Gulf states seek to diversify economy by promoting historical sites

SourceFinancial Times

Archaeological wonder: Jabal Al-Ahmar Nabataean tombs in Madain Saleh, AlUla, Saudi Arabia © Corbis via Getty Images As Gulf states look to diversify their oil-dependent economies, they are pinning hopes on untapped heritage tourism to foster growth. In Saudi Arabia, magnificent antiquities, long impregnable to global tourism, are being promoted as must-do itineraries for travellers seeking undiscovered locations. Other regional states, already on the tourism map, are honing their offering away from sun and sea getaways towards visitors seeking to delve into the histories of Arabia. Saudi Arabia wants to leave behind conservative Islamic insularity for a more globalised outlook Saudi Arabia’s north-western oasis of AlUla, the largest site of the ancient Arab Nabataean civilisation to be found south of Jordan’s Petra, opened to tourists in October after two years’ refurbishment. The country’s first Unesco site, Hegra, showcases 100 tombs and facades cut from sandstone outcrops surrounding the Nabataean city of Madain Saleh on the incense trading route that reached its peak in the two centuries before and after the common era. Nearby Dadan, a city dating back to the 1st millennium BCE, is another destination being readied for tourists alongside the rock inscriptions of Jabal Ikmah. “Saudi Arabia more...