One of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects and most beloved sites is the home of the founding fathers, Diriyah.
In one year, it has played host to Russian President Vladimir Putin, numerous delegates and was the prime location for Formula E, but behind all the glitz and glamour, a team of Saudis are working hard to make it a major tourist destination.
Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA), is going local with its employees — 278 out of 355 are Saudi, with 45 from Diriyah. The employees feel a sense of pride, nurturing their county and showcasing its history.
Established in July 2017, the DGDA aims to preserve the culture of Diriyah, celebrate its community, and make it a landmark that celebrates Saudi Arabia.
Considered one of the Kingdom’s most important historical sites and the capital of the first Saudi state, Diriyah is home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif, a mud-brick city that stands as the birthplace of the first Saudi state.
“Diriyah has a special place in my heart because it’s the home of my forefathers. It’s an honor for me to add to their legacy and to improve upon this cartel of history that is so full of meaning,” said Princess Al-Johara Al-Saud, the DGDA’s branded content and collaboration officer, to Arab News. “I am privileged to be part of a team that’s sole focus is to give Diriyah its proper place as the jewel of the Kingdom.”
Merging past, present, and future, “Diriyah is the gateway of the future of Saudi Arabia,” said Danielle Atkins, chief of marketing and communications officer at the DGDA. She said that the team were all young and Saudi, and “if you want to see vision 2030 in 2020 just come to my office. The DGDA really does embody Vision 2030 in 2020.”
Al-Johara was one of Atkins’ first hires. “I feel empowered and supported, working alongside so many prominent women in the marketing team,” she said. “We all feel so proud to be contributing to the preservation and promotion of Diriyah, under the umbrella of Vision 2030 and the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His mission to enable women in Saudi Arabia has driven us to push forward and to play an instrumental role in making the vision a reality in 2020.”
The marketing team at DGDA, headed by Atkins, is composed of 31 employees, 18 of whom are women. Atkins’ goal is to empower Saudi women and to have them as confident leaders taking the reins.
One of the DGDA’s initiatives is its graduate program. Launched in November 2019, 19 people enrolled, 79 percent of whom were females. The students are expected to complete the program by November 2020, with the possibility of joining the DGDA as full-time team members.
Haifa Al-Ruwaished is currently in the graduate program, and being from Diriyah, she says it was an honor to be able to work alongside passionate and enthusiastic members serving both her county and country.
Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the DGDA, said: “This is such an inspiring time for Saudi youth, especially women, and we are proud to play our part. We are passionate about giving back to the communities of Diriyah and knew that we needed to start with the talent of tomorrow. The graduates from Diriyah that have become part of the DGDA are already stars and I’m confident they will take important roles in shaping the future of the Kingdom. We are especially proud that a majority of the graduates who have joined are women.”
“As a local from Diriyah, I am honored to join the entity that is tasked with benchmarking my county as the premier culture and lifestyle hub in the heart of Saudi Arabia,” said Munirah Binhalwan, executive assistant to the chief of marketing and communications officer. “Being part of the team that is making history and breaking ground fills my heart with joy, as I am finally honoring my community.”
The positive work atmosphere and teamwork amongst the members of the DGDA is setting an example and providing a platform for growth to many of the members.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the change that’s developing Diriyah as a county. To work hand in hand with everyone. We are learning and experiencing new things that are furthering our knowledge and expertise,” Maram Al-Nemer, media production senior officer at the DGDA, told Arab News.
With a goal set to help change the Kingdom’s perception in the world, a quite ambitious goal, Atkins believes her role is to act as a catalyst to “show what a unique and special place this is and also to see the young women in my team become confident leaders. That’s what success looks like for me.”