Saudi King Salman lays foundation stone to mark start of $17bn Diriyah Gate project

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Diriyah Gate Project will kick off at the beginning of 2020. (SPA)
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Diriyah Gate Project will kick off at the beginning of 2020. (SPA)
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Diriyah Gate Project will kick off at the beginning of 2020. (SPA)
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Diriyah Gate Project will kick off at the beginning of 2020. (SPA)
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Updated 22 November 2019

Saudi King Salman lays foundation stone to mark start of $17bn Diriyah Gate project

DIRIYAH: Work officially began on Diriyah Gate on Wednesday, when King Salman attended the official ground-breaking ceremony and laid the foundation stone.

Work on the SR 64 billion ($17 billion) development, one of the most important projects in the Kingdom, will begin in earnest in January. It will create a global tourism destination that combines a modern city with world-class historical and cultural attractions that reflect the area’s rich heritage.

The official inauguration had been delayed for a day due to heavy rain but that did not dampen the festive mood. Before the foundation stone was laid there were a number of celebratory events, including historical reenactments and displays of traditional culture, including the Ardah dance.

The ambitious plans for Diriyah include a cultural heritage project to restore and renovate the historic area and celebrate its heritage, while also developing modern amenities to transform it into a leading tourist destination.

“Diriyah will have eight museums,” said Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Diriyah Gate project. “We are planting a million tress in Wadi Hanifa. We will have a new 15,000-seat cultural-performance center, sporting venues and all new souks. There will be a 3.5 kilometer walking path overlooking the wadi, and several thousand residences and offices.”

The new construction and development will respect and preserve the character of the area and its historic treasures, he added.

“We are not in the business of demolishing,” said Inzerillo. “We don’t like that word. We are in the business of restoring what has authenticity. If something doesn’t conform or comply with the authenticity of the Najd architecture, we will buy it and replace it with what does.”

He noted that 55,000 tourist visas were issued by Saudi Arabia last week and the numbers will continue to grow, after the Kingdom opened up to international travelers.

“They (tourists) will be coming in big numbers — by the time we get to 2030 we will get 27 million visitors (a year) to Diriyah: 7 million international and 20 million domestic,” he added.

The Diriyah Gate project includes more than 20 hotels with a total of 3,100 rooms, and resorts with a further 300 rooms overlooking the Hanifa Valley. There will also be venues for conferences, exhibitions and weddings.

The attractions will include: The Square of King Salman, the largest gathering space in Diriyah; the Samhan Amphitheatre; the Square of the Commemorative Stone of the Kingdom’s Heroes; the Mosque Square, which will provide access to King Salman’s Mosque; and the Historical Village Square, where places, streets, gates, towers and other locations will be named after Saudi historical figures.

The museums will include: The Museum of Al-Saud House, including a pavilion dedicated to King Salman which will showcase his accomplishments and the Kingdom’s heritage; The Museum of the Saudi state and Arabian Peninsula, celebrating the region’s history and the development of the Saudi state; The Museum of the 100-stories Journey, where visitors will learn about Saudi history and culture; and Misk Heritage Museum, an educational institute that aims to encourage young people to get involved with the nation’s history and heritage by highlighting the latest research.

In addition, Diriyah Arts Center will connect past and present through modern and traditional arts and culture, while the Digital Arts Museum will offer visitors an innovative high-tech exploration of Diriyah’s history to encourage young people to explore the Kingdom’s heritage.

Education is also an important part of the project. An arts zone will include academies teaching traditional local skills such as Arabic calligraphy, Islamic arts, Najdi architecture, Najdi cuisine, and Arabian theater and music.

Diriyah Gate will have more than 100 restaurants offering the finest local and international cuisines and a wide range of retail options. The recreational zone will include entertainment and sports venues and facilities capable of hosting international sporting events and concerts, along with four sports and recreational centers.

 

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Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

Updated 08 December 2019

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

  • The attack, in which a Saudi gunman killed three Americans, is viewed as an act that does not represent Saudi people
  • The OIC has said the attacker did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people

From the king and top-level Saudi government officials to everyday Saudi citizens, all are united in condemning the attack on a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, calling it as “un-Islamic” and barbaric.

The shooting of three Americans by a Saudi gunman was an individual attack that does not represent the Kingdom’s people, it has been widely  stressed. 

For decades, many Saudis have lived in the US for work or attended universities across many states, becoming their own ambassadors. 

Nedda Akhonbay, a communications professional working in Jeddah, expressed her sadness when she heard the news.

“My condolences go out to the families of the victims as I hope they find peace in their lives after facing such a tragedy. As a Saudi-American and having spent many formative years in the US and made friends who became like family, I thought this attack was very close to home and I hope both people work together to get past it.”

“As a student who lived in the States, I never faced any problems for being a Muslim,” said Alaa Sendi, an American-Saudi lecturer working in Jeddah University.

Having obtained a PhD in electrical engineering, Dr. Nazih Al-Othmani lived between the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania for ten years in the late 1990s and was in the US during the 9/11 attacks. He recalled how Americans understood that such atrocious attacks never represented a community, and this one was no exception.

“The tragic event that took place yesterday does not represent us, this attack is unacceptable regardless of any reason and no sane person can ever accept it,” he said. “I lived in the States for many years, I was also there on 9/11, and made many American friends throughout my time there. They stood by us, they helped us, protected us and our relationship was very civil and courteous. We need to stand together to combat this dangerous tendency that can be found in every community.”

The attack at the US naval station in Pensacola, Florida, was the second incident at an American military base in this week, following another shooting at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Wednesday. (
Josh Brasted / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Many Saudis are angered over the actions of this one individual. Dr. Al-Othmani expressed his concerns about those who would take advantage of the situation and try to point a finger at Saudis.

“Though right-wingers will take advantage of the event and attack Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe many Americans will see it that way. Americans are aware enough to differentiate between the nationality of an individual and his actions,” he said.

Al-Othmani recommends that Saudi students communicate, cooperate and extend a hand of friendship to their respective communities.

In the decades of friendship and cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia, many Americans have come to work in the Kingdom and some have made it their home. 

Dr. Alia Mitchell, vice dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, is an American citizen who has been a Muslim for more than 30 years and has lived in the Kingdom for more than 20 years. She has chosen to live in the Kingdom as she sees the beauty of the religion interwoven into society, one that she believes is not represented by the shooter. 

“When something tragic that happens like this, it’s on the individual,” she said. “it doesn’t go back to the community or the society.

“I’m still sickened and mostly very, very saddened with this tragedy,” said Melanie H. “I’ve a son the same age as the shooter and can’t imagine what the pain and grief his actions would do to me as a parent. To learn that your son has caused so much hell… that he has taken others’ lives.”

She said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and I have experienced Saudi’s hospitality, warmth — nothing like what I imagined or expected before arriving. It isn’t perfect but then what country or nation is?” 

“Now that the country has opened its doors to the world, people really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover especially when criminals like this shooter make such a false, misleading cover.” 

Melanie H continued: “Do not judge a people by an individual — that’s what we Americans are all about. No judging.”


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• King Salman leads Saudi official condemnations of Florida attack

He doesn’t represent us’: Saudis tweet in solidarity with Americans over Florida Navy base shooting

 Florida shooting ‘nothing to do with gunman’s family, tribe’


“This crime does not represent us as Saudis,” said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, minister of Islamic Affairs, on his personal Twitter account. “We reject such criminal acts and we sympathize with the injured and the families of the victims. It is a horrible crime and a dishonest act.

“We condemn crimes anywhere and anytime, and we stress our complete rejection of such horrible criminal acts which Islam forbids.”

Saudi scholar and Imam of Quba Mosque in Madinah Saleh Al-Maghamsi shared the same notion. He said: “This incident should be stripped away from religion and from the country to which whoever committed this criminal act is affiliated. The Shariah does not approve of this act for it violates the texts of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet, which is based on the principle of no bloodshed. Logic also does not approve of this action.” 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the aggressor did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in tolerance, moderation and coexistence.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia also condemned the shooting incident in Florida and called it a heinous crime. 

Describing it as a crime against humanity, the senior scholars stressed that such actions were against the true teachings of Islam. They said that the Saudi people will continue to uphold their noble values and contribute to the progress and prosperity of the world and humanity.