|24 November, 2019

Diriyah — opening the gate to a global cultural icon

The Diriyah Gate project will begin in earnest at the start of 2020 and will be one of the biggest renovation projects within the Kingdom

Image used for illustrative purpose. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announces the launch of a new tourist visa regime at a dinner at historic Diriyah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 27, 2019.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Ahmed Al Khateeb, Chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage announces the launch of a new tourist visa regime at a dinner at historic Diriyah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia September 27, 2019.

REUTERS/Stephen Kalin

As part of the Vision 2030 mission to promote tourism, entertainment and cultural activities in the Kingdom, the Diriyah Gate project was envisaged to be a cultural and lifestyle tourism destination, especially after it gained UNESCO certification as a World Heritage Site.

Last Wednesday, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman participated in the cornerstone-laying event to launch the Diriyah Gate project. This event comes as the Kingdom continues its plans to welcome locals and visitors from all over the world to showcase this cultural site. The Gate will house several cultural sites including five art galleries, four museums and two theaters within a 7 sq km area to become one of Saudi Arabia’s sought-after cultural and lifestyle destinations with places to explore, shop, dine, live and work.

The Diriyah Gate project will begin in earnest at the start of 2020 and will be one of the biggest renovation projects within the Kingdom. Local and international investors have been invited to explore options and investment opportunities in the project.

To give it an international flavor in management and marketing, Jerry Inzerillo was appointed to be the first CEO of the Diriyah Gate project. In its first phase, the project will include about 86 different sports, entertainment, dining and cultural sites with an estimated budget of SR64 billion ($17.2 billion), which will provide more than 50,000 human capital opportunities to locals as well as to expatriates.

The 7 sq km project will also be home to more than 20 world-leading luxury hospitality brands, including Aman Resorts, which will be located near a Formula E racetrack and a 15,000-seat arena. The Sports Authority, headed by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, has been active in organizing its second Formula E race, attracting participants from all over the world, as well as the highly anticipated heavyweight world title boxing match in two weeks’ time.

In my opinion, Diriyah is a unique place. With its grand plans, it inspires new generations of entrepreneurs to commit time, effort and money to participate in the development of this historic site that is destined to become a global cultural icon.

When I first visited Diriyah in the 1970s, its population did not exceed 10,000 and it had a few hundred visitors at weekends. With these budgeted amounts and by 2030, Diriyah Gate aims to attract 25 to 30 million visitors annually to enjoy world-class cultural, educational and recreational facilities, including museums and galleries that will offer visitors interactive and fun experiences to remember for years to come.

• Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

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