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04/11/2019 News

“ALULA: WONDER OF ARABIA” Exhibition showcases archeological findings for the first time in France

A partner to the Institut du Monde Arabe’s exhibitions since 2004 as part of its commitment to Cultural Dialogue and Heritage, Total Foundation regularly supports the organization in promoting Arabic heritage in France.

The “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia. An oasis with 7,000 years of history” exhibition, which opened on Wednesday, October 9, showcases for the first time in France the findings from digs in Al-‘Ula, a valley of around 50 kilometers in north-west Saudi Arabia.

The region is home to three main archaeological sites, including what used to be known as Hegra, to the north of the Mada’in Saleh settlement. The site is a key example of Nabatean civilization, alongside Petra in Jordan, which is famous for its monuments carved from pink sandstone. It is also one of the most popular attractions in Saudi Arabia, with 130,000 visitors in 2014, and was the first Saudi Arabian site to have been added to the Unesco World Heritage List in 2008.

Through a number of sculptures, interactive maps, and clips shot by filmmaker and photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the exhibition takes visitors on an immersive tour of Hegra, as well as the Qurh and Dedan sites also located in the Al-‘Ula region.

Total Foundation’s support for the event ties in with its backing of the Franco-Saudi archaeological dig in Mada’in Saleh, alongside the Group’s Saudi Arabian subsidiary. The dig’s co-director, researcher Laïla Nehmé from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), is also the co-curator of “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia”. Laïla is a perfect example of the open dialogue and knowledge sharing sought by both France and Saudi Arabia.

Turning Al-‘Ula into a cultural site and tourist destination is a key part of the Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, and the Institut du Monde Arabe exhibition is paving the way for its success by introducing this unique gem to a broader audience. As well as boosting Saudi Arabia’s international appeal, the transformation of the site is an opportunity for the country to solidify its own ties with the heritage and history of the Al-‘Ula region, which has been home to several successive civilizations.


Laïla Nehmé, chercheuse au CNRS,
co-commissaire d’« AlUla, merveille d’Arabie »


“Like other countries, Saudi Arabia has a rich past that dates back to before the emergence of Islam, which it has been researching for a long time now. The country’s decision to make these sites accessible to the public and turn Al-‘Ula into a tourist destination demonstrates its commitment to showcasing this part of its history.”

Laïla Nehmé, CNRS researcher and co-curator of “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia”


Note: Total in Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia has been a close partner of Total for more than 40 years.
  • Our operations in the country include one of the biggest refining and petrochemical facilities in the world, the SATORP complex in Jubail, which is run in partnership with state-owned Saudi Aramco.
  • We recently entered into an agreement with Saudi Aramco to develop the distribution and sale of petroleum products and related services in the country, with an investment of $1 billion over the next six years in the Saudi market.