Saudi Arabia

AlUla Moments Returns to Saudi Desert With 12 Months of Festivals and Events

Music, art, culture and wellness festivals will take place in AlUla for a 12-month period beginning in September.

The desert city – home to some of Saudi Arabia’s most ancient sites – will host these events as part of AlUla Moments, an annual initiative promoting the location as one of the region’s cultural and tourism hotspots.

Unveiled at Dubai’s Theatre of Digital Arts on Thursday, the programme includes the return of electronic music festival Azimuth and the Ancient Kingdoms Festival, which celebrates the city’s rich archaeological history.

“AlUla is quickly reasserting itself as the vibrant hub for creative and immersive encounters that it was thousands of years ago,” says Rami Almoallim, vice president of destination management at The Royal Commission for Al Ula.

Here are the main highlights of Al Ula Moments, with more to be announced later in the year.

1. Azimuth Festival: September 21 and 22

After establishing itself as a popular boutique electronic music festival in 2020, this year’s festival expands to include live band performances.

Headliners include Grammy Award-winning Mali band Tinariwen and British RnB singer Jorja Smith.

DJs on the bill include Australia’s Chet Faker and Thievery Corporation from the US.

2. AlUla Wellness Festival: October 19 to November 4

An event bringing leading yoga trainers and meditation experts for a series of mindful sessions.

A highlight is The Sanctuary Five, an area featuring various therapy treatments and talks on the latest trends in health and wellness.

Also on the programme are hiking trips and eco-gardening demonstrations.

3. Ancient Kingdoms Festival: November 17 to December 2

Held in Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, the festival celebrates the archaeological wonders of the area with cultural performances and heritage tours.

4. Winter at Tantora: December 21 to January 27

One of the first events to herald AlUla’s arrival as a new cultural destination, Winter at Tantora returns with four weekends encompassing an array of fashion, arts and heritage events.

The full programme will be revealed later in the year.

5. Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo: January 17 to January 20

The lavish affair invites the world’s leading polo teams for a series of matches held with the backdrop of AlUla’s majestic mountains and oasis.

Participating sides include France’s St Tropez and Argentina’s La Dolfina.

6. AlUla Arts Festival: February 8 to March 2

AlUla's majestic landscapes will provide plenty of inspiration for art lovers. Photo: Film AlUla
AlUla’s majestic landscapes will provide plenty of inspiration for art lovers. Photo: Film AlUla

Expect an expanded programme when this festival returns.

In addition to contemporary art installations and exhibitions, there will be art residencies, film screenings and workshops on traditional crafts including palm weaving, pottery and jewellery.

7. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup: February 2024

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, was one of the participants of this gruelling horse race in 2020.

The race entails riders completing multiple laps of the 120km track through desert dunes and mountain peaks for the chance to win a share of a cash prize, which was reportedly $4.2 million last year.

Dates will be announced closer to the event.

8. AlUla Skies Festival: April 10 to April 20

Back for its third year, the festival will feature scores of colourful hot-air balloons taking flight above the Arabian Desert.

Some of the experiences on offer are daily sunrise and sunset balloon and helicopter tours offering 360-degree vistas of AlUla’s ancient landmarks and mountains.

9. AlUla Camel Cup: April 2024

Will Smith and Swizz Beatz attend the 2023 AlUla Camel Cup. Photo: Swizz Beatz / Instagram
Will Smith and Swizz Beatz attend the 2023 AlUla Camel Cup. Photo: Swizz Beatz / Instagram

Actor Will Smith was the star guest at the inaugural AlUla Camel Cup in March.

The event brings together some of the kingdom’s leading racing teams for a series of competitions focusing on endurance, strength and speed.

Held under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this year’s competition had a prize pool of SAR 80 million ($21.3 million).

10. Desert Blaze: June 2024

AlUla Moments ends with one of the world’s most challenging endurance races.

Taking place in the hottest month of the year, international athletes will compete for a series of races with distances ranging from 5km to 10km and half marathon (21km) and full 42km marathon.


The National News

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