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Unlocking a kingdom’s long-hidden treasures
the washington post
Jan 20, 2019
The vast desert ruins of Al-Ula inspire awe. But Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissidents and Jamal Khashoggi’s killing could make tourism a harder sell.

By Kareem Fahim 
Photos and video by Salwan Georges

The treasures are strewn over a swath of Saudi Arabia bigger than Lake Ontario, rising from the desert: a rambling Nabataean necropolis, a field of soaring stone pillars, a lonely Ottoman railway station, and graffiti, lots of it, inscribed over millennia on honey-colored boulders and red mountain rock.
It is a unique and unruly mix of natural beauty and ruins that trace thousands of years of human settlement and the caravan routes of incense traders and pilgrims. But the site has struggled to find an audience beyond this cosseted kingdom, apart from the locals, intrepid tourists and archaeologists who have been sifting through the area’s civilizational silt for years. Now, Saudi Arabia’s leaders say they have finally decided to let the world in.

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