World through my eyes
In a landmark concert, French violinist Renaud Capucon dazzled crowd at Saudi Arabia’s historic Al-Ula on Friday, 4th January 2019. Capucon performed at Al-Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia as part of the first Winter at Tantora festival and concert series. Capucon is the latest internationally renowned musician to perform at the home of one of the Kingdom’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Winter at Tantora, which opened on December 20 and runs until February 9, is hosted by the residents of Al-Ula, a small town next to the ancient Nebatean site of Madein Saleh. Many weekend cultural events and musical performances by world-famous artists will be staged in course of the event.
Capucon said about the occasion, “It’s a wonderful area. It’s quite incredible to feel this nature all around and to be there for the first time and to know that nobody was here before … and to be able to play here. I think it’s the first classical music concert here ever, and I feel very honoured and very inspired by what I see around us.”
Visitors are now able to take a tour of the many historical sites in and around Al-Ula, one of the most fascinating vestiges of ancient Arabia in the Kingdom. The small oasis town some 380 kilometres north of Madinah was founded in the 6th century. Today it serves as the gateway to Madein Saleh, the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. More than 2,000 years old and carved from stone by the Nabataeans, the tribe that also built Petra in Jordan, Madein Saleh is expected to become one of Saudi Arabia’s premier tourist destination as the Kingdom forges a tourism and hospitality industry.
Madein Saleh was originally called Al Hijr, or Hegra, by its Nabataean builders who carved its magnificent tombs out of sandstone outcrops. The finely worked details display Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician and Hellenistic influences which, along with the ancient wells that dot the area, exemplify the architectural accomplishment and hydraulic expertise of Nabataean civilisation. According to Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU), Al-Ula has the potential to be a beacon for the Arab world, a gateway that embraces local and international visitors to experience Saudi Arabia’s unique culture, and the stories built on ancient civilisations.
After the beginning of ‘Winter at Tantora Festival’ famous Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo performed on December 21. The recent concert by Capucon will be followed by the appearance of famous Arab composer, Omar Khairat of Egypt, on January 11. Chinese pianist Lang Lang is due to perform on Friday, January 18; and popular Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will make his debut concert performance in Saudi Arabia on February 1.
A definite crowd-pleaser will be a hologram concert by the late Egyptian diva, Um Kulthum, on January 25, in a show that will be supported by a live orchestra. Wrapping up the Winter at Tantora concert series on February 8 will be Grammy-nominated composer Yanni, the Greek pianist who had kicked off a series of musical concerts in the Kingdom late in 2017.
Lebanese singer Majida El-Roumi performed at Winter at Tantora on December 28. She said it was an honour for her to perform at “this great global event” in Saudi Arabia, adding that the world was eagerly waiting “for the Kingdom to open its doors”.
Such musical shows that were unimaginable less than two years ago have become part of life in Saudi Arabia over the past two years, thanks to Vision 2030, that has charted a course for the country’s modernisation and to make it a global destination for business and tourism. Many of these music performances were sponsored by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) that was set up to organise, develop and lead the entertainment sector and to provide exciting entertainment options to Saudis.
In other Winter at Tantora activities, hundreds of multicoloured hot-air balloons will be released at the end of this month into the sky above Al-Ula for over a week. The first Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup horse race is set to take place on February 2.
Have you ever witnessed a musical concert in midst of a UNESCO Heritage site? How does it feel? Lets us know the experience in the comments section below.
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