The incredible plan to create the largest public park in the world at the heart of Riyadh

The incredible plan to create the largest  public park in the world at the heart of Riyadh
A key aspect of the park’s design is its location, which was carefully chosen to make it as accessible as possible to the entire population of the city. (KSP website)
Updated 21 March 2019

The incredible plan to create the largest public park in the world at the heart of Riyadh

The incredible plan to create the largest  public park in the world at the heart of Riyadh
  • King Salman Park will be five times larger than London’s Hyde Park

RIYADH: As revealed on Wednesday by Arab News, ambitious plans have been unveiled in Riyadh for the largest city park in the world. King Salman Park is part of a $23 billion project to create vast open green spaces in the Saudi capital that will create sustainable communities, drive action against climate change and provide up to 70,000 new jobs.

At 13.4 square kilometers, King Salman Park will be five times larger than London’s Hyde Park and four times larger than Central Park in New York. It aims to become a one-of-a-kind destination, with more than 160 features and attractions covering art, culture, sport and entertainment. Construction is expected to begin in the second half of this year.

The architecturally beautiful yet practical and sustainable project is more like a mini city than a park. It will have open green spaces covering 9.3 million square meters in total, split into smaller areas of up to 400,000 square meters each, along with about 300,000 square meters of water features. Connecting it all will be a 7.2 km circular pathway.

World-class athletic and sports facilities are core elements of the park, including an international-standard 18-hole, 850,000 square meter golf course. It will also host the Kingdom’s first virtual-reality playground and its first first bungee jumping and parachuting center, along with facilities for a wide range of other sports and activities.

Art and culture will be served by the Royal Art Complex, which will include six museums, water parks, and other artistic attractions. There will also be an 80,000 square meter visitors’ center, including restaurants and cafes, 12,000 residential units, 16 hotels and an office complex.

“The park is a symbol of urban development that is designed in an environmentally correct way that will match current and future requirements by integrating the park with the urban network around it,” said Basem Alshihabi, the founder and managing partner of architecture and engineering design company Omrania, which won the contract to design the park. This integration will offer great investment opportunities, he added.

The project aims to create a “human space that will bring back the human life to Riyadh, rather than the current situation where cars are the main means of transportation and there is little consideration for the natural human need to walk, ride bicycles and go running.”

A key aspect of the park’s design is its location, which was carefully chosen to make it as accessible as possible to the entire population of the city. It is well served by public transport, including five metro stations. 

“King Salman Park can be reached within 30 minutes from anywhere in Riyadh through public transport,” said Alshihabi. “In planning the mid area of the park we ensured two important features: The loop (the traffic-free path around the park) and a valley that is more than 30 meters deep and uses the micro climate in the area so that people will feel cooler while they are in it.”

King Salman Park also aims to break new ground in the use of technology, including the use of driverless cars.

“This is a pilot project in the Kingdom for self-driven cars,” said Alshihabi. “An application will enable users to request a vehicle that can pick them from the metro station, accepts electronic financial payment, and drops them off anywhere within the park, while driving safely due to its sensors.”

The 5 million square meter first phase of the park is due to be completed by the end of 2020, with the full project finished by 2024. About 400,000 visitors per day are expected, in addition to workers and residents.

“King Salman Park will change the very nature of Riyadh,” said Alshihabi. “It will actually fulfill the meaning of Al-Riyadh: The green land.”

King Salman Park is part of a massive environmentally friendly development plan for Riyadh that also includes Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art.


Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
Updated 25 January 2021

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud

Meet Shihana Alazzaz, the PIF executive making Saudi women proud
  • At 16 Shihana Alazzaz fought in the courts for her family's inheritance
  • She says she hopes her success can be seen by other women as motivation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s stance on women and their place in society remains firmly under the spotlight – with many questioning if anything has changed - that’s despite the countless female engineers, managers and boardroom directors that the Kingdom so proudly boasts of.

Still not convinced?

Then consider Shihana Alazzaz, the general counsel and Secretary-General to the board at the Public Investment Fund PIF – you might recognize her.

She was the woman sitting across from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he addressed a historic meeting on Sunday night.

Women’s status in Saudi society has been on the up since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, enabling them to pursue professions and positions of power they had only previously dreamt of – and Alazzaz’s story acts as a beacon of this achievement.

Impressed by her  credentials, many took to social media to voice their appreciation of her presence at the otherwise male-dominated table.

Twitter user @ibrahimaljallal described her as “An excellent model for Saudi women. Her competitiveness at work is the same as any man.”

Alazzaz first joined PIF as the head of transactions in the legal division in 2017.

She is now a member of the management committee at PIF, as well as other executive committees in the fund.

Alazzaz also chairs and serves on several boards and board committees of PIF portfolio companies. 

Her rise to success was not an easy one.

Her father’s death in 2002 saw her in the Saudi courts at just 16-years-old where - filled with grief – she fought for her family’s inheritance.

Armed with a handwritten note by her father, she fought long and hard to fulfill her father’s final wishes - that their guardian be her mother’s brother.

Despite her hardships, she refused to be a victim, instead choosing to chase her goals, pursue her education and make her life a success.

With her mother’s support she travelled to the UK, where she achieved her bachelor’s degree in law at Durham University.

Years later in 2019 the Kingdom’s guardianship laws saw a major overhaul as part of the ongoing Vision 2030.

The changes allowed Saudi women over 21 to be allowed to apply for passports and travel freely without the permission of a male guardian.

Other changes issued in the decrees permitted women to register a marriage, divorce, or child’s birth and to be issued official family documents – and most relevantly to Alazzaz – women were equally allowed to be their children’s guardian.

Alazzaz continued with her studies and achieved her license to practice law at the Supreme Court of New York and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice.

This in itself was major achievement as women lawyers were only allowed to be granted a license to practice from 2013 by the Ministry of Justice.

Non-conformity seems to have run in her family.

Her father, Saleh Alazzaz, chose an equally unconventional career path for a Saudi, as a photographer and author – both fields previously deemed taboo in the Kingdom - having dropped out of college where he was studying engineering.

He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 40-years-old – previously seen as a healthy man - his illness shocked the family – his death 18 months later left them devastated.

Saleh was celebrated for originality, his keen eye and passion - some of his most acclaimed pieces were conceived when he was ill.

Prior to joining PIF, Alazzaz was a practicing lawyer for nine years at various international law firms where she gained exposure to legal advisory services, transactions, and litigation across multiple sectors.

She has received recognition for her work locally, regionally and internationally.

She made Forbes Middle East’s 100 Most Powerful Women of 2020, and received multiple awards including Finance Monthly Deal Maker Awards 2016, and the Women in Business Law award presented by the International Financial Law Review (IFLR).

In an interview with KRCL RadioActive in 2017 Shihana said, “My role is to ensure that I’m not the only one. And to ensure that I encourage a lot of other females to pursue this convoluted path.”

 “I think we’ve accomplished quite a lot in a very short period of time,” she added.