Saudi Arabia's Ancient City, AlUla Offers Otherworldly Star-Studded Dark Sky Experiences
19.09.2023 - 04:43
Stargazing is a time-honored tradition that has been an integral part of history in Saudi Arabia for millennia. The night sky was a crucial navigational tool in the vast and often featureless stretches of Saudi’s desert. Just as sailors use stars for navigation at sea, Bedouins relied on them to find their way across the sand. Those traditions are still honored today, and if you’re interested in learning more about the culture while enjoying the outdoors and vast star-studded sky, there are few locations in the country that can rival the natural beauty and vastness of AlUla.
Situated away from the bright city lights in Medina province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, AlUla’s dark skies, historic monuments, stunning rock formations at remotes sites such as Gharameel, make it one of the country’s top destinations for stargazing. AlUla is steeped in history, with evidence of human habitation dating back some 200,000 years. The city is known for its preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, and beautiful murals. AlUla was once a thriving hub for commercial and cultural exchange, situated along the famous incense trade route and pilgrimage route to Makkah. Today, it has transformed into a vibrant cultural hub with endless outdoor desert activities, luxury eco-resorts, safari camps, and, of course, excellent stargazing tours.
Flying to AlUla is easy. Flydubai, a Dubai-based airline, offers two weekly direct flights from Dubai International Airport to AlUla International Airport, scheduled on Thursdays and Sundays. There are also routes from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Damman to AlUla with Saudia Airlines and flynas. From the airport, it’s about a 30-minute drive to AlUla’s town center.
Photo: Experience AlUla
The dry climate and clear skies of AlUla offer an unobstructed view of the cosmos, making it a prime destination for both amateur and professional astronomers alike. On a clear night, you can expect to see an array of celestial bodies, including various constellations, planets, and even meteor showers on occasion. The Milky Way, with its dense band of stars, is a common sight. Keep an eye out for Orion, Gemini, and Taurus, which are particularly prominent in the winter months.
There are multiple ways to experience stargazing in AlUla. For those who prefer a guided experience, there are tours led by knowledgeable guides who can point out significant celestial bodies and share interesting astronomical facts.
Photo: Experience AlUla
The Gharameel area offers some of the best views of the night sky. Stargazers are treated to a humbling experience surrounded by unique geological stone pillar formations in the remote desert. Tours begin at the Husaak Center at Winter Park. From there you’ll be transported by an expert guide to