Explore the Desert X AlUla 2022 art exhibition & Habitas Eco Resort in Saudi Arabia’s Ashar Valley



Desert X AlUla

On a mission to redefine the luxury hotel experience, last November trailblazing sustainable hospitality brand Habitas opened its first property in the Middle East – the architecturally stunning 96-room resort, Habitas AlUla. Ashar Valley Alula’s palm groves and ancient sandstone cliffs in northwest Saudi Arabia provide a spectacular backdrop to the most coveted 5-star glamping destination, 2022. They also make a unique setting for viewing striking new site-specific artworks being revealed this month in part of Desert X AlUla.

Habitas AlUla

Habitas AlUla

A place of extraordinary human and natural heritage – 200,000 years of unexplored history to be precise – AlUla is home to the ancient city of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built by the Nabataeans (one among several nomadic Bedouin tribes that roamed the Arabian Desert) over 2,000 years ago. This location, located on the original pilgrimage route towards Mecca, has been a center of cultural exchange for millennia. It is therefore a perfect setting for an immersive hospitality experience.

Guests are welcomed to Habitas AlUla with a unique bracelet and asked to set an intention to mark the spiritual journey that lies ahead during a ceremonial two-minute silence. The traditional Middle Eastern tent-like suites are designed in three tiers – Celestial Villas Alcove Villas Canyon Villas. Expect to see plenty of Arabian design motifs and Sadu rugs but don’t come looking to watch television as there are none on property. 

Habitas AlUla’s on-site restaurant Tama (from the Aramaic word “here”) sources local ingredients grown and produced using sustainable agricultural methods for its dishes which takes guests on a culinary journey across Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. The infinity pool is a popular place to gather, and it’s surrounded by gorgeous sandstone rock cliffs. A spa retreat, gym, yoga room and other facilities are also available. Immersive art installations can also be discovered around the property, including Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s Falling Stones Garden.

Embodying the brand’s pillars of music, wellness, adventure, culture, learning and culinary, programming at Habitas AlUla incorporates art and culture walks, canyon trekking, yoga, meditation and breathwork. Prices start at $700 including taxes. Visit ourhabitas.com/alula for reservations.

Desert X Alula

Desert X AlUla/Lancer Gerber

Collaboration between the Royal Commission for AlUla and Desert X, a foundation founded in 2017 in California’s Coachella Valley, this year’s site-specific biennial explores ideas of mirage and oasis under the theme of SarabThe word “mirage” in Urdu means “embargo”. These ideas are both part of desert culture and history, but they have acquired a complex global significance over time, according to Reem Fadda, curator for Desert X AlUla 2022.

“The desert concepts have long been tied to ideas of survival, perseverance, desire and wealth. The oasis pertains to ideas of finding prosperity or heaven, while the mirage is a universal symbol of the mysteries of imagination and reality,” she says.  

The 15 Saudi and international artists featured in the exhibition spent time at AlUla to develop innovative responses. For example, Swiss artist Claudia Comte’s progression of imposing architectural walls, Dark Suns and Bright Waves each carries a larger algorithmic pattern relating to the waveforms that shape the sound and surface of the desert. Drawing inspiration from the vernacular architecture of AlUla, Palestinian-Saudi artist Dana Awartani’s concave geometric sculpture references Nabataean tombs and mimics the shapes of surrounding mountains and rock formations. The second edition of Desert X AlUla is free and open to everyone. It runs from 11 February 2022 to 30 March 2022. Visit desertx.org for more information. 

AlUla’s Dream

Gilles Bensimon

The artists of Desert X aren’t the only people to have been inspired by the ancient Arabian desert landscape. Acclaimed French fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon has captured the majestic natural landscapes, its oases and settlements for his latest coffee table book, A Dream of Alula. Celebrating the history of AlUla, readers are treated to a glimpse of the geological wonder through Bensimon’s images, which reveal magnificent age-old landscapes and people who live there. Published by Rizzoli New York and featuring a foreword by French art historian Diana W. Picasso, the oversized 215-page book A Dream of Alula retails at $300. For more information on where to purchase, visit rizzoliusa.com.

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