Saudi Arabian Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has taken digital experiential tourism a notch higher by offering a bird’s-eye view of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra in the metaverse.
Digital travellers can now enjoy the panoramic views of Hegra’s most famous landmarks including the first 3D model of the Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza, through a virtual hot air balloon ride.
According to the official release, while talking about entering the world of metaverse, Ahmed H Daoud, the acting executive director of innovation at RCU said, “RCU’s debut in the Metaverse was the first step on a journey of discovery that will, ultimately, reveal new and exciting worlds to help expand and enhance AlUla’s connection with a new generation of technology-led global audiences.”
He added, “Hegra’s presence in the Metaverse greatly elevates the enormous thrill visitors feel when visiting the physical site in AlUla through interactive experiences that push the frontiers of what can be imagined through digital encounters. The addition of a new hot air balloon experience means Metaverse tourists can observe Hegra in new dimensions, giving digital explorers access to one of the world’s most treasured landmarks in ways that expands what is possible in real life.”
More about Hegra and the digital experience
Hegra is an ancient city in Saudi Arabia that once served as the principal city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is well-known in Petra, Jordan. Not many are aware of its existence in AlUla. UNESCO announced Hegra as Saudi Arabia’s first heritage site in 2008. Located 20 kilometres towards the north of AlUla town, the site covers 5,20,000 sqm and features 110 tombs and brilliant rock formations including the Tomb Lihyan, Son of Kuza which is the largest tomb standing at 22 metres. The tomb is famously known as the ‘lonely castle’ owing to its location which is quite far from the other monuments.
What to expect from this metaverse experience at AlUla?
Ahead of AlUla’s Hot Air Balloon Festival, travellers across the globe can now experience the thrills of soaring into the skies on an interactive hot air balloon ride above the digital desert. This metaverse experience also allows one to enter the Tomb of Lihyan which is not accessible to visitors in real life.
Elaborating on this, Daoud said, “For conservation purposes, you’re not able to enter the tomb (in real-life) because it would over time degrade the integrity of the tomb itself. But we have scanned the inside of the tomb with LIDAR, and on the metaverse you can enter the tomb all you like and experience a physical digital representation that’s extremely accurate of the inside of this tomb.”
In addition to this experience, RCU is also offering NFT wearables to selected balloon riders and access to other experiences on the metaverse in future.
RCU plans to introduce more experiences around the AlUla metaverse world in future including hosting an eclectic calendar of events that would be created to introduce the global audience to the wonders of AlUla digitally. The aim is to make the rich culture, heritage and traditions of north-west Arabia easily available to the public.
This hot air balloon experience was followed by Saudi’s Tour Activation in November 2022 which allowed travellers to get live broadcasts from Hegra on metaverse. This experience can be accessed on Decentraland which is one of the most popular platforms of metaverse.
(Main and featured image credit: NiarKrad/Shutterstock)