Al `Ula Travel Guide

  • Oasis of al-Ula, Jan 2011
    Oasis of al-Ula, Jan 2011
    by MM212
  • The cliffs containing the tombs, Jan 2011
    The cliffs containing the tombs, Jan...
    by MM212
  • Mosque entrance, Jan 2011
    Mosque entrance, Jan 2011
    by MM212

Al `Ula Things to Do

  • Hijaz Railway

    Al-Ula was a stop along the Hijaz Railway, which connected Medina with Damascus and eventually Constantinople. It was built by the Ottomans in the early 20th century to speed up the journey to Mecca during the pilgrimage season, but the railway was only in use for a short period. During WWI, Lawrence of Arabia and his Arab allies blew up the...

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  • al-Aswad Lion Tombs

    Located a short distance north-east of al-Ula, on the cliffs within the valley in an area known as al-Khurayba, these tombs are evidence of 2600 years of settlement in al-Ula, originally called Dedan. They are known as al-Aswad Tombs and were carved around the 6th century BC by the Lihyanites, the people who inhabited the oasis and created the...

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  • al-Ula Castle

    Perched on a promontory 45 metres above historic al-Ula, the town's Castle commands strategic views over the entire valley. It is sometimes referred to as the Castle of Musa bin Nuseir, the Omayyad-period army general who ruled over North Africa and was involved in conquering Andalusia in the early 8th century AD. He is said to have died in this...

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  • Hegra (Mada'in Saleh)

    Although rich in history and natural beauty, al-Ula is mainly visited because of nearby Mada'in Saleh, the Nabataean city of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the closest town, only 22 km away, al-Ula is the gateway to the archaeological site, which contains over 100 rock cut tombs from the 1st century AD. It would be inconceivable to visit...

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  • Old al-Ula

    Abandoned by its inhabitants for more modern facilities only about 40 years ago, the old village of al-Ula, or al-Deera as it is locally called, is now all but a ghost town. It consists of a walled village of about 800 dwellings around the perimeter of the more ancient castle with narrow winding alleys, many of which covered to shield the people...

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  • Other things to see & do in al-Ula

    There are a few other activities and sites in al-Ula which I regrettably did not get to see or do, mainly due to time constraints. First of all, the archaeological museum of al-Ula, located in the modern town, is supposed to be excellent, if small, exhibiting ancient artefacts found in the area (it was closed when I tried to visit in the early...

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  • The Oasis

    A rare sight in Arabia, the green oasis of al-Ula is a welcomed change from the harsh desert scenery. The valley's geographic situation graced the area with many natural wells that have been well-utilised since ancient times to irrigate the oasis. This has made the valley an indispensable stop along the important ancient trade routes from Yemen to...

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  • Rock formations of al-Ula

    The mountains surrounding al-Ula are of extraordinary beauty. Many of them have unusual natural rock formations that make a striking backdrop to any photo. For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Mountains of al-Ula."

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  • Modern al-Ula

    The modern town of al-Ula spreads across the entire valley from north to south. Its architecture is typical of modern Saudi Arabia and not particularly attractive. Still, with the breathtaking cliffs and oasis as a backdrop, modern al-Ula is a scenic town. The modern town also contains the noteworthy museum, a handful of restaurants, and a few...

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  • al-Ula Gate

    Of a modern construction, this gateway is the symbolic entrance into the new town of al-Ula. It is located at the southern edge of town in the middle of a roundabout and signals your arrival when approaching from Medina.

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  • Old al-Ula: Inside the houses

    Many of the abandoned houses of Old al-Ula are open for inspection. Entering any of the houses gives an eerie feeling that the owners may have abruptly left only a day before. Although no furniture remains, many of the details are still in place, including some painted wall designs, stairs, fire places and decorative door locks. Attached are a few...

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  • Mijeb Mosque (?)

    Located just below the castle of al-Ula, this stone structure is an old Mosque with foundations probably going back to the establishment of al-Ula in the 13th century AD. It seems to have been restored and still in use (judging by the loud speaker above the minaret). It shows the simple mosque architectural style of the town, built using irregular...

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  • Alleys of Old al-Ula

    The streets of Old al-Ula consist of a maze covered narrow winding alleys, designed to confuse the intruder and to shield the local from the sun. The mix of stone and mud brick architecture, wooden beams and lanterns creates a very charming atmosphere, despite being a ghost town. Attached are a few photos.

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  • Old 'Ula

    An absolute MUST on your trip to Al 'Ula.Go inside the old-town and see how the provincial urbanised Saudi population lived until the late 1970.This visit offers you an excellent opportunity to compare the previous and nowadays Saudi lifestyle under critical aspects.In my opinion people of both genders lost a lot with the modern lifestyle. What do...

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  • Sunset view point

    Do not miss the sunset from a hilltop near Al-Ula. It gives you a very impressive global view of the region.

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  • Elephant Rock

    The Elephant Rock, 5km south of the Mada’in Saleh site gate, a natural beauty produced in the sandstone by the regular sandstorms over thousand of years.(c) www.samallaghi.comWe were told that this place is now off access to campers. Tourists need to stay in one of the Al Ula's hotel.

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  • The Old City of Al Ula

    This is a rare example of an Islamic City, which goes back to the 7th century H/11th A.D. The building material was reused stone brought from archaeological site, Al Khuraiba located nearby(c) www.samallaghi.com

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  • Al Mabiyat

    Mabiyat archaeological sites occur at 15 km to the south of Al Ula near Mugheira village. Its history goes back to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Ruins of buildings, remains of an irregular wall enclosure and pottery shreds can be seen on the site area. The Antiquities Department conducted excavations in 1404-1405 H (1948-1985 A.D.) and covered...

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  • Lihyanite Inscriptions

    Some of the tombs have Lihyanite inscriptions probably stating the name of the dead and/or the name of the architect/builder.

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  • Al Usud - Lion's Ornaments

    One of the most known tombs is Al Usud (the lions), which is characterized by two lions carved on the side of the tomb.

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  • Al Khuraiba Tombs

    Al Khuraiba is one of the sites attributed to the Kingdom of Lihyan, which dominated the area during the period between the 6th and 2nd century B.C. Pottery shreds of different types and forms are widespread in the site area.. Stone altars, incense burners, stone and statues with Lihyanite inscriptions have been found. Inhabitants in building Al...

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Al `Ula Restaurants

  • MM212's Profile Photo
    Bukhari rice for two! (Jan 2011) 2 more images

    by MM212 Updated Jan 19, 2011

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    As is typical in remote parts of Arabia, there is nothing fancy at Dirwas Restaurant. It is popular with locals, particularly immigrants from south Asia. A novelty to me, which appears to be the norm in this part of Arabia, is a whole eating section on a raised, carpeted platform without tables or chairs, for those who want to replicate the bedouin or provincial tradition of dining on the floor. And you may use your hands as well. For those of us caught up in the 21st century, modernity is also replicated with the tables in the house. I say 'replicated' because only plastic spoons (no fork or knife) and a thin clear plastic sheet for a table cloth are made available! But this is all part of the fun experience. Food-wise, the Dirwas offers a variety of Arabic mezze (grape leaves, salad, hummes, etc.) and savoury grilled meats, served with plain rice. The specialty, however, is a typical Hijazi dish (i.e. from the western region of Arabia) called Bukhari rice. It consists of reddish-coloured rice, flavoured with plenty of aromatic spices, and served with chicken or lamb. Its name indicates its origin from Bukhara, in central Asia, since it was introduce to the Hijaz centuries ago by immigrants or pilgrims from there. Bukhari rice is precisely what I ordered, along with some mezze: all delicious and way too much food! I would certainly return to Dirwas Restaurant.

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    • Food and Dining

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Al `Ula Transportation

  • Getting to al-Ula

    Although there is a rumour that an airfield near al-Ula will open for commercial traffic in the future, at present there is no way to fly directly to the remote town. One must therefore drive (or maybe take a bus) from one of the distant airports around. The closest airport is that of al-Wajh on the Red Sea, only 2.5 hours away via a recently paved...

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  • Jump into a Bus or Car

    al-Ula is a small town. The best way to get there is by a couch or your own car. It takes about 8 hours from Jeddah, 4 hours Medina and 2:30 from Khaybar.There are no actual buses operating on daily basis to al-Ula. You must arrange with a travel agency, and join a group to go to al-Ula. Otherwise, just have your own rental car.Since it's also very...

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  • Al `Ula Hotels

    0 Hotels in Al `Ula

Al `Ula Off The Beaten Path

  • MM212's Profile Photo
    The Khaybar fortress & its oasis, Jan 2011

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2012

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    Located 2.5 hours south of al-Ula, on the road to Medina, Khaybar is another ancient oasis town in the Hijaz with a lot of history. Although not developed for tourism, the town's old quarter remains as it has for centuries, albeit crumbling. Much like Old al-Ula, Khaybar's historic town was abandoned some 40 years ago for newly built modern facilities next door, which left us with a fascinating ghost town, dominated by a fortress over 1400 years old and surrounded by an oasis. Upon the arrival of Islam, Khaybar was a Jewish town inhabited by a few Arab Jewish tribes, some of whom had settled the area as early as the 6th century BC. Although in 642 AD Caliph Omar forced many of the Jews of Khaybar to leave and resettle in Jericho and other parts of the Levant, a large number did remain in Khaybar, and historic evidence confirms Jewish presence as late as the 12th century. Nowadays, visitors to Old Khaybar can wander freely through its abandoned streets and oasis, but the fortress is off limits as it is deemed structurally unsafe and is protected for archaeological excavation. If driving to or from Medina, modern Khaybar is a great stopping point for petrol and lunch, plus a quick tour of the old town.

    For more, check out my separate page on Khaybar.

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Al `Ula Sports & Outdoors

  • along Nabatean pilgrim paths

    It would be a pity not to walk and climb along the ancient Nabatean pilgrim paths. You can climb inside caves, climb up hills passing unfenced aramaic inscriptions. Hamid, the tourist guide of the Hotel, will encourage you to participate. - hiking shoes not required but solid firm shoes

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  • Sandsurfing on Historical Hills

    In winter, it gets too cool to do sandsurfing on that historical hills just right off al-Ula city. This small town actually is a hilly area, surrounded by giagantic mountains and deserts. The desert sand is adorable, soft, cold and just flow smoothly if you pick up some in your hand. Soft big tyres for slidingDurable long pants (cotton pants may...

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Al `Ula Favorites

  • ARCHAEOLOGICAL MONUMENTS

    In fact, it is a difficult task to list all the archaeological sites in and around AL-Ola, as there are so many of them dating back to different historical eras.It has been reported that one of the wadis near AL-Ola, the Wadi AL-Qura, was the home of the Bani U'thra tribe, which was famous for chaste, Platonic love. The well-known Arab poet, Jameel...

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  • ARCHAEOLOGICAL MONUMENTS

    As we mentioned earlier, AL-Ola has a special historical status because of its many antiquities, which reflect the high standards of constructional ability attained by its ancient inhabitants.In the old section of AL-Ola, known as AL-Dirah, is the Rock Mosque, where the Prophet Mohammed, (peace be upon him), prayed when he passed through AL-Ola. At...

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