A vital waterway: Why the Red Sea matters to Saudi Arabia

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Updated 15 December 2018

A vital waterway: Why the Red Sea matters to Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Project is an ultra-luxury destination that brings together a beautiful landscape, adventure and cultural heritage. The project’s plan is to position the Kingdom on the global tourism map, create investment opportunities for the local private sector and develop the Kingdom’s tourism industry while preserving the nation’s cultural and environmental heritage.

In July of 2017, the Red Sea project was launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, PIF deputy chairman. The luxury and sustainable international tourist destination on the west coast of the Kingdom is one of three major PIF projects. 

As part of the domestic investment strategy, PIF created three Saudi giga projects, one of which is the Red Sea Project. Located between the cities of Umluj and al-Wajh, the project covers an area of 34,000 sq km, about 500 km north of Jeddah and at the crossroads of the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa.

A team from the Red Sea Development Company led by John Pagano, its CEO, delivered a visual presentation on the master plan of the Red Sea Project at AQRA Palace in Riyadh with a detailed brief about its economic and development objectives to become a global destination in the luxury tourism sector.

Research published by Abu Dhabi-based ADCB this week highlighted the importance of developing Red Sea tourism for the non-oil economy in the Kingdom.

“New mega projects to develop tourism have been announced this year, including the ulta-luxurious Amaala tourist resort on the Red Sea and the Wadi Al-Disah project, which will extend across several archaeological sites,” said ADCB in its “Saudi Arabia: Weather watching as the winds change” report. “These projects should help to diversify the tourism mix in the country.”

“The PIF is expected to kick-start many of these projects as an anchor and seed investor with international and private sector partners likely to be sought once momentum builds.”

“The destination will provide a unique sense of place for visitors and offer nature lovers, adventurer, cultural explorers and guests looking to escape and rejuvenate, a wide range of exclusive experiences, combining luxury, tranquility, adventure and beautiful landscapes,” said Pagano during the initiation of the project in 2017. 

The project’s progress report comes in after an agreement with six countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to establish an entity of cooperation. Representatives from Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan gathered in Riyadh to discuss the initiative.

“This new maritime alliance is coming at a critical time in the history of the relations between the Arabian Peninsula and all lands west of the Red Sea area including the Gulf of Aden,” said Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics in Washington DC.

“These straits, gulfs, and ports around the Red Sea region are now filled with an increasing number of bases from land to sea to protect maritime shipping but also to safeguard littoral coast lines. The geopolitical picture is beginning to show the growing importance of the Red Sea and surrounding environs in order to safeguard transit zones and that a regional grouping is necessary.  

“Coastal development projects that boost not only the Saudi economy but other regional countries as well are important to the development of the Red Sea. Red Sea tourism projects are increasing and it is important to guarantee the safety and security of these commercial, water-front zones in a changing security environment. Ultimately, NEOM is also at the center of this effort given its trans-border plans.” 

“Importantly, the creation of the maritime zone is to continue to build strong connections with the Horn of Africa states that guarantees a coordinating mechanism as ports and economic projects expand. A key point is helping land-locked Ethiopia further develop its links to blue waters. Only through such an organization can deconfliction issues be resolved as all countries in the region work more closely together.”

The Red Sea Project destination will be developed around several geographical treasures: 200km of coastline; over 50 untouched, pristine islands with stunning coral reefs; historical sites; dormant volcanoes and nature reserves. 

The first phase of the project, scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2022, will include up to 3,000 hotel rooms, an airport to serve the destination, and yacht marinas, as well as residential properties and recreational facilities. 

By completion of all stages of the project, there will be 22 developed islands of more than 90 islands, and 70,000 jobs created. The project will play a significant role in driving economic diversification in Saudi Arabia by attracting nearly 1 million visitors every year, and achieving a contribution of SR22 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, an international affairs scholar based in Riyadh, said: “Among Saudi Arabia’s objectives is to combine all efforts and ensure joint efforts are made to secure navigation in the Red Sea, address threats that may affect its security and stability, and prevent other states, such as Iran, from using the terrorist groups in these countries. 

“The difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran is that Iran uses those terrorist militias against these countries and against the region’s security while Saudi Arabia does not use this scheme. The Kingdom aims to deal with states that have security and stability problems to make them realize the importance of security and stability in their countries, therefore motivating joint action in clearing the region of any threat that harms the security of the Red Sea. This way, all parties will benefit from future projects in which everyone is welcome to participate. 

“Thus, it is important that everyone partners in securing the Red Sea so that common goals are achieved quickly and efficiently, and then everyone can benefit from achieving these goals in investment and economic fields that serve all parties.”

Khabib ‘the Eagle’ sees immense Arab talent

A ferocious wrestler, Khabib ‘the Eagle’ Nurmagomedov holds a record of 28 wins with no losses. (Reuters)
Updated 12 min 7 sec ago

Khabib ‘the Eagle’ sees immense Arab talent

  • The lightweight champion from Russia is optimistic about future of MMA in the Middle East

MOSCOW: Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting has become the world’s most innovative sport, mainly due to the growth of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), an American MMA promotion company that brought fighters from various disciplines — from jiu-jitsu to kickboxing — to battle it out in a cage.
One such fighter is Khabib “the Eagle” Nurmagomedov, who has taken the MMA world by storm.
A ferocious wrestler hailing from the Dagestan region, Khabib holds a professional record of 28 wins with no losses. He was crowned the UFC Lightweight Champion after defeating Al Iaquinta in New York in April 2018. His latest win to defend his title was against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 9, 2019.
Arab News spoke to Khabib in Moscow about the future of the sport in the Arab world, which he sees as promising but still needs time to grow.


• Age: 31

• Height: 5’10”

• Weight: 155lbs

• Wins: 28

• Losses: 0

• Reach: 70”

“The sport is very famous in the region. Arabs love competing with each other and if you look at history, Arabs are warriors with very good spirits. They just need a little bit of time,” he said.
“Like Russia and Dagestan, it was different 10 years ago and now the sport has completely changed. I know it is difficult to make new stars, champions and athletes. I think in the next decade, a lot of Arabs are going to be top fighters.”
After being crowned champion, he was given the opportunity to defend his title against Conor McGregor, one of the most famous names in the sport. The match was dubbed the biggest fight in MMA history, drawing in 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, the highest of any UFC fight.


• 28-0 undefeated

• 8 wins by knockout

• 10 wins by submission

Khabib defeated McGregor in a rear-naked chokehold in the fourth round of their acrimonious fight last October, placing him on the world stage.
His ability to take down, control and keep his opponents on the floor — overwhelming them with damaging strikes — make him stand out from the other grapplers in MMA. Discipline, commitment and years of rigorous training in the mountains of his native Dagestan have helped him become the exceptional fighter and dominant force he is today.
In his latest fight in UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, Khabib defended his belt by beating former interim American Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier.
“I came to Abu Dhabi almost three weeks before the fight as I was worried about the jet lag and needed to get accustomed to the climate.
“It was an amazing experience for me as many people from my native Dagestan, the (former) USSR countries and my friends came to watch the match live.
“I want my next fight to be in Russia. I last fought here almost 10 years ago, in 2011, and I really want to go again. This is my goal for the match.”
Next month, Saudi Arabia’s amateur MMA outfit heads to Dagestan to train with Khabib’s team. “Over 15 people will come to my camp and train with my father and my team for a couple of weeks,” he said.

The sport is very famous in the region. Arabs love competing with each other.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Even though “the Eagle” is flying high in the UFC, he is keeping his feet on the ground and not getting carried away by his success.
“I am focused on this now and at the moment I see it as ‘I’m almost there.’ I think that a few more years of fighting will be my limit. I do not want to fight all my life. A lot of young, hungry guys are coming and I know to be undefeated and undisputed is impossible. One day, you are going to lose and one day you need to stop, you just have to know when.
“I am going to compete in the coming years. I am 31-years-old, which is not too old for the sport, but I will reach my limit by the age of 33 or 34,” he said.
“Right now, I have a couple more years to compete with the toughest challengers in the world.  Whatever opponent they give me, I am going to fight and improve my legacy and self. I want to face the best fighters in the world.”
Khabib hopes his next fight will be in Russia, but the question fans want the answer to is who will be his opponent?
It has been rumored that Tony Ferguson, who currently holds a record of 12 wins without defeat, will be next in line to face him.