Escaping the bright city lights to gaze at the starry night skies of the Arabian desert is a unique experience.
This only gets better when the stargazing experience takes place on one of the pristine islands of the Red Sea, where the constellations, and at times, the splash of the Milky Way itself, are visible to the naked eye, forming a magnificent and celestial panorama. The mighty Orion’s Belt shines brightly a couple of hours before dawn and can be admired from the shores of The Red Sea Project islands.
As The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) embarks on its journey to create unparalleled experiences on the pristine islands between Umluj and Al-Wajh, it abides by a promise to enhance the natural environment, which includes the preservation of the nocturnal habitat.
Earlier this year, the company announced its ambition to become the largest certified dark sky reserve in the world, by securing the official accreditation of the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).
In pursuit of this goal, TRSDC partnered with Cundall, a multi-disciplinary consultancy, to develop a lighting strategy for the destination. The project area extends across 28,000 square kilometers — an area about the size of Belgium — and includes 91 islands, as well as inland locations.
“The direction here is to design a lightning strategy for the airport, hotels, hospitals, schools, homes, and everything else that goes with a destination of this scale. This kind of ambition is impressive and that is why this partnership is quite unique. It is a huge challenge, but I think it is achievable. I cannot wait for the rest of the world to see what has been created. It is going to be truly magical,” said Andrew Bissell, director of Light4 at Cundall.
The team is working around the clock to ensure the destination remains an ultimate sanctuary for star gazers, by implementing the light strategy developed by Cundall.
Bissell explained how the partnership with TRSDC and its commitment to preserve the dark skies will play a key role in shaping similar plans for future developments. “It will demonstrate that great projects can be built while simultaneously enhancing the natural environment,” he said.
He emphasized that it is possible to have vibrant cities, without polluting the night sky with industrial lights. Once this approach is proven to work, he hopes it will spread globally.
Cundall will be working closely with the Smart Destination team at TRSDC to identify a way to automatically record the darkness of the night sky across the site. The team will monitor the sky with a view to keeping a monthly and annual record for the destination. If the quality of darkness in the project’s area degrades, the team will reassess the situation and implement solutions accordingly.