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Passengers flying on SAUDIA, the flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, from Riyadh to AlUla on November 4 this year enjoyed a unique experience – of flying in what is probably the world’s first ‘museum in the sky’.
AlUla is a city of the Medina Region of north-western Saudi Arabia, and falls under the Governorate of Ula. Founded in the sixth century BC, it was the capital of the ancient Lihyanites (Dedanites) and has survived as an old walled city, packed with mud-brick and stone houses. Archaeologists are working to uncover the ancient city and artefacts. It is said that the city lay on the famous Incense Road, a network of routes that facilitated the trading of spices, silk and other luxury items through Arabia, Egypt and India.
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Saudi Arabia has decided to build AlUla as an archaeological destination for travellers and have entered into various collaborations to build supporting infrastructure. The Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz International Airport, built as part of the development strategy of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU), and which was approved to receive international flights in March this year, has catapulted this heritage site on the global tourist map.
SAUDIA Airlines, in collaboration with AlUla, to highlight the latter as a living museum, organised the Museum in the Sky, where a replica collection of artefacts discovered in AlUla during excavations by archaeologists were on display on board the flight.
SAUDIA also launched the new In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE) channel, Discover Saudi Arabia, which enabled passengers to watch the Discovery Channel documentary movie – Architects of Ancient Arabia – a 2021 release full-length documentary movie produced by PowderHouse revealing that some of human civilization’s first building blocks were set in place in AlUla.
According to Khaled Tash, Vice President of Corporate Communication, SAUDIA Group, “As the national flag carrier and Wings of Vision 2030, it is a privilege to showcase heritage sites and hidden gems of the Kingdom.”
Archaeologist Dr. Rebecca Foote, Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research, RCU, introduced the documentary and explained about the artefact museum pieces.
According to a release from SAUDIA, the airline operates 32 weekly roundtrip flights from AlUla to Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam with capacity of more than 4.4 thousand seats.
Special rate packages in AlUla, which includes flights, accommodation, and activities can be booked here.
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And while you are there, do not forget to visit Saud Arabia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hegra (Al Hijr) Archaeological Site, about half an hour’s drive away. According to the UNESCO website, it features well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. With its 111 monumental tombs, 94 of which are decorated, and water wells, the site is an outstanding example of the Nabataeans’ architectural accomplishment and hydraulic expertise.
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