The second season of Winter at Tantora—AlUla’s glorious international festival—kickstarts on December 19. It promises an assortment of international acts, apart from unmissable experiences that are unique to the region. By Team T+L

Winter at Tantora
The ancient site of Hegra.

Set against the timeless landscape of AlUla—home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra and inarguably the most unique festival venue in the world—Winter at Tantora is back for the second time.

The 2019 edition is aptly themed Choose Your Wonder. Scheduled to take place from December 19, 2019 to March 7, 2020, the festival boasts a world-class setup that will witness an exciting line-up of performers, experiences, and events across four sub-themes. Together,the sub-themes—Reimagining Heritage, Cultural Oasis, Adventure and Discovery, and Secret Escape—encapsulate the essence of this untouched destination.

Reimagining Heritage is a medium to offer visitors the opportunity to witness how ancient civilisations lived. Guided by expert storytellers, the Heritage Sites Experience takes guests to the ancient sites of Hegra and Dadan. Visitors will be able to use the latest technology, such as augmented reality and video projection, to enjoy an immersive and informative experience unlike any other. The festival also brings cultures together through the medium of food—from the hot pot of street food at the Winter Park to the regional delicacies on offer at Wadi al-Qura market.

Winter at Tantora
An opera performance at Winter at Tantora 2018.

Performances by legendary musicians from around the world and across genres make up the Cultural Oasis. These international acts are set to elevate the latest edition of the festival a notch higher than the previous year. Expect the king of Latin Pop, Enrique Iglesias (scheduled to perform on February 21, 2020), and Grammy and Oscar-winning recording artist Lionel Richie, along with the enigmatic Craig David (on February 28) to be the headliners. Operatic pop group Il Divo, and British funk and jazz group Jamiroquai look to set the stage on fire on January 24.

There are repeat acts as well. Tuscan tenor Andrea Bocelli, Egyptian composer, pianist, and conductor Omar Khairat, and Greek pianist Yanni are set to return for the second innings, after a memorable inaugural gig last year. Khairat is set to perform on December 27, Bocelli on January 31, and Yanni will perform his cross-genre compositions on February 7.

Winter at Tantora
The Maraya Concert Hall

The Maraya Concert Hall will be at the centre stage for the cultural performances. It is a state-of-the-art 500-seat facility with a mirrored facade that emerges like a mirage on the ancient rocky landscape of AlUla. This is also where the visitors will witness the Celebration of Beethoven (January 4 to 6)—an homage to the great German composer on his 250th birth anniversary, and the multi-media theatrical production, Jameel Buthainah, a caracalla dance inspired by the glory and history of AlUla, on February 14.

Adventure and Discovery brings a dose of adrenaline to the festival. The Vintage Aircraft Experience is a highflying adventure that will offer bird’s-eye views from aircraft dating back to World War II. For a serene glide through the skies, the AlUla Hot Air Balloon Festival comes with the opportunity of being part of a fleet of 100 hot-air balloons at sunrise or indulging in a solo flight at sunset. Then there’s the Fursan Endurance Race, the
second-biggest endurance horse race in the world that will feature over 200 riders from across the globe attempting to navigate a 120-kilometre course.

With Secret Escape, Winter at Tantora features an exclusive, high-end journey into fine dining with Michelinstar chefs curating bespoke experiences for visiting gourmands. Also expect traditional souks as well as luxurious pop-ups for your shopping desires.

Grand, dramatic, and historic, the festival is an opportune time for the world to experience AlUla and learn about its thousands of years of history, ahead of its public opening in October 2020.

Related: “AlUla is my most offbeat destination so far!” confesses Pooja Hegde