After the recent announcement that Saudi Arabia planned to start issuing tourist visas, it has also announced plans to develop an incredible historic site to attract history buffs.
Located in the Al-Ula region, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Madain Saleh, then known as Hegra, was an ancient Nabataean city, and their southern capital. The northern Nabataean capital was the equally magnificent Petra, now in Jordan. As an important trade center for thousands of years, Madain Saleh was a melting pot of cultures. It is also home to over 130 tombs carved dramatically into the rock faces.
Previously only open to pilgrims and business travelers, Saud Arabia plans to welcome tourists, even opening beach resorts for travelers where it will relax its strict religious laws. The monuments at Madain Saleh will be opened to tourists as part of an agreement signed with France, which will also help promote and develop the site for sustainable tourism.
France is set to help “enable local, regional and international visitors to Al-Ula to experience the richness of the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia, Arabian civilizations, and local values.”
The Arab World Institute in Paris also plans to host an exhibition on the Al-Ula region and its history, set to open in the spring of 2019. It will follow the history of the region from ancient times.
The agreement covers the development of tourism infrastructure, archaeological preservation, and hospitality development. The involvement of experienced French experts will help to enable tourism that meets environmental standards of ecotourism, as well as to involve the local communities who will benefit from the new source of income.