13 Muharram 1446 - 19 July 2024
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Eye of Riyadh
Tourism & Hospitality | Tuesday 12 December, 2023 9:14 am |


The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and the Italian city of Matera have signed a partnership agreement that activates a twinning programme with the objective of safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage.


AlUla and Matera will work together to promote common prosperity and sustainability, organise cultural exchanges, co-create initiatives and exchange knowledge on a wide range of cooperation areas. 

The signing ceremony, held in Matera’s Sassi di Matera, comes 30 years after UNESCO inscribed the southern Italian city’s ‘Sassi’ inhabited caves as a World Heritage Site. Similarly, Hegra, a 2,000-year-old ancient city built by the Nabataean Kingdom with stunning funerary monuments carved into sandstone mountains is now a protected heritage site and became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site 15 years ago.


Under the new agreement, RCU, which functions as the primary municipal entity for AlUla County, and Matera will collaborate across a range of common pillars that will foster cultural, educational, economic, and social exchanges between the two destinations.​


Waleed Al Dayel , RCU’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, said: “The agreement with Matera supports our efforts to create a global destination in ways that benefit the AlUla community, economy and environment, provide opportunities for residents of both cities to learn about different cultures, build personal connections and explore shared challenges and opportunities.​ The partnership will reimagine the ways in which destinations connect the culturally curious to history and heritage, as we continue to share Saudi Arabia’s culture with the world and understand the significance of the Arabian Peninsula in human history. ”


Tiziana D'Oppido, Council for Culture, Tourism, Events, Sassi UNESCO World Heritage site, Equal Opportunities of the City of Matera, said: “The exact date of the thirtieth anniversary since Matera became a UNESCO World Heritage Site has been the best possible day to highlight the twinning agreement between the Royal Commission for AlUla and the Municipality of Matera. The activities calendar that we will carry out in synergy, with a great, mutual collaborative spirit and in compliance with the sustainability objectives of the two destinations in the conservation of their respective UNESCO sites is ambitious, operational and rich: culture as an engine of the economy, tourism, cinema, events, design, arts, archaeology, architecture, accessibility, Sassi as a successful urban ecosystem and much more for two geographically distant realities but having many elements in common. Matera, European Capital of Culture in 2019, is a case study for the ability to recover the value of a city that the world has long neglected, and which risked being abandoned and forgotten by history, just like AlUla, becoming instead, both, a land of redemption and virtuous examples to follow.”


AlUla and Matera share a current affinity as centres of cultural heritage conservation, and an historical affinity as crossroads of civilisations that dates to the Incense Road trading network. 


AlUla has evidence of human history 200,000 years old, and archaeologists suggest continuous civilisations from at least 7,000 years till today. AlUla was home to Dadanite, Lihyanite and Nabataean Kingdoms before being annexed by the Roman Empire in 106 AD. The ancient desert city’s four key heritage sites also include Jabal Ikmah, a mountain covered in ancient inscriptions and petroglyphs often referred to as an ‘open air library’ that is inscribed by UNESCO for Documentary Heritage, and AlUla Old Town, a 12th-century village adjacent to AlUla’s lush oasis distinctive for its tightly-packed mud and stone brick architecture and 10th-century fort. Meanwhile Matera has a history of continuous human occupation dating back to the Palaeolithic (10th millennium BCE) and is renowned for its rock-cut urban core, whose twin cliffside zones are known collectively as the Sassi. 

AlUla and Matera’s partnership is part of a broader agreement between AlUla and Italy. Key initiatives have included the five-day Saudi Village cultural gathering at Rome’s Villa Borghese this September, a partnership with the Cortona on the Move photography exhibition as part of the AlUla Arts Festival in 2022, and the training that young Saudis are receiving in heritage conservation at the Centro Conservazione e Restauro La Venaria Reale near Turin.


In Venice in May 2023, Saudi Arabia and Italy signed an accord to foster cooperation in archaeology, conservation, restoration and protection of cultural heritage, film and literature, which entered into effect in November of the same year. Signing the accord were the Saudi Culture Minister and RCU Governor, HH Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al Saud, and his Italian counterpart Gennaro Sangiuliano. This initiative is also part of the overarching strategy for AlUla to connect with like-minded entities, share learnings, research and ideas to continue to ensure that the realising of AlUla’s ambitious Journey Through Time Masterplan is laser-focused on sustainable and responsible tourism and development principles that put the community at the heart. 


As well as having a deep history and heritage, AlUla is a burgeoning arts destination, and particularly known for art in the landscape. Due to the year-round AlUla Moments calendar of events, AlUla is also a vibrant place to visit for music, wellness, culture, adventure and sporting events, or alternatively for visitors to relax and unwind at the new luxury resorts among stunning geological landscapes. 





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