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

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.”

 

 

 

 

 


Misk Initiatives Center signs 12 deals to develop youth talent

Updated 15 November 2019

Misk Initiatives Center signs 12 deals to develop youth talent

  • MoUs with top firms such as Chinese tech giant Huawei, French oil major Total open new opportunities

RIYADH: The Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Foundation Misk Initiatives Center has signed 12 memorandums of understanding (MoU) on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh with local and international companies to support and develop youth talent.

Among the companies were the Chinese tech giant Huawei, the French oil firm Total, the Emirati Federal Youth Authority, and the Ministry of Economy and Planning.

The agreements stipulated joint work between the two parties in the fields of talent development in Saudi Arabia and information and communications technology, in accordance with the National Transformation Program 2020 and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

This initiative aims to find ways of cooperation and employment opportunities between the two parties.

The MoU signed between the center and the Emirati Federal Youth Authority provides for the enhancement of joint cooperation in support of youth. 

The two parties will seek to discuss future cooperation, to build a strategic partnership between the two parties in exploring potential cooperative opportunities and setting a framework for such cooperation, in addition to organizing the exchange of technologies and innovations through the joint organization of courses, forums and workshops.

The MoU aims at creating a specialized scientific dialogue between the two parties, conducting joint research at the institutes in the field of entrepreneurship and the skills of the future, considering launching joint initiatives, and examining the possibilities of cooperative programs based on the extensive experience of Misk and the Federal Youth Authority.

Misk’s Initiatives Center agreement with Total will promote joint cooperation, find training opportunities for Saudi talent at the company’s headquarters and facilities, and cooperate on educational programs that support entrepreneurship and an ecosystem for startup companies, especially in the fields of energy and technology.

The Misk Global Forum also witnessed the signing of a MoU with “Hub71” to promote learning and leadership among Saudi youth, and enhance opportunities for joint collaboration, in addition to two MoUs with 500 startups and seed stars “to promote joint cooperation between the two parties, to develop and grow the business of startups and provide them with the necessary
environment.”

Misk also signed a MoU with the Public Institution for Education and Global Leadership to promote joint cooperation and achieve the objectives of both sides, to support innovation initiatives that instill the entrepreneurial mindset of young people, as well as the establishment and organization of entrepreneurship approaches. 

Both parties agreed to focus on exploring potential collaborative opportunities related to the Entrepreneurship World Cup, and establish a competition with competitors coming from 170 countries.

Both parties also agreed to support international competitions aimed at identifying the best solutions in various fields and sectors, as well as exchanging programs on entrepreneurship and innovation.

The center has signed a MoU with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund to discuss the possibility of providing training programs and courses for the center’s employees of the Fund and the relevant authorities. In addition to discussing available opportunities for cooperative training within the Fund, and providing opportunities for participation and contribution of the Fund’s staff in Misk’s programs.

The MoU aims to explore the benefits of existing agreements between the two parties with international financial and educational institutions, in order to find opportunities that provide programs, training and educational courses, and granting cooperative trainings for Saudi youth in those global institutions.

The center also signed a MoU with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), aiming to enhance joint cooperation on educational technology and its integration into the educational systems in the Islamic world.

An MoU with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will enhance the cooperation between the two parties in several initiatives, including academic development, training, entrepreneurship and innovation programs.

An MoU with Endeavor Saudi Arabia will support the Kingdom’s youth, enhance their talents and potential, stimulate economic growth, and find ways of cooperation between the two parties that serve their common interests.

The center’s MoU with the Ministry of Economy and Planning aims to spread awareness, provide new information on the education and training of human resources in the administrative and economic fields, youth empowerment, and coordinate efforts to raise their abilities.

The MoU aims to create cooperative training opportunities in local and international institutions with the purpose of workforce growth in the Kingdom’s economic sector, contributing to the development of national competencies in the economy, policies and procedures, strategic planning, in addition to providing job opportunities for graduates from areas that serve the interests of both parties and support the achievement of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.