AlUla is a place of extraordinary cultural and natural heritage. Stretching across 22,561km2. Its unique landscape includes a lush oasis valley and spectacular sandstone mountains that have provided an impressive backdrop for thousands of years of history. To put the scale into context, it covers an area similar in size to the nation of Belgium.
The AlUla oasis is in the Wadi Al-Qura (the Valley of Villages), a valley of significant economic and cultural importance since ancient times (also known as the AlUla Valley). It is one of several oases in the Hijaz region of north-western Saudi Arabia, which, given their groundwater resources, were essential for the development of travel and trade. The AlUla region was a natural nexus and its bustling commercial centers developed largely along with one of the most important trading routes of the region, running north-south along the west side of the Arabian Peninsula, linking Arabia and India to the Mediterranean world across Egypt, to the Levant and beyond. This was for some time the Incense Route, transporting frankincense and myrrh from South Arabia northward, but also spices, semi-precious stones, and other luxury goods.
One of the AlUla Valley’s earliest cities, dating back to at least the 9th century BCE, was Dadan (today called Al- Khuraybah), the capital of the ancient Arabian Kingdom of Lihyan. The Nabataeans built Hegra, (previously known as Mada’in Salih) just outside the valley – it is the first UNESCO World Heritage site established in Saudi Arabia. This ancient city functioned as the Nabataean Kingdom’s southern capital from about the 1st century BCE into the 2nd century CE (Petra, in Jordan, is the northern one). Another city, Qurh (Al-Mabiyat), located in southern reaches of the valley, flourished after Islam was established in 622 CE.
Located about 300 km north of Medina, it is known to have hosted the prophet Muhamed. The enchanting medieval Islamic town of AlUla, which remains still largely intact, next to the modern town, seems to have risen to its greatest importance after Qurh waned.