Saudi Arabia puts first UNESCO World Heritage site in the metaverse

Saudi Arabia puts first UNESCO World Heritage site in the metaverse

Metaverse users will be able to access parts of Hegra that aren't accessible to real-world visitors

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has entered the metaverse with an immersive 3D model of Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan.

The UNESCO World Heritage site has been created in the digital landscape in Decentraland and will be accessible to virtual tourists who can now explore it from anywhere in the world. 

Referred to as the ‘lonely castle’ in English because of its distance from other monuments, the Tomb of Lihyan is the largest preserved site of the ancient Nabataean civilisation south of Petra in Jordan.

Decentraland ‘tourists’ will be able to immerse themselves in Hegra’s history by entering the tomb and activating information points to reveal its story. 

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While the virtual Hegra may not be as immersive as the real-life one, metaverse users will be able to access parts of the site that are not accessible to real world visitors, including stepping through the tomb’s doorway and taking a tour, set within a realistic rendering of AlUla’s desert landscape.

The digital avatar of Hegra will also host a calendar of virtual events to engage its metaverse visitors.


RCU chief executive officer Amr AlMadani said: “RCU’s entry into the metaverse is a groundbreaking development in innovation and virtual reality tourism that connects the whole world with the wonders of AlUla. 

"A new frontier for innovation and collaboration, our debut, which also sees the first UNESCO World Heritage site enter the Metaverse, represents an exciting evolution of AlUla’s unique heritage, acting as an open invitation to travellers, academics and digital explorers to log in and witness AlUla like never before.” 

By 2035, RCU forecasts that AlUla’s population will more than triple to 130,000 with 38,000 new jobs created and AlUla contributing US$32 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP.

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