Saudi Arabia’s crown prince launches mega tourism projects in ancient area of Al-Ula

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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a vision for Al-Ula that includes a resort designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a vision for Al-Ula that includes a resort designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a vision for Al-Ula that includes a resort designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a vision for Al-Ula that includes a resort designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a vision for Al-Ula that includes a resort designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. (SPA)
Updated 11 February 2019
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Saudi Arabia’s crown prince launches mega tourism projects in ancient area of Al-Ula

  • Jean Nouvel, the French architect who designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, will build a resort in the mountains of Al-Ula
  • The Sharaan Resort will include residential estates, a summit center, a spa, restaurants and 925-square-kilometer nature reserve

AL-ULA, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched on Sunday mega tourism projects in Al-Ula, including a resort designed by a renowned French architect and a nature reserve, both called Sharaan. 
Jean Nouvel, the French architect who designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, will build a resort in the mountains of Al-Ula as part of a plan launched on Sunday night to transform the home of ancient civilizations into a destination for visitors from around the world.

The plan for sustainable development of the region, which includes the Sharaan Resort inside a designated nature reserve, was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Maraya theater. The mirrored concert hall was built for the Winter at Tantora festival, which has brought visitors to the untouched area every weekend since December, giving them a taste of what’s to come.

“The decision to build in this place is brave and will allow Sharaan to be revealed on a world-wide scale,” Nouvel said during a presentation at the launch.

Several hundred guests were welcomed in the concert hall, including Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Princess Reema bint Bandar and Yanni, who performed at the Winter at Tantora festival last weekend. 

“This is just so beautiful, the desert and the sky at night, the stars… the natural beauty here is stunning,” Yanni told Arab News. “I have never experienced this type of beauty before in my life.”

 

The charter for Al-Ula was presented on a stage made of sand, with a multimedia sound and light show involving local men and women, the “guardians” of Al-Ula. The rocks of Al-Ula, visible through glass at the back of the stage, served as a backdrop.

Al-Ula is home to spectacular sandstone rock formations and the archaeological site of Madain Saleh, the largest Nabatean settlement south of Petra that contains the ancient civilization’s rock tombs with their carved facades. In 2008, it was designated as Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage site.

There are only so many architects in the world who have the power to draw visitors on the strength of the building alone, and Nouvel is one. Just ask anyone who has stood under Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 7,500-ton geometric canopy, inspired by a grove of palm trees and designed to cast dappled light onto the water and walkways below, in what he called the Rain of Light.

Nouvel’s architecture is rooted in the local context, and so with the Al-Ula resort, he will take inspiration from the surrounding rocks. “In the thickness of the rock, everything is possible, everything is stable and protected, as if weightless,” Nouvel explained. “Rock is an absolutely fantastic material because of its inertia. To put yourself in rock is to protect yourself. To protect yourself from extreme temperatures, to protect yourself security-wise. We’ve chosen to live in these rocks once more. To be able to frame the Sharaan landscape at different heights is amazing, discovering the distant horizons, discovering the different qualities of light, and all this in total thermal comfort.”

There is already a link between Nouvel and Al-Ula: A number of  ancient treasures from the area are now on display as part of the Roads of Arabia exhibit in Louvre Abu Dhabi. But the Sharaan Resort is a link that is even closer to home.

The resort will include residential estates, a summit center, a spa and restaurants. The full design will be completed by the end of this year; construction is expected to begin in early 2020, with a completion date of 2023.

The resort will be located in a valley deep inside the 925-square-kilometer Sharaan Nature Reserve. Both take their names from the surrounding canyon with its ancient rock formations. The reserve will conserve and restore the region’s natural desert habitats, including the Arabian leopard, with the help of local rangers trained by international experts.

 

 

 

While the details of the plan are new, it is very much in keeping with the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030, which aims to develop the Kingdom’s tourism sector and provide the younger generation with the skills that they need for the future as it diversifies the economy away from its dependence on oil. The vision also pledges to  celebrate the country’s national identity by preserving its cultural sites, making them accessible and building world-class museums to “create a living witness to our ancient heritage.”

The Royal Commission for Al-Ula was created for this purpose in 2017, and the French Agency for Al-Ula Development was established last July, after Paris and Saudi Arabia signed a bilateral agreement during the Crown Prince’s visit in April last year.

The commission aims, by 2035, to attract 2 million visitors to the area, creating 38,000 jobs and generating SR120 billion ($32 billion). 

 


The commission has already launched a scholarship program to train Saudi students in the US, the UK and France in the fields of tourism and archaeology; this year, it will add architecture and environmental planning to the mix. The Hammayah program will also provide up to 2,500 opportunities for local men and women to get involved in a community effort to preserve the wonders of Al-Ula.
There are only so many architects in the world who have the power to draw visitors on the strength of the building alone, and Nouvel is one. Just ask anyone who has stood under Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 7,500-ton geometric canopy, inspired by a grove of palm trees and designed to cast dappled light onto the water and walkways below, in what he called the Rain of Light.

The project is all about “locals, locals, locals,” Rami Al-Sakran, capabilities development manager for the commission, who is leading the Al-Ula scholarship program, told Arab News. “Without the locals, we can’t succeed.”

 

 

 

 

 


Startup of the Week: The Koshk: Caps that creatively speak your mind

Updated 3 min 2 sec ago
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Startup of the Week: The Koshk: Caps that creatively speak your mind

  • The Koshk offers distressed baseball caps with rounded brims, and include their trademark small-scale texts embroidered onto them

JEDDAH: Millennials and Generation Z are known for their sassiness, dark humor and love of aesthetics. At the Koshk, based in Jeddah, youngsters can find caps that communicate exactly that. 

It was established by two 23-year-old Saudi entrepreneurs, Jumana Binshihon and Jawaher Al-Esayi, when they were still in high school.

“We actually needed community service hours, so we decided to take part in a bazaar trading clothes, caps and phone cases that would appeal to adolescents. We participated around three times in different bazaars when we noticed a high demand for caps and all we had to offer were Westernized ones. So, we decided to design our own,” Binshihon told Arab News.

The Koshk offers distressed baseball caps with rounded brims, and include their trademark small-scale texts embroidered onto them. The store is planning to design and develop even more styles to appeal to a wider variety of people.

The caps are usually made from cotton, though the store has produced a few suede caps, and are planning to use different materials in the near future.

The texts are available in both Arabic and English, and include humorous or trendy slogans.

“We would say our Arabic and English captions and designs are quite distinctive. They are funny and relevant. When people browse our caps they smile and tend to comment on how much they relate to it,” Binshihon said.

When coming up with a design, the founders start by analyzing their target audience.

“We ask, are they Generation Z or Millennials, what are their interests, and so on. It’s easier because we are targeting people our age. Both generations are outspoken, attentive to the latest trends and are bombarded with memes and dark-humored captions through social media platforms. 

“We gain inspiration from our daily lives, from gatherings with friends to our incessant scrolling through Instagram and Tumblr. We write down what we and the audience can relate to, for instance, the caption ‘Never Satisfied’ — which is popular and, unfortunately, a habit for both generations. When it is time for our next order, we go through our notes that we keep for months and see what works and what does not. It is an ongoing process.”

Their brand’s message is about embracing individuality and eccentricity, said Al-Esayi. “On a surface level, our message is ephemeral because our designs are continuously changing depending on our current perceptions.”

Customers can find the Koshk at CRATE in Jeddah’s Al-Salama district.