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Incense, myrrh, spices, silk and precious stones.
The caravan trade routes that crisscrossed the Arabian Peninsula more than 2,000 years ago carrying these valuable goods required infrastructure during their stops. The Nabateans, a desert nomadic people, knowledgeable about the terrain and experts in water management, were able to take advantage of this context, eventually becoming a prosperous and wealthy civilization.
Saudi Arabia has recently opened up to the traveler and shows us, among other wonders, an impressive desert full of treasures that reflect this fascinating legacy.

The geography of Saudi Arabia is dominated by deserts and mountains and the Nabataeans knew how to profit from these conditions, establishing outposts and fortifications around the water wells and oasis along the routes connecting India and the Mediterranean.
Although Petra, capital of the Nabatean civilization, is its best known site, the variety of carved rock tombs and Nabatean cities that exist in Saudi Arabia is extraordinary.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Saudi Arabia is immersed in an ambitious plan for the future, known as "Saudi Vision 2030", which includes spectacular projects such as NEOM and The Line in the north, Red Sea Project in the Red Sea and also two of my favorites, Al Ula in the desert and Diriyah, on the outskirts of the capital Riyadh.
Diriyah, one of Saudi Arabia's five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, was the kingdom's first capital and a historic crossroads for pilgrims and merchants.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Although the archaeological site where it is located is not yet open to the public, we had the privilege of visiting it privately and learning in depth, from the experts who are working there, all the recovery and expansion work that is being carried out.
The objective is to make widely known the cultural and artistic legacy of their ancestors, as well as to promote new forms of art and culture hand in hand with the new generations and technology. It will undoubtedly be a cultural, gastronomic and entertainment destination to be taken into consideration in the coming years.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Riyadh is a very interesting city for the variety of visits, experiences and entertainment that it offers, besides being one of the main business centers of the country.
Very rich in history and culture, it is highly recommended to spend a few hours visiting the National Museum of Saudi Arabia to learn about its origins, geography, art, culture and plans for the future.
Also, the extraordinary Musmak Fort, the fort built of clay and mud, with a beautiful collection of Arabian gates and of great importance in the rich history of the country.
In Riyadh, the gastronomic experience is very varied. There are some sophisticated options such as the restaurants located in the Al Mamlaka Tower, currently the tallest building in Saudi Arabia, with excellent views over the city, and also some more traditional ones, such as our expert guide's favorite. Delicious!

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

The territory of Al Ula, in the northwest of the country, is a spectacular mix of landscapes, with immense valleys where the wind plays with the huge rocks giving rise to formations of great beauty, vertiginous canyons and beautiful oases.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

One of the most special sensations that invade you when you enter this desert is that of finding yourself in front of a unique immensity, practically unexplored, something truly exceptional.
In Hegra, the ancient Nabatean city and the first place in Saudi Arabia to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, are over a hundred tombs sculpted in stone, with well preserved and elaborate facades, making it the second most important Nabatean city, after the capital Petra, just 700 kilometers to the north.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Janal Alfil, better known as Elephant Rock, is one of those imposing rock formations in the desert of Al Ula, whose silhouette resembles that of a large elephant. Its enormous dimensions rising infinitely towards the Arabian sky offer one of the best images just as the sun begins to set. It is worth being there at that moment, it is so genuine and special that it is hard to leave.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

One of the most powerful places in terms of historical and cultural heritage, is Old Town Al Ula, whose location became essential for pilgrimages from Damascus to Mecca, especially in the twelfth century. Its architecture, based on adobe houses joined together, sought the protection and security of its inhabitants, configuring it in the form of a fortress, crowned by the castle of Musa bin Nusayr. The 14 gates opened in the morning to welcome travelers, pilgrims and other visitors, and closed at nightfall.
Accompanied by one of the local experts, specially trained to transmit their knowledge and the stories of their ancestors, it also offers the advantage of receiving the best suggestion to end the day in one of the traditional restaurants that are there. In them, we enjoyed pleasant conversations with the locals of Al Ula, while we savored a nice Shisha and listened to all the news of the most followed local music in the region.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Some of the best accommodation in Saudi Arabia is and will be located in the coming years in the various desert valleys of Al Ula. Very exceptionally, as it was not open during the dates of our visit, the Habitas team invited us to discover and explore the wonderful location of their property, Habitas Al Ula. Specifically, their fun-filled Caravan by Habitas proposition: an immersive experience for adventure-seeking travellers, perfectly matched with its sister accommodation in the form of beautiful dream tents, in the same valley.
The luxurious Airstream caravans take this type of accommodation experience to another level, as the location is unique. They offer activities such as treks through a virtually unexplored valley, nightly film screenings on majestic natural rock screens, fireside chats and a whole host of time-travelling moments that take you back to the days of the Nabataeans and the caravans that transported valuable goods through this territory more than 2,000 years ago.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

The interest in preserving Saudi Arabia's cultural heritage also coincides with an extraordinary potential for innovative and technologically advanced development projects. And Al Ula desert is the perfect setting for some of them. Maraya is a dazzling building-piece of art located in the heart of a valley of great beauty, Ashar Valley. Its spectacular structure, with more than 9,000 paneled mirrors, makes it blend in with the desert landscape. The program of cultural and musical events to be held in this extraordinary place in the coming years is impressive.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

In Jeddah, the vibrant city bathed by the Red Sea, you quickly understand why it is considered one of the cradles of art and music worldwide. The first thing we find when we arrive in the old city, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is the warm welcome by a group of musicians who sing a very original and friendly "welcome" (the only word in English in their repertoire) to the rhythm of hand clapping and traditional instruments.
In addition, the streets of the old town are full of small galleries of local artists, music shows, small restaurants, stores. The atmosphere is very welcoming.

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Another attraction of the city is the outdoor museum of sculptures located in a park along the Corniche, facing the sea, known as Al Hamraa. It houses about twenty sculptures by artists ranging from Henry Moore, Joan Miro, Arnaldo Pomodoro or Victor Vasarely.

 

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno
Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

Saudi Arabia is a country eager to open up to the world, a young population eager to learn, being formed by the hand of great professionals at all levels and that is appreciated when you visit for the first time. It is also a country of which most of us have a preconceived idea that makes one surprised upon arrival, since today, is undergoing major changes and is much more receptive to visitors and eager to learn about other cultures.

The large number of cultural, urban and technological development projects that are being carried out in the country will undoubtedly amaze us in the coming years and we are looking forward to learning much more in future trips that we are already planning. In addition, SAUDIA Airlines, the country's flag carrier, has made a strong commitment to Spain, with several weekly direct flights from both Barcelona and Madrid, making connectivity much easier now

Travel Story Arabia Saudí Esther Moreno

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