Bikini-clad influencers head to Saudi’s AlUla

The desert destination houses 5-star hotels and heritage sites

Lubna Hamdan 2 Min Read

Move over Marbella and Mykonos, Saudi Arabia’s AlUla is becoming the hottest destination for social media influencers from around the world.

While the kingdom has long been known for its conservative approach to tourism, having attracted millions of Muslim tourists to the holy city of Makkah, it is now hoping to draw in visitors from across the globe to its holiday destinations such as AlUla.

An ancient oasis city, AlUla houses a natural museum of preserved tombs and historic monuments, as well as 5-star hotels and resorts, including the Habitas AlUla, which has been trending on social media platforms like Instagram thanks to an influx of influencers posing poolside in bikinis and European-style resort wear.

The hotel allows women to roam around freely without an abaya, while unmarried couples can stay together without the need to provide proof of marriage. However, despite circulating rumors of alcohol availability across the city, resorts like Habitas have confirmed to Frankly that alcoholic drinks are strictly prohibited at the property.

The Habitas AlUla resort offers activities such as mountain biking, stargazing and camel riding, with room prices starting at $400 excluding taxes. It has a high rating of 9.3 stars on travel website 

AlUla has welcomed influencers including model and songwriter Fai Khadra, Dubai-based fashion influencer Tamara Al Gabbani, and Lebanese lifestyle influencer Nathalie Fanj. Fashion brands ranging from Dolce & Gabbana to Michael Cinco and Azza Fahmy have also held fashion shows in the popular city.

The kingdom welcomed over 18 million tourists in the first 9 months of 2022, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organisation, in line with Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 to decrease Saudi Arabia’s independence on oil. 

It is expected to see the kingdom’s economic growth accelerate by 3 percent this year, according to a forecast by Riyad Bank’s investment arm Riyad Capital.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it is planning new laws to allow foreigners to buy residential and commercial property in the kingdom, including in Makkah and Madinah.

GCC countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE are mulling the launch of a Schengen-style visa that would allow tourists to visit partner countries under one visa, according to local media reports. 

So, pack in the European cities and get ready for a GCC tour this summer instead.