JEDDAH: Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) started the first phase of the biggest cultural project in the world at cost of SR75 billion ($20 billion), marking the start of a bold new era of construction for the city of Diriyah in Riyadh province.
Seven square kilometers of the historic city of Diriyah, just 15 minutes northwest of Riyadh, are to be transformed into one of the world’s foremost lifestyle destinations for culture, hospitality, retail and education.
Officials hope the destination attracts local and international visitors alike through its world-class entertainment and events.
In line with design, development and preservation standards, DGDA will 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.
Careful restoration of historic Diriyah has been undertaken to create a living heritage site, which echoes the remarkable past of the first capital of Saudi Arabia.
Diriyah Gate draws on the influence of 300-year-old Najdi architecture, albeit newly adapted for 21st-century living. It will comprise the Kingdom’s most walkable collection of heritage and culture offerings including more than 20 Saudi cultural attractions.
DGDA’s giga-project will feature an array of world-class cultural, entertainment, retail, hospitality, educational, office and residential areas, including more than 20 hotels, a diverse collection of museums, a bustling retail heart and more than 100 places to dine.
The project includes a series of outdoor plazas as well as a 3-kilometer escarpment walk offering views across the historic Wadi Hanifah.
The premier cultural and lifestyle destination will be home to a population of 100,000 and hopes to attract 25 million visitors annually — a place to gather, explore, shop, dine, live and work.
One of the first areas to benefit from the transformation is the Bujairi district. Over the coming year, Bujairi will experience a major upgrade that will significantly beautify the area, improve infrastructure and enhance the quality of life for the community.
The new streetscape will honor the history of Diriyah with careful landscaping, as well as bike tracks, horse bridle paths and shaded pedestrian walkways.
Bujairi will soon be home to Riyadh’s new premium dining hub, enhanced by uninterrupted views of At-Turaif; Diriyah Art Oasis, one of Saudi Arabia’s first arts centers dedicated to contemporary art; and the Najdi-style 142-key Samhan Heritage Hotel.
A key aspect of the development is the restoration of two square kilometers of the Wadi Hanifah, forming part of DGDA’s masterplan.
This will include the restoration of the historic palm groves and farms, combined with new walking trails and picnic areas for the community to enjoy.
In addition to Bujairi and Wadi Hanifah, the initial phase includes the start of work on one of the world’s most complex underground infrastructure projects.
This will involve the movement of approximately nine million cubic meters of soil, equivalent to 3,600 50-meter long Olympic swimming pools. Excavating 15 meters below ground level, the project will result in three kilometers of tunnels and 10,500 car parking spaces, using 1.2 million cubic meters of concrete.
The first stage of the work will cover 1,320,000 square meters, approximately the size of 185 football pitches.
“We are overjoyed to take the first steps in our construction, moving from vision to reality. Diriyah Gate will become a global cultural and lifestyle hub; a place of great celebration and joy, and a powerhouse of Saudi culture and commerce,” said Jerry Inzerillo, DGDA’s CEO.
“Our masterplan’s point of difference is an incredibly powerful combination of being home to the Jewel of the Kingdom, At-Turaif, coupled with being steeped in over 300 years of royal history and developing world-class, contemporary assets — all reflecting the great future vision of our beloved leaders.
“With a huge variety of educational institutions planned, including academies, cultural institutes, museums and universities, we will be developing a place of great learning and intellectual curiosity. Filled with wonder and discovery, Diriyah Gate will leave our visitors relaxed, inspired and culturally connected, and it is destined to become one of the world’s greatest gathering places,” said Inzerillo.
Jonathan Timms, DGDA’s chief design and development officer, said: “On completion, the development will embody a new way of living for Diriyah’s residents and the greater Riyadh community — comprising a sophisticated intersection of authentic Najdi-style living coupled with world-class amenities, all within the convenience of a mixed-use urban community. Overall, it will be an enhanced, pedestrian-friendly, walkable city, deeply rooted in the heritage and cultural equity of the Kingdom.”