|14 February, 2020

Saudi Arabia's AlUla to be developed into world’s largest living museum

Saudi Arabia aims to host two million visitors a year in AlUla by 2035

Visitors are seen at Tantora festival, in al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, February 1, 2020.

Visitors are seen at Tantora festival, in al-Ula, Saudi Arabia, February 1, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

ABU DHABI: Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to develop AlUla into the world’s largest living museum and a major heritage, cultural, arts and adventure tourism destination.

AlUla is known for its natural beauty and archaeological diversity. It has hosted major cultural events, including a site-responsive outdoor art installation featuring the work of Saudi and international artists.

The development plans were announced during the 10th UN World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi.

“The balanced development strategy places people first as part of a broader commitment to become an open living museum for the world and a global center for culture, heritage, arts and eco-tourism projects,” the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), Amr Al-Madani, said. “We chose the World Urban Forum as a credible global platform to engage with the world’s leading developers and sustainability experts and share our plans for the long-term, responsible development of AlUla as the world’s largest living museum. By combining heritage with nature, we are transforming the cultural landscape of AlUla and establishing the county as a global tourism destination with a thriving economy and local community.”

Saudi Arabia aims to host two million visitors a year in AlUla by 2035. The RCU, the authority responsible for protecting and promoting the area, estimates the project will create more than 67,000 new jobs, almost half of them in the tourism sector.

“We invite experts from around the world to join us on our journey which means we learn and innovate together. We see a clear road ahead as we attract investment and continue to protect, preserve, share and celebrate our heritage and nature with the world. Not only have we opened our doors to travelers benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s new tourist visas, we’ve also delivered the infrastructure that is central to growth,” Al-Madani added.

He said that a new airport had been launched and that it had the potential to become a transport and logistics hub for northwest Saudi Arabia.

There was also a distinctive concert hall with a 500-seat capacity, he added.

The RCU’s Francesca Arici, who is responsible for coordinating development of the masterplans, briefed organizations and agencies at the forum about the commission’s future strategy.

“This is a unique and once-in-a-lifetime development program that requires drawing together international best practice in numerous and diverse fields and sectors,” she said. “We must balance light-touch tourism with sensitive development designed to benefit the local community while still protecting rare ecosystems and archaeology. We are moving at pace but ensuring we embrace the needs and demands of the local community as we work together for a common goal. A number of major infrastructure plans have already been realized and it is anticipated that we will introduce new building permits and design guidelines to AlUla in March, boosting local economic growth and prosperity.”

Around 80 percent of AlUla county will be protected, including cultural and natural heritage sites.

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