France and Saudi Arabia are about to sign an agreement to develop the archaeological site of Al-Ula. This gigantic valley situated in the Arabian desert might become one of the key cultural attractions of the Kingdom as tourism is developing in the country.
Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, Al-Ula is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The area, covering almost 22,561km ², includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural sites dating back thousands of years.
More than 100 well preserved tombs
The most well-known site in Al-Ula is the ancient city of Mada’in Salih, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mada’in Salih was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom. It covers 52 hectares and is comprised of more than 100 well preserved tombs.
A Saudi-French archaeological project
Al-Ula is also home to a series of historical and archaeological wonders such as Al-Khuraybah, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula, and thousands of ancient rock art and inscriptions.
In 2002, excavations by the Saudi-French Archaeological Project began in the area and are currently in their third five-year programme. The valley of Al-Ula is believed to be a future key cultural place in Saudi Arabia as France is about to be mandated by the Saudi kingdom to develop its archaeological sites for the next 10 years.