By Abdulrahman AlTrairi, Chief of Communications and PR for the Royal Commission for AlUla.
Among the many fascinating sights in AlUla is a remarkable place known as the Diwan (1st millennium BCE). The Diwan is a monumental chamber, carved into the rockface of Jabal Ithlib by the Nabataeans (a kind of Arab tribe) thousands of years ago. It served as a venue for banquets and gatherings, akin to a conference room for the Nabataeans. Benches are carved into three sides of the Diwan, leaving the front fully open.
This chamber played a pivotal role in the Nabataean world, serving as a focal point for local political discussions and activities. Here, elite and ritual feasts were shared by a dozen or so people, often accompanied by musicians and performers to provide entertainment. This tradition of discourse is a vital part of AlUla's cultural heritage. AlUla can be rightfully regarded as a Land of Communication, where trade and pilgrimage caravans intersected, and people from diverse cultures—Dadanites, Lihyanites, Nabataeans, among others—gathered in the orchards and alleyways of the oasis to converse and exchange the latest intelligence and ideas.
The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) pays homage to this rich legacy. It is important to recognize that AlUla has had a cultural identity for millennia; RCU's role is to reawaken this heritage in collaboration with the community. Achieving this necessitates top-down planning and messaging to ensure grassroots engagement.
As the current custodians of AlUla, RCU is fulfilling its mandate to responsibly preserve and cultivate AlUla as part of the world's largest cultural regeneration project. This is being accomplished through sustainable and comprehensive regeneration efforts, focusing on unique urban, economic, and cultural landscapes. Significant and sustained progress has already been made in these key sectors.
Most importantly, our mandate is being fulfilled through partnerships, ongoing communication, and engagement with our community. We remain accountable to them for our actions and achievements today and in the future.
Since its establishment in 2017, RCU's ambition has evolved from ideas to actions, from planning to implementation. The results encompass a wide range of initiatives spanning archaeology, tourism, culture, education, and the arts, reflecting our commitment to the priorities outlined in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plan – economic diversification, community empowerment, environmental protection, and heritage preservation.
As AlUla rises as a destination, it is striking a delicate balance with the broader transformation goals of the Kingdom, while considering the needs of our people, our natural environment, and our landscape. The launch of our second master plan, titled "Path to Prosperity," in August highlighted our commitment to creating a new kind of destination with the quality of life for its residents at its core.
AlUla is evolving from a mere tourism destination into a city of the future, designed to provide a high standard of living and livability. It's a place where families want to raise their children, and where people want to live, work, and establish roots that span generations.
"Path to Prosperity" was developed and launched in close cooperation with our community. We assessed their needs for economic diversification, cultural preservation, and new growth opportunities. Their ongoing awareness and engagement serve as the foundational pillars for the long-term realization of AlUla's new vision under "Path to Prosperity." Our top-down planning and messaging during the rollout of the master plan ensured grassroots engagement with our community, in line with AlUla's cultural legacy.
Ultimately, it's people, not just plans, that will determine the success of our comprehensive regeneration project in AlUla.
RCU's continuous participation in various forums and events aligns with our goal to foster fresh ideas and collaborations that expand the scope of our project and drive us forward. Events such as the RCU-sponsored AlUla World Archaeology Summit and Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates have brought together international thought leaders, leaders, and achievers for lively and informative panels, Q&A sessions, and debates.
These events have showcased novel ideas with significant potential – from exploring the history of humanity to implementing ideas that will guide us through the 21st century and beyond. They have also solidified RCU's position as a model for thoughtful regeneration, new partnerships, and meaningful conversations regarding cultural and heritage conservation.
I have been fortunate to witness firsthand the power of dialogue in AlUla. In our modern version of the Diwan, discussions are yielding fantastic ideas and robust collaborations with the potential to produce genuine and enduring results.