Preserving The Region’s Rich Human Heritage

Deep in concentration, a group of women gather to meticulously stitch handmade fabrics, each thread dyed with colours extracted from locally-sourced organic materials. It’s a timeless tableau, one that could easily have unfolded over centuries past, marked by the use of ancient materials, tools, and techniques. Yet, this is no scene from the annals of history but a traditional craft workshop flourishing in the contemporary setting of AlUla, where the old ways seamlessly merge with the modern.

The women are sitting in Madrasat Addeera, AlUla’s first secondary girls’ school. Madrasat Adeera stands as a living testament to AlUla's commitment to preserving traditional crafts, offering a tangible link to the region's past and the enduring legacy of its people. It exemplifies how heritage is far from static, evolving dynamically and interwoven within the very fabric of AlUla's identity.

Resident and visiting teachers lead local women and men in workshops across a variety of arts and crafts. Their nimble fingers work expertly with materials such as wool, cotton, limestone, wood, precious metals, gemstones, and palm fronds to fashion unique products from art, homewares, jewellery, fashion accessories and more. Pigments sourced from local rocks and plants lend subtle hues—the signature palette of AlUla—to these handicrafts.

These items will eventually make their way into the local boutiques and heritage retail stores as well as the Madrasat Addeera shop in AlUla Old Town and be snapped up by eager visitors looking for unique souvenirs and a story to tell.

At Madrasat Addeera, history is revered as a precious legacy worthy of preservation. Now transformed into an ambitious arts and design centre where locals and visitors are welcome, traditions from the past are proudly kept alive, but not at the expense of modern ideas. Here is where tech meets technique.

From sadu weaving (a typical Bedouin textile woven from dyed camel hair into distinctive patterns) and jewellery making to wall painting and calligraphy, Saudi handicrafts are a vital part of Saudi culture and heritage. Madrsat Addeera was established in 2021 and since then has partnered with Turquoise Mountain, founded in 2006 by His Majesty King Charles III, to revive historic areas and traditional crafts, and to provide jobs and skills. 

The centre provides a renewed sense of pride to the locals of AlUla. The artisan’s creations hold a significance beyond their aesthetic appeal. They serve as custodians of AlUla's local identity, safeguarding time-honoured techniques from oblivion. Each stitch not only produces unique objects but also strengthens AlUla's social fabric, unlocking economic opportunities and enriching the experiences of locals and visitors.

At the same time, as tourism in AlUla continues to grow sustainably, opportunities expand, promising a brighter future for all. Events like the AlUla Arts Festival serve as a conduit between the city's rich artistic heritage and its burgeoning global reputation as an arts hub, offering visitors a hands-on experience through traditional crafts workshops that are both authentic and memorable.

In the tranquil rhythm of fabric being sewn at Madrasat Addeera, a profound homage to the region's heritage is woven together, stitch by stitch. It is a tribute that ensures AlUla's timeless story endures for generations to come, echoing the legacy of the ancient Incense Road trade—a testament to AlUla's lasting enduring cultural significance and artistic expression.