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A “winter” wonderland in Saudi Arabia


A winter in the desert, you ask. Yes, it exists, but under the form of a festival.  The northern Saudi city of Al-Ula is hosting a special season of events and festivities, аs Saudi has launched Winter at Tantora – the new cultural festival.

It is hosted by the city’s residents and runs from Dec. 20, 2018, to Feb. 9, 2019. The festival includes cultural events, such as the exposition of the paintings of the famous international artist Vincent van Gogh in the Marayah theatre, as well as musical performances. It is the first event of its kind to be held in the breath-taking UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is designed to showcase its wonders to the rest of the world. Described as the Kingdom’s archaeological jewel, Al-Ula has been a meeting point of many civilizations. Its proud residents will welcome visitors to discover the depth of their culture. Winter at Tantora is a celebration of life, culture, heritage and beauty.

The vertical sandstone cliffs surrounding Al-Ula provide ample surfaces for rock art, making it one of the richer petroglyph regions in the Kingdom. Mount Ikma is located in the southern part of Al-Ula, with a large petroglyph panel displaying hundreds of images, including depictions of hunting scenes with humans and various animals. The festival’s guests can visit archaeological and heritage sites that will be open only to a select group of ticket-holders. Most notable among them is Mada’in Saleh, which in 2008 became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its key features are well-preserved remains dating back to the Late Antiquity period, and 131 rock-cut tombs that are linked to the Nabatean kingdom.

On the other hand, there has also been an impressive increased participation from women this year. One of the leaders behind the promotion of the festival is Iman Al-Mutairi, marketing director for tourist destinations at the Royal Commission for Al-Ula. Her work to promote not only the UNESCO heritage site, but all of Saudi Arabia as a major tourism destination is inspirational. Women such as her are showing they can run large-scale events and are also empowered by their love for their jobs. Meanwhile she is breaking stereotypes around women`s place in Saudi Arabian society, placing the kingdom a step further in this regard and showing its` readiness for change towards a better, emancipated country.

So, how much would you like to visit the Winter festival in Al-Ula in 2019?


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