Saudi Arabia - Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) has announced its transformation of Wadi Hanifah, one of Saudi Arabia’s most iconic oases, into a Nature-based escape from Riyadh’s bustling city centre on day one of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai.

Plans outline the restoration of two square kilometres of unique palm groves containing hundreds of thousands of trees from species native to the wadi, as well as creating new parks with walking trails, biking tracks, outdoor games areas and picnic spots where people can gather and enjoy time out.

Wellness spaces, activity and eco-tourism attractions will be at the heart of the wadi’s enhancements, which aim to improve the quality of life for local residents and visitors.

The valley of Wadi Hanifah fringes the western edge of historic Diriyah, which is the birthplace of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the home of the Al Saud. Historically, these fertile farmlands surrounding the banks of the oasis valley of Wadi Hanifah provided a source of water, food and shade for its inhabitants, protecting them from harsh desert conditions.

The wadi is situated near the UNESCO World Heritage site At-Turaif and has easy access to the escarpment walkway which provides unparalleled views of the magnificent collection of earthen structures of Najdi architecture that stood as the Kingdom’s first capital and centre of government. Imbued with Saudi Arabia’s national history and identity, the site is a defining cultural influence on the broader Arabian Peninsula, making it the Kingdom’s most important heritage site.

The Wadi Hanifah masterplan will be comprised of four interactive zones:

Heritage and Culture Zone: Adjacent to At-Turaif, this zone focuses on creating a landscape that complements and adds to the visitor experience of both At-Turaif and Bujairi Terrace. The existing park will be extended and refurbished to serve the community, with a theme and character in keeping with the area’s heritage to create a stronger identity. It will also feature a Heritage Art Oasis, a 50-key boutique hotel and Sports Boulevard that will give visitors seamless connectivity to both Wadi Hanifah and Diriyah Gate.

Wadi Living Zone: This zone lies on the western edge of Diriyah Gate and includes several experiences amidst beautiful wadi surroundings with a variety of recreational spaces catering to families and visitors of all ages. These spaces will include picnic areas, an outdoor theatre, a star gazing garden, a storytelling and event space and a children’s play area.

Eco-Tourism Zone: To the south of Diriyah Gate, this zone will feature the Barari Diriyah Wildlife Conservation Centre and Palm Heritage Centre for Research and Development.

Sports and Activity Zone: The southwestern area has been identified as a zone for sports and adventure activities and will have an urban, contemporary feel, while still embracing the wadi’s natural character. The zone can be accessed from the Western Ring Road and will include courts, a skate park and a parkour arena. The zone will also provide facilities for mountain biking, a multi-use games arena, a green caravan route and a central sports pavilion.

The restoration of Wadi Hanifah forms a key part of DGDA’s $50.6 billion masterplan that will transform Diriyah into one of the world’s most exciting cultural tourist destinations. Hospitality, commercial, retail and nature offerings will both leverage and elevate the exceptionally distinctive character and cultural importance of the area and support DGDA’s overall mission to share, protect and celebrate Saudi Arabia’s national heritage.

Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO, DGDA, commented: “Wadi Hanifah is an integral part of the masterplan for Diriyah. The wadi was what drew people to the area centuries ago and from which sprung the city of Diriyah we are restoring today.

“The wadi’s status in history as a place of relaxation and recovery has led us to create a destination with ample wellness and recreational offerings that put people first. It will be a haven of nature for our residents and guests which will bring them closer to Diriyah’s immense historical legacy.”

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