Within the ancient city of AlUla lies a living testament to the enduring Saudi customs that have been passed down through generations. Learn more about what makes up the core of Saudi Arabian hospitality and how it is being cherished and kept alive.
For centuries, the tradition of hospitality and generosity has been an integral part of Saudi Arabia’s identity and intangible culture. Its roots deeply entrenched in Bedouin customs, this warm reception continues to be experienced by visitors to the historic county of AlUla, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
This hospitality manifests in the residents of AlUla, who are passionate custodians of their ancestral lands. They are more than eager to impart their heritage, unfolding stories of the ancient Nabatean civilisation, guiding visitors through the maze of labyrinth-like structures, and highlighting the significance of time-worn carvings and tombs.
Visitors feel more than mere tourists as they are led through AlUla's narrow pathways by local guides, referred to as ‘rawis’. Their encounters transcend educational trips and become heartfelt invitations into a heritage collectively cherished and preserved by the locals. The enthusiasm and warmth radiating from the locals, coupled with their keenness to impart their knowledge, imparts a deep sense of being valued and welcome to the guests.
The hospitality of AlUla extends to the culinary traditions, too. Visitors are offered opportunities to partake in meals that are symbolic of local hospitality. From the hearty lamb kabsa to the sweetness of local dates nourished by the oasis, and the fragrance of Saudi coffee, the cuisine is an invitation to immerse in the culture fully. In Saudi society, sharing meals is more than eating together—it symbolises goodwill, friendship, and a connection that transcends geographical and linguistic barriers.
In AlUla, visitors are not bystanders but honoured guests. In its essence, the hospitality of AlUla is the bridge connecting the old with the new, the indigenous with the global. It offers familiarity and a sense of safety amidst foreignness and ensures that every guest leaves with memories not only of an ancient civilisation's remnants and stunning landscapes but also of the people's warmth and kindness. This tradition, deeply embedded in Saudi Arabian culture, makes a visit to AlUla an experience rather than just a journey, turning each visitor into an honorary part of the extended Saudi family.
This famed hospitality, generosity and safety is not just a series of gestures; it plays the role of a cultural ambassador. It challenges pre-existing notions and unfurls the rich tapestry of the local culture. In places like AlUla, it serves as a bridge between the visitors and the region's ancient past while promoting mutual respect and understanding. It's more than a characteristic—it's the living embodiment of AlUla’s unique heritage and identity.
Moreover, the intangible heritage of AlUla extends beyond the physical landscape and the age-old artefacts. It encompasses living traditions, values, and stories passed down through generations. Storytelling is an integral part of this heritage. Older generations narrate tales of their ancestors, share the significance of AlUla's historical sites, and impart wisdom from their desert lifestyle.
Local dance forms and music, such as the traditional Ardah dance, hold a significant place in AlUla's cultural treasures. These shared performances encapsulate a shared history and shared experiences. Traditional food rituals, like preparing and sharing dates or brewing Saudi coffee, add to this intangible heritage. These rituals foster social cohesion and continue to maintain the region's cultural identity. Through these practices, the spirit of AlUla remains alive, constantly evolving while paying homage to its deep roots.