09 Feb 2024 - 23 Mar 2024

Oasis of Stories

AlJadidah Arts District


Oasis of Stories showcases Manal AlDowayan’s journey towards her new, era-defining land art commission for Wadi AlFann, which will be permanently placed in AlUla’s monumental landscape from 2026.

The exhibition displays hundreds of drawings gathered from communities across AlUla through participatory workshops between September and November 2023, where approximately 1,000 participants –including teachers, farmers, cooks, rangers, tour guides, artists, craftspeople, students, junior football teams and a disability association–were asked to draw their personal stories onto paper. Curated by Iwona Blazwick, Lead Curator for Wadi AlFann, the exhibition marks a milestone in the development of AlDowayan’s permanent large-scale desert installation for Wadi AlFann, titled Oasis of Stories, which takes inspiration from the walls of AlUla’s Old Town and will invite viewers to walk through its labyrinth-like passages. 

The depictions in the exhibited works range from participant’s homes, neighbourhoods, memories and family histories to flora, fauna, culinary customs and abstract creative expressions, with each piece reflecting the lives, cultures and identities of thepeople of AlUla. By collaborating witha wide range of ages, genders, professions,perspectives and backgrounds, AlDowayan aims to unearth a diverse multitude of narratives, both historic and contemporary. These drawings and stories will eventually be inscribed into the walls of Oasis of Stories, expected for completion in late 2026, allowing AlUla’s residents to leave their trace.

Opening in 2026, Wadi AlFann will be an awe-inspiring new destination for land art, where era-defining works by some of the world’s most compelling artists will be permanently placed in the monumental landscape of AlUla, an extraordinary desert region of north-west Saudi Arabia steeped in thousands of years of natural, historical and cultural heritage. AlDowayan is one of the first five commissioned artists, alongside fellow pioneers and Land Art icons Agnes Denes, Michael Heizer, Ahmed Mater and James Turrell.

Manal AlDowayan says: 

“AlUla is a library of stories. This land holds an archive of narratives and identities that numerous civilisations engraved into its rocks for centuries, telling us about the tools they used, the animals they farmed and the lives they led. Now, I want to give the contemporary inhabitants of AlUla a space for their narrative, allowing it to live permanently in a public artwork at Wadi AlFann, for future generations to contemplate.” 

Nora Aldabal, Executive Director of Arts and Creative Industries, Royal Commission for AlUla, says: 

“Manal AlDowayan has a long-standing relationship with AlUla, whether through her piece for Desert X AlUla 2020, which remains in place today, or her epic new project for Wadi AlFann, which she has been developing with us for years. AlDowayan has cultivated a strong bond with the people of AlUla, who always welcome her warmly. It is an honour to present works that these local communities themselves have produced under the guidance and inspiration of the artist.

 “Wadi AlFann will rekindle the creativity of AlUla and deliver new transformative experiences for locals and visitors alike. As custodians of this land, a crossroad between East and West marked by 200,000 years of natural, human and cultural history, we must continue to harness the unique legacy of AlUla to build its future. This visionary destination will build a vibrant and prosperous local cultural economy, forging pathways for the people of AlUla to unlock creative potential and be architects of the region’s future.” 

Press release from The Royal Commission for AlUla

Image: Manal AlDowayan. Installation view of Oasis of Stories at AlJadidah Arts District, AlUla, 2024. Image courtesy of The Royal Commission for AlUla