AlJadidah – AlUla Old Town

Where ancient and modern AlUla meet as one.

AlUla Old Town is partly a dilapidated mudbrick complex in the process of preservation and partly an authentically restored market street offering locally made souvenirs and alfresco regional dining. 

It lies on the Incense Route, once widely used by pilgrims, merchants and travellers. Records show it replaced the city of Qurh, further south, between the 12th and 20th centuries. 

Overlooked by AlUla Castle, a citadel dating back to the 10th century, it’s an atmospheric place to be when the sun sinks into the desert and turns the surrounding rocks rose gold. 

The 700-year-old heritage site can only be visited on a one-hour tour with a Rawi guide, who will not only provide historical context, but also share their own family stories of living and working in the town. 

The tour includes panoramic views from the top of the citadel. This rambling warren was only fully abandoned by its inhabitants in the 1980s and comprises over 900 roughly-hewn mud brick houses and five town squares. Currently undergoing a sensitive restoration, visitors can wonder the labyrinthine streets past the terraced houses that were crammed together to provide fortification in its early days. 

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Explore Market Street with its eclectic collection of stalls and shops

Market Street runs alongside the Old Town, overlooked by looming rock formations. Openings times vary depending on the season (late afternoon or evening is most vibrant) and it’s the perfect place to wander slowly, browse authentic artisan handicrafts and art amongst its picturesque stalls or sit and people watch in one of its chic al fresco cafés or restaurants. 

TWO WORLDS COLLIDE 

In a perfect contrast, AlJadidah, meaning new town, sits adjacent to Old Town and connect seamlessly. The area has been thoughtfully repurposed as an arts and dining precinct and with Islamic-style patterned breeze blocks, ornate street lamps and colourful doors on the homes, shops and eateries. 

This pedestrian-friendly area, where a community-made hand-painted carpet lines the road, brings together art, music, gastronomy and colourful market stalls and is a great spot to watch the world go by. 

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The heritage site can only be accessed on a guided tour

The buzzing hub is home to five distinct squares. Art Square represents AlUla’s colourful art scene, with galleries showcasing both Saudi and international artists. Muayada Square is a modern dining haven with options including vegan hotspot Moon Shell and numerous food trucks selling tasty treats. 

For dining spots with a view, everyone heads to Qanat Square. A favourite spot for locals to catch up with friends and family is Gathering Square, while Oasis Square comes alive at night, with live music and twinkling lights under dark skies. 

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After browsing the numerous local goods stalls and art spots, visitors are well-situated to explore the nearby Oasis.

During peak season there is even more of a buzz, with art exhibitions, live performances and an arthouse cinema showcasing Saudi and international culture.

BECOME AN ALULA SPECIALIST

Extensive training material is available at alulaspecialist.com, covering historic sights, accommodations, sustainability, experiences and events taking place in AlUla. This one-stop shop for travel agents includes three training modules, a series of seven new short training videos, as well as imagery, agent perks, a directory of product suppliers and more.

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