. A tourist e-Visa is available country-wide for travellers who are 18 and older from 49 eligible countries – requiring a simple online application that takes 24 hours to process.

The GCC Summit will take place in the stunning Maraya Hall.

Weather in AlUla varies; the best time to visit is October through April, with temperatures ranging from a pleasant 10–25 degrees Celsius. It does get colder at night, so it is essential to pack some warm clothing. Temperatures in May through September is much hotter in this desert climate, ranging from 20–35 degrees Celsius.

The Maraya Hall, where the 41st GCC Summit will be taking place is the Guinness World Record Holder for the "World's Largest Mirrored Building."

By offering heritage, nature, arts and culture, and adventure, AlUla is emerging as a high-profile and fascinating tourist destination in Saudi Arabia.

Maraya, which translates to "mirror" or "reflection" in Arabic, boasts 9,740 square metres of mirrors

The GCC Summit is taking place at the Maraya Concert Hall, the world's largest mirror-clad building, according to the Guinness World Records situated at Al Ulafrom Tuesday.

Designed to blend into the surrounding landscape, the structure is covered in mirrored panels reflecting AlUla's beauty.

The 500-seat venue was unveiled as part of the Winter at Tantora festival and has hosted several cultural events including some of the world's leading performers who range from Omar Khairat to Andrea Bocelli throughout the Winter at Tantora festival.

Maraya is a multi-purpose conference and entertainment venue and has reopened in January 2021. It's first event of the year is the GCC Summit.

The 41st GCC Summit is expected to see a signing ceremony unifying Qatar with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait three years after diplomatic and trade ties were severed.

The 500-seat capacity venue was unveiled as part of the Winter at Tantora festival

In a sign of a major breakthrough between the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia reopened its airspace, and land and sea borders to Qatar on Monday night, Kuwait's foreign minister announced ahead of the event.

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TAGS:GCCGCC SummitAlUlaSaudi Arabia
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