Maraya, the multi-purpose event and conference centre located in AlUla, an ancient historical city in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, welcomed the largest gathering of world’s most creative minds at the 2nd Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates & Friends from the 3rd to the 5th of June 2022.
The event brought together 10 Nobel laureates, including Lech Walesa, along with winners of the King Faisal, UNESCO for Women in Science, and Pulitzer prizes. The theme of the event is ‘New Openings: Decisive Moments for a Decisive Decade’ with a key outcome of the event a selection of 10 decisive actions to be taken over the next decade for humanity to thrive in the 21st century.
Maraya, which is translated in Arabic into “mirrors”, reflects the beauty of the stunning rock-strewn Ashar Valley, a landscape home to ancient kingdoms reaching back 7000 years.
Designed by Italian Architects Gioforma, this architectural wonder was named the Guinness World’s Record’s largest mirrored building in 2020.
A place of culture, commerce and function, Maraya, managed and operated by entertainment company Live Nation, has hosted international music events for world renowned artists including Lionel Richie and Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli; contemporary art exhibitions and business events such as the GCC Summit of 2021 and the 1st Hegra Conference of Nobel Laureates & Friends in 2020.
Maraya offers a 26-metre-high theatre with a capacity of 582 seats which face a giant retractable window of 800 square metres that can open to nature, seamlessly blending environment and entertainment.
In addition to the auditorium, Maraya consists of a ground and three upper floors, with flexible spaces and facilities. The ground floor offers two huge halls with a capacity of 500 and 600 persons respectively, with another hall that can host up to 200 persons. There are green rooms and a VVIP room with a capacity of 100 persons.
The 1st floor provides VVIP guests facilities with spaces from 75 to 100 persons and a VVIP Royal Suite with a capacity of 12 persons. While the 2nd floor offers the conferences facilities and spaces, starting from 50 and up to 300 persons, with a speaker room and a production space available.
The 3rd floor offers a luxury restaurant facility with an indoor capacity of 120 persons, an outdoor restaurant with a capacity of 80 persons, and a rooftop terrace with a space of 1005 SQM. The restaurant, Maraya Social, opened in October 2021 under the management of English Chef and restaurateur Jason Atherton. Atherton owns and runs three-Michelin-star restaurants across the world. The menu at Maraya Social is a mix of local pan Arabic dishes and European options.
The historic city of AlUla has been at the crossroad of civilisations for millennia, and is now being revived as an important destination for trade, and the exchange of cultures and ideas. AlUla’s heritage and formidable scenery, lends itself to great minds deliberating in a destination that fosters meaningful exchange and innovation.
From Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, to the AlUla Old Town, and the ancient sites of Dadan and Jabal Ikmah, AlUla offers a new destination steeped in ancient history for the meeting of minds.
As a brand-new destination for the global business events industry, AlUla offers an exciting and incredible new option for meeting planners with a range of authentic experiences for pre and post events. The city is well known for its rich stories, welcoming locals, stunning landscapes and a mix of outdoor and indoor spaces and places, which will inspire and engage business event visitors.
The city is home to a variety of restaurants from traditional and international cuisines available all year round, with vegetarian and vegan options on demand.
For accommodation, AlUla is home to mesmerising resorts that are set against the backdrop of the desert canyons and valleys. Habitas Resort is a sustainable home far from home in the Ashar Valley, the closest resort to Maraya. The Habitas ethos is to provide an immersive experience where nature inspires creative expression, human connection and the pursuit of adventure. Caravan by Habitas also offers unique accommodation in airstream RVs for those who like to be at one with nature. Habitas offers event setup at the Caravans by Habitas location, a glamping site surrounded by sandstone cliffs in the open air, which can be tailored to fit events.
While at Shaden Resort, which has recently been placed under the management of Accor, guests can choose from a variety of room types including 2 bedroomed villas with private pool. Spaces that can be offered for business events include a meeting room that fits up to 120 people, to PVC tents that can be temporarily built on different areas within the resort. Business luncheon and gala dinners can be hosted as well at Shaden’s Abdadyiah Restaurant. The resort, set in a desert canyon near elephant rock never fails to surprise and delight.
More hotels are set to open in the coming months and years including the Banyan Tree AlUla Resort – a 5 star luxury property set into the environment in the Ashar Valley and opening in October 2022.
AlUla international airport receives weekly flights from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam with a short travel time less than 2 hours. While the direct 2 weekly flights from Dubai makes AlUla an easy place to reach. Currently work is in progress to add more flight routes to the options to reach AlUla from major international airports, making AlUla more reachable and easier to access destination.
AlUla offers a fascinating gateway to the rich culture of the Arabian Peninsula and will be a sought-after destination for leisure and business travel in the years to come.