« Saudi Arabia - Nine Days Itinerary

Day 4 – Al Ula (Hegra, Old Town)


We had booked three tours in Al Ula though Experience Al Ula:

  1. Hegra by day tour (9-11am)
  2. Al Ula Old Town tour (4-5pm)
  3. Dadan trail tour (9-11am next day)

Of these three tours, “Hegra by day” and “Al Ula Old Town” tours were scheduled for today, and “Dadan trail” was scheduled for next day.

Note: We did not go for “Hegra by night” tour as some fellow travelers who’d seen it did not recommend!

 

Al Ula Tours – Bookings

The Experience Al Ula website lists all the tours and upcoming events, so make sure to check their website for latest updates on group and private tours, and special events.

Here are some tips:

  • Advance booking? – Although there are multiple tours in a day, it’s best to plan correctly if you are short of time. We highly recommended to book them in advance.(See below for our planning and tours we took.)
  • Payments online – If your international credit card (Visa or MasterCard) does not work on the website, contact the team at Experience Al Ula and they’ll do the bookings and provide a unique booking-code.
  • Everything you see..? – All the sights you’d expect to see during the tours will not be accessible or available as they are being built for tours! So make sure to contact them and check what’s included and not included. For example, on our visit we were not able to walk up to the tombs at Dadan, but had to see them from miles away through binoculars!
  • Pictures and timings – The tours run really quick, which means you will not be given enough time to take those pictures for your social media. At the end of every explanation, you will be asked to keep moving forward. Social media influencers, you’re warned! (P.S. this is true for the group tours only.)
  • Food and water – Water will be provided during the tours, but food is not allowed at any of the sights so make sure to eat before the tours.
  • Toilets – Toilet facilities are available at the starting point, but not during the tours.

 

Hegra by day (Mada’in Saleh)

The ´Hegra’ tours start from the Winter Park office location, from where visitors are taken in luxury coach to all the sites. The tour starts at 8:30am from here, and lasts 2 hours.

Once a thriving international trade hub, the archeological site of Hegra (also known as Mada’in Saleh) has been left practically undisturbed for almost 2,000 years. If you’ve been to Petra then you will notice that the rock-cut constructions at Hegra look similar to the more famous site of Petra in Jordan.

Hegra was the second city of the Nabataean kingdom that could hold the key to unlocking the secrets of an almost-forgotten ancient civilization. A majority of the remains date from the Nabataean Kingdom (1st century AD). The site constitutes the kingdom’s southernmost and second largest city after Petra, its capital city. Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found.

First stop on this tour was Qaṣr Al-Farīd (Arabic: قَصْر ٱلْفَرِيْد), meaning ‘the Lonely Castle’ is largest tomb at the archaeological site.

Qasr al-Farid at Hegra or Mada'in Saleh
[Qasr al-Farid at Hegra or Mada’in Saleh]

Qasr al-Farid at Hegra or Mada'in Saleh
[Qasr al-Farid at Hegra or Mada’in Saleh]

Next stop are the tombs – Hegra contains 111 carefully carved tombs, far fewer than the more than 600 at the Nabataean capital of Petra. But the tombs at Hegra are in better condition. Classical Greek and Roman architecture clearly influenced construction, and many tombs include capital-topped columns that hold a triangular pediment above the doorway or a tomb-wide entablature.

A Nabataean “crown” consisting of two sets of five stairs, rests at the uppermost part of the façade, waiting to transport the soul to heaven. Sphinxes, eagles and griffins with spread wings—important symbols in the Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Persian worlds—menacingly hover above the tomb entrances to protect them from intruders. Others are guarded by Medusa-like masks, with snakes spiraling out as hair.

Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra
[Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra]

Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra
[Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra]

Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra
[Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra]

Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra
[Tombs at Jabal AlBanat, Hegra]

Tombs at Jabal AlAhmar, Hegra
[Tombs at Jabal AlAhmar, Hegra]
Important note: The tombs at Jabal AlAhmar are shown from a far distance and not allowed to go closer. This picture will give an idea how far are you required to stay!

Not a tomb, but a place to gather and have discussions
[Not a tomb, but a place to gather and have discussions.]

Not a tomb, but a place to gather and have discussions
[Not a tomb, but a place to gather and have discussions.]

 

Important note: One of the most photographed place is the dual tombs, and as shown on Experience Al Ula website, we were not taken to this site. This picture was taken from the bus!

After a 2-hour tour, you are dropped-off at the Winter Park parking area.

Before heading out to the Old Town, we strolled around the ‘art district’ of Al Ula that was decorated with tiles and colorful buildings indicators to how it was done centuries ago.

Center of Al Ula town
[Center of Al Ula town]

[Center of Al Ula town]

 

After lunch at Tetra Pizza in the center of Al Ula town, we headed to walk around the Dadan trail laden with palm trees and centuries-old homes that are now partly destroyed. It gives a perspective of how locals used to live among the oasis with mud houses.

Destroyed homes in Dadan trail
[Destroyed homes in Dadan trail]
Roads leading to destroyed homes in Dadan trail
[Roads leading to destroyed homes in Dadan trail]

 

Al Ula Old Town

Unlike the ‘Hegra’ tours that start from the Winter Park office location, the ‘Al Ula Old Town’ tour starts from the entrance gate of Al Ula Old Town. The tour starts at 3:30pm from here, and lasts 2 hours.

A Rawi or guide will lead through Al Ula Old Town, where pilgrims, travelers and permanent settlers congregated through the ages. Inhabited from before the 12th century up until the early 1980s. A maze of remnants of original stone and mudbrick buildings has about 900 houses, 500 shops and 5 town squares. The tour ends with a short climb up to the Al Ula Castle dating back to the 10th century, from where spectacular aerial views of the old town can be seen.

Narrow alleyways of Old Town Al Ula
[Narrow alleyways of Old Town Al Ula]
A room in the house inside Old Town Al Ula
[A room in the house inside Old Town Al Ula]

 

Painted walls in a room indicating home for a newly-wed son of the owner - Old Town Al Ula
[Painted walls in a room indicating home for a newly-wed son of the owner – Old Town Al Ula]
Minaret of the mosque inside Old Town Al Ula
[Minaret of the mosque inside Old Town Al Ula]

 

View of old town Al Ula and Al Ula Castle
[View of old town Al Ula and Al Ula Castle]

View of old town Al Ula, oasis and new Al Ula city
[View of old town Al Ula, oasis and new Al Ula city]

 
There are numerous cafes and souvenir shops along the old town center, making it a great place to have refreshments and stock up on some crazy souvenirs!

Old town Al Ula shops and cafes
[Old town Al Ula shops and cafes]


[Souvenirs in old town AL Ula]

[Souvenirs in old town AL Ula]

 

Dinner was again at Msayya Indian restaurant offering delicious (both meat and vegetarian options) food.

 

Costs

Note: All values in USD, unless otherwise mentioned, are approximate and based on the exchange rate of USD 1 = SAR 3.65 at the time of publishing. Each cost is for one adult.
 

What Cost Notes
Al Ula Tours $60.00 Three tours.
Lunch $5.12 Tetra Pizza in Al Ula center.
Coffee $5.85 PPL Coffee in Al Ula old town.
Dinner $8.75 Msayya Indian restaurant. Total cost of $35 for four persons.
Total Costs $79.72 Per person
Overall Costs $783.02 Per person

 

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« PREVIOUS – Day 3

Al Ula (Elephant Rock)

Visiting Elephant Rock in Al Ula.

Day 4

Al Ula (Hegra, Old Town)

Visiting Hegra and Al Ula old town.

Day 5 – NEXT »

Al Ula (Dadan), Jeddah

Visiting Dadan and driving to Jeddah.

 

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