(Project/contract values updated in Headline, 1st, 2nd and 4th paragraphs; Diriyah founding details added in 2nd paragraph; annual visitor numbers updated in last paragraph)

Saudi mega heritage tourism project Diriyah Gate is set to award 16 billion Saudi riyals ($4.3 billion) worth of construction contracts in 2021, the CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), the project’s developer, said in an exclusive interview with Zawya.

DGDA plans to invest 155-billion riyal ($41 billion) across its developments, which also includes transforming the city of Ad-Diriyah, the birthplace and capital of the first Saudi state, into a significant educational, cultural, recreational, and hospitality hub. Diriyah was founded in the 15th century and declared the capital of the First Saudi State in 1744.

Jerry Inzerillo said two new contracts, worth 3 billion riyals ($800 million), were awarded last week for Phase 1 infrastructure (roads, utilities, metro stations).

He said: “Our plan for 2021 is to award around 16 billion riyals ($4.3 billion) worth of contracts overall. To date, we have 9.9 billion riyals ($2.6 billion) worth of contract awards, including the two new infrastructure contracts.”

Inzerillo said Phase 1 is “moving well,” and DGDA will open “tangible assets in districts” as early as the first quarter of 2022.

“That will include the new restaurant district (comprising 19 new restaurants), new parks, and esplanades. Meanwhile, our first hotel and nine museums are under construction. Every year from now, we will break ground and announce new assets all the way up to 2030.”

On 21 April, DGDA had announced that it has set up a new subsidiary company, Diriyah Development Company (DevCo), to handle development activity within its ambitious development, which is projected to increase by 450 percent over the previous year [2020].

DGDA had said during the project launch that it would create an environment that enhances Diriyah’s national and international relevance, including the preservation of the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, which sits at the heart of the development.

On completion, the 7-square-kilometre mixed-use project will feature an array of cultural, entertainment, retail, hospitality, educational, office, and residential areas, including more than 20 hotels that reflect both new urbanism and historical Najdi architectural typology, a walkable collection of heritage and culture offerings including more than 20 Saudi cultural attractions,  and a 3-kilometre long escarpment walk offering views across the historic Wadi Hanifah, according to the DGDA website and past media reports.

The development will eventually be home to 100,000 people and attract 27 million visitors annually.

(Reporting by Sona Nambiar, Editing by Anoop Menon)


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