Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the new Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation

Aya Al-Bakree
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Updated 19 June 2020

Aya Al-Bakree, CEO of the new Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation

Aya Al-Bakree is a contemporary culture specialist with almost 10 years’ experience in the arts sector in Europe and Saudi Arabia.

She is CEO of the new Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation, chaired by Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. It will hold its first biennale of contemporary art in 2021.

Al-Bakree holds a bachelor’s degree in global communications from the American University of Paris.

After graduating, she began her career at a world-renowned French art gallery, where she immersed herself in the world of international contemporary art and learned about the commercial and business sides. 

When she returned to Saudi Arabia, she gained further professional experience in the art sector with a cultural organization working across the Middle East, collaborating with locally acclaimed institutions and galleries in the Kingdom.

One of Al-Bakree’s goals is to become an educator and mediator between the Saudi art world and the international cultural community.

“Located in historical Diriyah, the Diriyah Biennale will first take place in 2021, with each edition centered around a theme chosen by the curatorial team and reflecting their research,” she told Arab News.

“The first edition will be focused on this historic moment of social change in Saudi Arabia, working with contemporary artists from the Kingdom and around the world.” 

The biennales will be educationally driven, and will be accompanied by related educational and public programs, as well as visits organized for a wide range of community groups and schools.

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

Updated 20 min 43 sec ago

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.


  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.