Saudi Arabia to host 41st GCC Summit in Al Ula

Abu Dhabi: On January 5, 2021, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will host, for the 10th time, the work of the 41st session of the GCC Summit, which will be held in Al Ula Governorate under the chairmanship of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

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Over the past forty sessions, the capital Riyadh has hosted nine GCC summits, starting with the second round. These sessions have been full of many developments, initiatives and historic decisions.

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Located 300 kilometres north of Medina, Al Ula was historically located on the Incense route and was an important trading hub for the ancient Lihyanites.

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Home to Madain Saleh, the first site in the kingdom to be recognised by Unesco, Al Ula is the drive for tourists seeking history and culture.

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The historic sites of the area including Hegra, Jabal Ikmah and Dadan are now open to the public year-round.

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The number-one site to check out is undoubtedly the Unesco-listed southernmost settlement of the Nabatean kingdom, also known as Hegra.

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Madain Saleh was the kingdom’s second largest settlement after Petra, and shares the same rock-carved architecture. Though smaller in scale, Madain Saleh is striking in its location; whereas Petra is located deep into the Siq, a maze of cavernous rocky alleys, Madain Saleh is carved into large rocky outcrops strewn throughout a sparse desert.

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There are 131 rock-cut monumental tombs in total, though your guide will likely show you about a dozen – the most impressive being the poster child of the area, a large tomb carved into a monolithic rock, standing off on its own. The “meeting place” cave also has some ahead-of-its-time acoustics and water collection systems that deserve special mention.

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Elephant rock

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This is an artfully formed outcrop that the influencers will go crazy for. With some creative license, the soaring structure resembles an elephant with a long trunk.

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Ikmah, the library of Lihyan

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The Lihyanite inscriptions carved into a rock face have come to be known as an open library, which has provided crucial information about the culture, beliefs and way of life of this ancient kingdom. The inscriptions have helped historians understand the political, economic, religious and social positions of the tribe.

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Dadan

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The ruins of the ancient Dadanian kingdom’s metropolis are only starting to be uncovered and truly understood. The ruins of the temple were uncovered recently, while building a new road.

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Old City

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These sprawling mud-brick houses were inhabited as recently as six years ago, but look as though they were vacated hundreds of years earlier. Tourists can climb the 190 steps to the top of the nearby fort for a good outlook.

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Date farms

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There are estimated to be one million palm fronds in this area. It makes for a pretty backdrop to the towering monoliths, but an enterprising local might also offer you a look through the trees or a sample of some of the best dates in the country.

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