Standing proud amid the ancient sands of northwest Saudi Arabia is a place of extraordinary history. Dating back more than 200 000 years, AlUla is home to swathes of human and natural history, from preserved tombs and monuments to sandstone outcrops and dwellings. Constantly evolving, the site once served as a vital crossroad along the incense-trading routes connecting Saudi Arabia to Egypt and beyond. Attracting weary travelers on their way, AlUla provided respite in the form of abundant resources and fertile oases.
Steeped in culture and heritage, AlUla, also known as Wadi al-Qura (Valley of Villages), was once the capital of Lihyan, an ancient kingdom that dominated the caravan trade. An expansive region across acres of land, it was also home to the site of Hegra, the principal southern city of the Nabataean kingdom. Famed for its spectacular monumental tombs, Hegra – much like the cities encapsulated within adjoining kingdoms – is remarkably well-preserved.
Authored photographer Robert Polidori, AlUla tells the story of a mystical land, filled to the brim with history, intrigue, and awe. Presented in all its stark beauty, the book takes readers on a journey back to the valley’s Paleolithic period, when prehistoric humans first settled in the area, through to the modern populations who explore it today. Delving into its ancient mystique, the book explores AlUla’s spectacular landscape, from its rugged mountains to striking canyons. Through the tales of prehistoric hunter-gatherers, to the ancient Dadanites, Nabataeans, Romans, and early Muslims, each page explores traces of AlUla’s age- old sites, languages, culture, and economic prosperity.
Beginning his career in the mid-1980s, Polidori gained professional renown after photographing the restoration of Versailles, in which he documented the signs of time and wear within the former French royal residence. Having twice won the Alfred Eisenstaedt Award for magazine photography, Polidori has published more than a dozen photobooks, in addition to contributing to the collections of many prominent museums and galleries around the world. AlUla by Robert Polidori, with illustrations by Ignasi Monreal (Assouline).
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Originally published on the October 2020 issue of Vogue Man Arabia