Wednesday, February 28, 2024

RCU I Care campaign to showcase AlUla’s celebrated past

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the cultural custodian of northwest Arabia, has launched a new, inclusive heritage conservation campaign that aims to deepen and enrich the public’s knowledge, awareness, and desire to protect and uplift AlUla’s ancient history.

The I Care campaign, which was launched on February 1, shines a local, national, and global spotlight on the importance of RCU’s diverse and ongoing heritage protection projects in AlUla as the county continues to develop into the world’s largest living museum.

I Care will promote the need to safeguard AlUla’s diverse landscape of cultural assets, including natural and manmade monuments, as a means of boosting economic development, driving community engagement, and expanding people’s knowledge and appreciation of their AlUla’s storied past – goals that align with the aims of Saudi Vision 2030.

As an iconic first phase of the campaign, RCU has partnered with the acclaimed US artist David Popa to create a unique, landmark piece set within the landscape of AlUla itself.

The artwork, which takes the shape of two protective hands, is constructed around the iconic Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza, a monumental heritage destination at Hegra which was designated as Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.

Famous for his sustainable approach and innovative techniques, Popa’s artwork is symbolic of I Care’s ambition to carefully protect and cherish places of great historic and cultural value – vulnerable sites that resonate deeply with the community and global heritage experts alike.

An impressive and ephemeral piece of creativity constructed using exclusively natural elements, including yellow earth from Europe and red earth from the Middle East, it is one of Popa’s largest to date.

Designed to disintegrate in a matter of weeks, Popa’s artwork highlights the pressing need for collective action to safeguard cultural heritage locations in AlUla, Saudi Arabia, and the wider world.

Dr Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, Executive Director of Archaeology, Conservation and Collections at RCU, said: “The roots of Saudi culture and tradition can be traced back millennia, influenced by civilisations as diverse as the Nabataeans, Minaeans and Lihyanites.

“The I Care campaign is an important and inclusive step towards increasing the AlUla community’s awareness and appreciation of the incredible history that exists on their doorstep.

“RCU is focused on raising people’s awareness of the need to engage with conservation efforts through the new I Care campaign. This will help to deepen RCU’s connection with our community as we work towards a common, shared, and inclusive purpose – to protect and celebrate our heritage so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

US artist David Popa said: “Working on this project has been an immense privilege. I Care is not just a campaign, it is a celebration of AlUla’s and the Kingdom’s legacy and traditions.

“AlUla’s heritage is a treasure for the entire world, and I have been enriched by the enlightening conversations I have had with the local storytellers, the Rawis, the Heritage Rangers, and the young ambassadors being trained in the Hammayah program to take on guardianship of this invaluable heritage.”

A key audience of the I Care campaign is AlUla’s younger generation. RCU will provide schools with comprehensive toolkits to educate and empower youngsters and their teachers through a series of carefully designed workshops that focus on the importance of heritage protection and how landmarks connect with the community’s stories, life, and traditions.

RCU will also host school visits and community activities at AlUla’s diverse collection of historic landmarks, such as Hegra.

The community, young and old, have an active and key role to play in helping to conserve AlUla’s cultural landscape, with the I Care campaign seeking to fill any knowledge gaps and promote future discovery amongst residents, visiting tourists, and Saudi citizens.

With its landscape of diverse heritage sites, vast mountains, lush wadis, and wide-open desert scenery, AlUla is now established as a new global destination for culture, history, archaeological discovery, and the sharing of ancient knowledge.

AlUla is home to the extraordinary Nabataean city and Unesco World Heritage Site of Hegra; the city of Dadan, which was the capital of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms; the Jabal Ikmah open-air library, whose ancient inscriptions are now included in Unesco’s Memory of the World Register; and AlUla Old Town, which has been named as one of UNWTO’s Best Tourism Villages.

These sites and many others are part of RCU’s active program of conservation, exploration, and study as AlUla is comprehensively regenerated into a destination for culturally curious tourists.

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