The Ancient Kingdoms Festival has returned to AlUla in celebration of the region’s history and heritage.
Organised by AlUla Moments, the two-week festival is being held until December 2 and offers a series of exciting experiences that transport visitors to the heart of AlUla’s captivating past.
The festival’s programme includes cultural celebrations, evening tours, historic culinary experiences, and trips to archaeological and historical sites.
This year’s festivities mark the 15th anniversary of Hegra’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Nabataean city sprawls over 52 hectares, standing as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s rich history. Initially untouched for over 2,000 years, the city has revealed its treasures, allowing archaeologists and experts to delve into its ancient mysteries.
Ibn Battuta, the legendary Arab explorer, visited Hegra in the 14th century, noting in his memoirs that its tombs were also passed by travelers, traders, and pilgrims en route to Makkah over the centuries.
Another famous explorer who made the journey was Charles Montagu Doughty. Regarded to this day as one of the greatest of all Western travellers in Arabia, Doughty’s visit to Hegra was referenced in his 1888 book “Travels in Arabia Deserta.”
However, Hegra is now open to the world as one of Saudi Arabia’s iconic landmarks, welcoming tourists from all walks of life as they explore a distinctive, untouched part of the Kingdom.
Visitors to the festival can uncover Hegra’s secrets through new and exciting points of access, allowing them to witness history through innovative, thoughtfully designed experiences.
“Hegra After Dark” is a history-inspired immersive experience in the shadow of some of the most spectacular tombs located at the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors start their journey on a Nabataean-inspired horse-drawn carriage to discover the “Secret Garden of Khuraymat,” a curatorially imagined sensorium where they can explore the history and culture of incense use across the ancient world. Meanwhile, “Theatre of Life” is an experience blending historic storytelling with entertainment.
The Ancient Kingdoms Festival introduces several new Oases Discovery activations. The “Memory Sanctuary,” crafted in collaboration with AlUla’s residents, pays homage to the oasis through a multisensory experience. Guests can create nostalgic desserts, enjoy liquid nitrogen slushies, and savour 3D-printed wafers in an experiential dessert laboratory.
Furthermore, two extraordinary picnic experiences, “Ancestral Hampers” and “Life and Memory Chest,” draw inspiration from memories of the harvest season in the Oasis. Visitors can opt for the portable, family-friendly picnic hampers to enjoy under the shade of trees or indulge in an elevated gastronomic feast served in a premium, cosy spot.
A series of cultural and artistic workshops will be held under the theme “Programmes for Future Ancients.” Designed for young minds and their families, these activities were created through extensive consultation with archaeologists by the Academy of Ancient Inscriptions.