The Old Town is part of the AlUla Old Town Village, awarded title of Best Tourism Village by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Explore its labyrinth of tightly packed streets, hundreds of mudbrick houses and mighty fort, and you feel a palpable sense of its history as a once-thriving settlement on ancient incense-trading routes
One reason the Old Town evokes such a deep sense of emotion is that it was actually inhabited in the not-so-distant past. Built on a slight elevation, the town is also overlooked by a 45-metre-high fort, a defensive lookout dating back to around the 10th century. In the 12th century, AlUla Old Town became an essential settlement along the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Makkah. The city gradually replaced Qurh, to the south of AlUla, and is favourably mentioned by travellers from the 12th to the 20th centuries, when modern AlUla was constructed nearby.
The houses were designed to be attached to one another, providing fortification, which points to defence being a priority for the city's early inhabitants. At one point, the city was accessed by 14 gates, which were opened in the morning to welcome travellers, pilgrims and other visitors, and closed each evening. The ancient city’s recent occupation has enabled researchers to begin to gather oral histories, painting a picture of what life was like inside its walls. These stories will one day be available to visitors who can look forward to tapping into AlUla Old Town Village’s living memory.