JEDDAH: Work has begun on a massive Saudi heritage tourism project at Souq Okaz City in Taif that will eventually cost more than $2 billion — nearly 90 percent of it invested by the private sector.
The new city will have heritage centers, museums, recreational areas and a convention center. It will create more than 15,000 jobs, with 80 percent of them on offer to young Saudis.
Souq Okaz City will also have a suburb with housing for about 750,000 people; a new international airport able to handle 5 million passengers a year in its first phase; a technology hub implemented by King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology; Taif University; and an industrial city.
The plans include five main public-sector projects: Interactive museums focusing on learning through recreation; an Okaz Museum; an exhibition and convention center offering multi-purpose halls in which to host activities, festivals, heritage events, poetry and theater fairs throughout the year; a museum for the Souq Okaz monuments next to an artisanal creative center; and Okaz park.
The 18 main projects earmarked for the private sector include recreational parks, heritage villages, open markets, hotels, environmental camps, shopping malls, hospitals and medical centers, business centers, a social club, international schools, health clubs, sports facilities and tourist accommodation.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, governor of Makkah and adviser to King Salman, laid the foundation of the new project during celebrations for the opening of the 12th annual Souq Okaz.
The city is part of the National Transformation Program and is one of the main projects of the High Committee for Taif Development, and of the Two Holy Mosques program.