Saudi crown prince meets Queen Elizabeth, Theresa May at start of UK visit

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in London. (SPA)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with UK PM Theresa May. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrives at 10 Downing Street for a meeting with UK PM Theresa May. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in the UK on Tuesday evening and was received by UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson. (SPA)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi crown prince meets Queen Elizabeth, Theresa May at start of UK visit

LONDON: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth as he launched his landmark visit to the UK. 
Saudi Arabia and Britain will use the visit build a broader economic relationship, and improve security and defense ties. 
Prince Mohammed and his delegation met May and senior ministers at Downing Street to launch a UK-Saudi “Strategic Partnership Council.”
The initiative will encourage wide-ranging economic reforms in Saudi Arabia and foster cooperation on issues such as education and culture, as well as defense and security.
Earlier the crown prince had lunch with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, a rare gesture usually reserved for heads of state. He was scheduled to dine with Prince Charles and Prince William later in the day.
May defended Britain’s defense and security ties with Saudi Arabia in parliament, saying close cooperation had helped save the lives of hundreds of people.
“The link that we have with Saudi Arabia is historic, it is an important one, and it has saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country,” the prime minister said in response to a question from opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
She said that the UK has had a “longstanding and historic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and that will continue.
Under the crown prince, Saudi Arabia “is reforming, is changing, is giving more rights to women,” May said, adding that the UK will “stand alongside” the Kingdom to deliver on his vision.
Foreign minister Boris Johnson led the welcoming party for Prince Mohammed on his arrival late on Tuesday.
For Britain, the visit is a chance to cement trading partnerships as it approaches Brexit and an exit from the European Union. It is also looking to play a key role exporting services to the Gulf’s largest economy as Saudi Arabia pushes through its ambitious Vision 2030 plan to diversify the economy away from oil. 
Britain is also hoping to land the stock market listing of Saudi Aramco, expected to be the world’s largest IPO.
“We would like the Aramco share option to be issued in the United Kingdom and we will continue to suggest the City would be the best place for it,” junior foreign office minister Alistair Burt told parliament.
Later this month Prince Mohammed will visit the United States, which also wants the lucrative listing.
The three-day UK visit is also expected to include a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as well as lunch with May at the prime minister’s rural retreat, Chequers, and talks with Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.


Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

Ad-Dir’iyah, seen in the distance, is the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818. (Reuters)
Updated 11 December 2018
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Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

  • Of the many Saudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites declared over the past decade, Al-Turaif is the newest (and oldest) kid in town

JEDDAH: In an increasingly accessible country with no shortage of cultural hidden gems, Saudi Arabia is in a unique position to develop and showcase its most fascinating heritage sites, from the architectural to the archeological.
Five national treasures have already been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008, including Al-Ahsa oasis, Al-Hijr archaeological site (Madain Salih), Historic Jeddah and the rock art at Hail.
The fifth site, recognized by UNESCO in 2010, is Al-Turaif Historical District, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the 15th century. Located in the north-western outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, it is one of the Kingdom’s oldest heritage sites, though its potential was only recognized relatively recently.
It is set against the backdrop of the historic Ad-Dir’iyah oasis, a place that is dear to the hearts of the Saudi people and has a special place in the history of the Kingdom, as the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818.
The surviving mud-brick structures, in the Najdi architectural style, overlook the oasis and palm gardens of Wadi Hanifa. They include historic palaces, monuments and administrative buildings used by the First Saudi State, such as Salwa Palace, the home of the ruling family at the time, and Saad bin Saud Palace.
When Ad-Dir’iyah was established as the capital, under the rule of Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the founder of the first Saudi State, tribes from across the desert flocked to the city, which expanded to accommodate them.
The city’s borders ran along the edges of the valley, and the mud-brick walls were designed to cope with the harsh desert weather, including summer temperatures hat can reach more than 55 C. With a valley below, vast farm lands and palm trees covering most of the region, the city thrived and flourished.
During Imam Mohammed’s rule, Ad-Dir’iyah became one of the most important cities in Najd, thanks to its position on the trade routes from east to west, the military strength of Al-Saud family, and its importance to pilgrims, granting them protection and accommodation during their journeys.
Now, Al-Turaif district is undergoing a major renovation project to preserve the historically important structures and showcase them as a reminder of the place and time from which the Kingdom’s founding fathers emerged.
This is just one of many projects planned or underway to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s national treasures and develop them as major tourist attractions. As part of the ongoing process, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage last week added 19 archaeological sites to the National Antiquities Register, which aims to develop and preserve Saudi’s heritage sites.
Ad Dir’iyah has long been considered one of the nation’s greatest treasures. In the run-up to the celebrations in 1999 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, at the time the governor of Riyadh, ordered the formation of a committee to develop Ad-Dir’iyah, following a request by Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. The main aim was to preserve the historic mud-brick buildings and monuments of Al-Turaif, as part of a wider program to develop the Historic Ad Dir’iyah site.
The SCTH has launched many projects across the country as part of an ongoing overall effort to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top tourism destinations in the Middle East.
In 2010, Al-Turaif District became a registered World Heritage site after a number of development projects were carried out in preparation for its inclusion. The development program, drawn up by the Riyadh Development Authority in corporation with the SCTH and Ad Dir’iyah Governate, focused on the historic and political and cultural value of the city.
Ad-Dir’iyah Salwa Palace Museum and the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque are among the major buildings being developed and preserved. There are four other attractions in the area: a Social Life Museum, a Military Museum, an Arabian Horse Museum and a Trade and Monetary Museum.
Another main attraction is Al-Bujairi Park, a modern development project that includes a spacious park, cafes, restaurants and an art gallery that is popular with international tourists and locals thanks to its relaxing atmosphere away from the city’s hustle and bustle. It serves as the main recreational attraction of Historical Ad Dir’iyah between Al-Bujairi and Al-Turaif Quarter also has steep rock formations, passageways and water creeks, making it a unique location in the capital.
On December 9, 2018, after the GCC Summit in Riyadh, King Salman attended the opening ceremony of Al-Turaif Historical District Development Project in the presence of GCC dignitaries and leading Saudi officials and guests. The project will help transform the Ad-Dir’iyah area into an international and national tourism and cultural hub.
“Al-Turaif has been transformed into an open museum with the restoration and documentation of its archaeological sites,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Emir of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh Development Authority.
As a key focus of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, tourism is seen as one of the most important sectors that can contribute to job creation in the Kingdom.
It currently employs more than 900,000 Saudis, a number that is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.