Saudi and Tunisian foreign ministers discuss developing ties

Saudi and Tunisian foreign ministers discuss developing ties
Saudi and Tunisian foreign ministers discuss developing ties

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - AlUla’s ‘Summer Untold’ program enticing visitors with adventure activities

ALULA: Located in northwestern Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a captivating destination for a perfect summer getaway, combining adrenaline-pumping activities and relaxation opportunities with heritage and cultural exploration.

As part of the latest efforts to promote AlUla as a popular summer vacation destination, new activities have been announced for the season under the theme “Summer Untold.”

With its rich history, majestic landscapes and range of thrilling experiences, AlUla offers a summer adventure for families.

Not only does it boast low humidity, but its temperatures are also significantly cooler than other cities in the Gulf region, making it an ideal escape from the scorching summer heat.

On a trip to AlUla, Arab News spoke to a Saudi family who have been living in Hong Kong for the past 16 years. They usually visit Jeddah to see relatives.

This year, Sulaiman Alireza and Ghazal Kurdi wanted their three children to explore more of their home country and see the changes. AlUla appeared to be the perfect summer destination.

“We want our kids to learn more about the heritage beauty of their country; the landscape here is out of this world. You don’t see this anywhere else in the world. It was a truly unique experience,” Kurdi said.

Although Hong Kong is made up of many islands and is a popular tourist spot known for its beaches and mountains, the Saudi family was eager to explore the diversity of their homeland.

Their daughter, Lilianna Alireza, 14, said: “AlUla’s climate is dry whereas Hong Kong’s climate is subtropical, so it was indeed worth it. The scenery was beautiful. It wasn’t something I had seen anywhere else.”

The family also had an opportunity to visit Hegra, an ancient Nabataean site listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the summer program, visitors are treated to a unique experience where they can explore the vast area, riding in vintage 1980s Land Rovers, skillfully driven by expert guides.

A tour guide, also known as a rawi, takes visitors on mesmerizing journeys, telling stories and sharing information of the intricately carved tombs and concealed ceremonial chambers, allowing people to immerse themselves in the historical and architectural marvels of the Nabataeans.

“The Hegra tour was our top attraction. It was fascinating! We always wanted to visit it and it’s nice to finally see it,” Kurdi said.

“We took a private tour, which was incredible. Our guide was a local. She did a great job explaining the history of the area to us and our kids.”

Another activity from the AlUla summer program, which Alireza’s family experienced, was a 30-minute helicopter tour that offered breathtaking aerial views of the ancient city, such as the Elephant Rock, Maraya (the world’s largest mirrored building), Jabal Ikmah (the open-air library), Dadan (the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms) and Old Town (a medieval city).

“First, the kids saw all the sites earlier in the day at ground level, so it was nice to see everything and identify the sites from the top,” said Kurdi.

“The helicopter is my favorite adventure. I really enjoyed it and I thought it was very nice seeing the whole of AlUla from up in the sky,” said Lilianna.

The family was fascinated by the developments in the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia, particularly in AlUla.

“For us, it was nice to see the big changes that are happening in the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia. We can’t wait to invite our friends from Hong Kong to come and see AlUla. The local community was extremely friendly and welcoming. They were very excited about the changes taking place in AlUla and the diversity of nationalities that are visiting the area,” said Kurdi.

Another attraction included in the summer program is the Giant Swing, which takes people on an 85-meter ride into the sky.

The adventure begins with a brief walk along the via ferrata pathway, followed by a 15-minute climb, during which participants are introduced to the fundamentals of rock climbing, preparing them for the electrifying swing that awaits.

Najla Boukhari, a visitor who went on the ride, said: “The combination of accomplishment and the awe-inspiring vistas truly make this adventure one that should not be missed.”

For those seeking an even more exhilarating adventure, the zip line is a must. It is a chance to ascend to great heights above the canyons and marvel at the breathtaking desert scenery.

Mariam Al-Abdulhadi, a Jordanian social media influencer who was visiting AlUla for leisure, told Arab News that although she was scared of heights, experiencing the zipline “exceeded my expectations.”

She added: “After undergoing this transformative experience, I underwent a profound personal change. I uncovered previously unknown boundaries to my capabilities and unearthed a reservoir of self-assurance within myself that exceeded my expectations. In the past, something as simple as standing on a chair to change a lamp filled me with fear.

“However, following my adventure in AlUla, I successfully scaled a towering mountain reaching approximately 54 meters in height, and fearlessly descended on a zip line. This extraordinary accomplishment drastically pushed the boundaries of what I thought was possible, particularly for someone who struggles with acrophobia.”

AlUla presents a variety of relaxation and meditation options, catering to visitors’ physical and mental well-being.

At Habitas’ Thuraya Wellness Center, an internationally renowned resort, visitors can indulge in revitalizing yoga sessions and soothing sound detox meditations.

At Banyan Tree AlUla, skilled Indonesian masseuses offer specialized deep tissue and relaxation massages.

Within the serene surroundings of the Ashar Valley’s magnificent sandstone mountains, the popular Rock Pool at Banyan Tree offers a trendy spot for guests to unwind in tranquility.

Al-Abdulhadi said that she highly recommends her Jordanian social media followers to come and experience AlUla for its relaxation and adventure spots.

“It is a life-changing experience, and will leave you with unforgettable memories. AlUla is a hidden gem that offers an immersive adventure experience coupled with relaxation and cultural exploration. With its thrilling activities, captivating landscapes and luxurious accommodations, it promises an unforgettable summer getaway.”

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