Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

How Snapchat will turn Saudi's Al Ula into an augmented reality world

Artwork from eL Seed, Zahrah Al Ghamdi and Lita Albuquerque will feature on the heritage site via a Snapchat Landmarker

Visitors to Saudi Arabia's Desert X Al Ula exhibition will be able to see the Unesco site brought to life via artist-designed Snapchat Landmarkers.

Three artists participating in the exhibition will have their work featured on the Qasr Al Farid. Translated as "the lonely castle", the Qasr Al Farid is one of the numerous monumental tombs scattered around the Unesco listed area in the north of Saudi Arabia.

Dating back to the 1st century, the structure's unique location away from all the other tombs makes it Al Ula's most famous.

During the exhibition, which runs until Saturday, March 7, it won't be quite as lonely as it will come alive via augmented reality featuring the work of Saudi Arabia's Zahrah Al Ghamdi, Tunisian street artist eL Seed and American artist Lita Albuquerque.

What are Landmarkers?

The Snapchat Landmark will bring Qasr al-Farid to life as part of Desert X Al Ula, the first major contemporary art project in the Unesco heritage site in Saudi Arabia. Courtesy Snap
The Snapchat Landmark will bring Qasr Al Farid to life as part of Desert X Al Ula, the first major contemporary art project in the heritage site. Courtesy Snap

This will be made possible via a dedicated Snapchat Landmarker.

These Snapchat lenses enable augmented reality experiences to transform some of the world’s most famous landmarks in real-time.

Their use in Saudi Arabia as part of the Winter at Tantora festival will be the first time the sponsored function has been used in the Mena region.

“I am thrilled to be among the artists whose work will be uniquely displayed on Qasr Al-Farid using a Snapchat Lens,” said Zahrah Al Ghamdi. “This amazing feature will transform my artwork into an interactive experience. Augmented reality has become an integral element that brings art to life and provides people with an unparalleled experience.”

The project is a partnership between camera communication company Snap and the Royal Commission of Al Ula.

“Artists from around the world will showcase their art in the desert of Al Ula, home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites. Having Snapchat participate in this landmark event will bring the landscape of Al Ula to life in an entirely new light, in a juxtaposition of modern technology and history,” said Nora Aldabal, arts and culture programmes director at Royal Commission of Al Ula.

How it works

Snapchat users near Qasr Al Farid will be prompted to find the landmark's icon. When pointing their phone camera towards the monument, users will be able to bring to life the work of the three artists.

Each artist will feature on the filter for a two-week period and the experiences will be paired with sound specific to the artworks.

Introduced in 2019, Landmarkers have previously been used to turn the Flatiron Building in New York into a giant slice of pizza, to make the Chinese theatre in Hollywood erupt popcorn and to cause the Eiffel Tower to throw up rainbows.

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Desert X Al Ula puts Saudi Arabia's historic site on international arts map

Updated: February 13, 2020 11:49 AM

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