Erecting a large and modern building in the middle of an almost-untouched and stunning natural landscape can very easily turn out to be a catastrophe. It could mar the beauty of the place and ruin it for decades to come. The people behind the design of Maraya, an event venue in the AlUla desert of Saudi Arabia, found a way to not only preserve the beauty of the environment it sits in, but to enhance it dramatically. By covering the entire structure in mirrors, Maraya (meaning mirror or reflection in Arabic) is almost invisible, blending the sharp angles of its cuboid shape into the ochre rock formations that surround it. The only thing that betrays its existence is the large, rectangular shadow it casts on the yellow sand.
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Completed in 2018, Maraya is the world’s largest mirrored building and was recognized as such by the Guinness Book of Records in 2020.
Maraya can accommodate well over 1,600 people in its auditorium and conference areas, and a few more in its open-air rooftop restaurant. Events taking place in Maraya include classical music performances, Arabic music concerts, exhibitions, and forums like the 2020 Nobel Laureates Conference.
Maraya is just another jewel into the ornate crown that is Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert. It is located only 15 minutes away from the ancient city of Mada’in Saleh (also known as Hegra), a UNESCO World Heritage site that resemble the wonders of Petra, Jordan, with over 100 monumental tombs carved into sandstones standing in the desert.
Saudi Arabia’s AlUla desert has hosted the large-scale art exhibition Desert X in 2020 and in 2022, and will continue to welcome it every even year, which is another reason to make your way to this corner of Saudi Arabia.
Getting to the AlUla desert is simple as there are direct and short flights from the Saudi cities of Riyadh and Jeddah into the city of AlUla.