Jean Nouvel concept designs for Sharaan resort in AlUla unveiled

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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)
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Updated 28 October 2020

Jean Nouvel concept designs for Sharaan resort in AlUla unveiled

  • Designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sit

ALULA, Saudi Arabia: New concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel resort revealed today offer a deeper understanding of the architect’s daring vision for AlUla, the cultural oasis in north-west Arabia.

Located deep within the Sharaan Nature Reserve, the designs draw on the nearby Nabataean wonders of Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. In a world-first, this 2,000-year-old architectural legacy is being revived by Jean Nouvel for potentially the first time since the Nabataeans carved into the region’s millions-of-years-old sandstone rock.

As the concepts were unveiled, architect Jean Nouvel described AlUla as “The coming together of a landscape and history; The history of past civilizations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece.

Nouvel emphasized the importance of preserving such a unique landscape: “AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.

Nouvel’s commitment to respecting AlUla’s landscape and ancient heritage has not meant shying away from modern architectural ideas. “AlUla deserves to acquire a degree of modernity,” he suggests. “Envisioning the future is a never-ending obligation that requires us to be fully alive to places in the present as well as conjuring up the past.

Jean Nouvel explains how he’s adapting old ways of life to our modern world, minimizing the impacts on natural and urban landscapes. To do this Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before, using abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it. Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future. Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.




Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)

Nouvel views this resort as an opportunity to bring to life a strong spatial, sensorial and emotional experience on the borders of nature, architecture and art – where the sound, musicality, harshness, tactility, power and complexity of nature are everywhere, from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, all becomes an artwork in itself.

“Our project should not jeopardize what humanity and time have consecrated,” emphasizes Nouvel, “Our project is celebrating the Nabateans spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act.

Taking on a curatorial approach in the museographical sense, Jean Nouvel has created public spaces geared towards the joy of living there, by day, by night, with all the various colors, light, shadow, wind, torrential rain, and the passage of time. He invites travellers to embark on a journey through thousands of years of civilizations and geographical strata within every detail of his designs, from the permanent feel of the rocks to the soft comfort of the armchairs, sofa, and seats.

The end result will see guests immersed deep within in a memorable journey through time and space, offering a true discovery of AlUla’s essence. Through immersive experiences in Sharaan’s wilderness, visitors will have personalized exposure to the hundreds of archaeological sites within AlUla. Yet, this level of luxury will not be at the cost of the natural landscape, as the new resort will draw on emission-free power and new standards in sustainability.




Above, the new concept designs for the Sharaan by Jean Nouvel. (The Royal Commission for AlUla)

The Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort will be a key element of RCU’s strategy to develop AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and ecotourism. It is designed within The Charter of AlUla, a framework document that includes 12 guiding principles that commits The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to long-term future development. It will also contribute to the region’s diversified economy through a Retreat Summit Centre and restaurants.

Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU, said: “These concepts, which showcase Jean Nouvel’s masterly innovation in architecture, underscore our commitment to developing AlUla as a global tourism destination without compromising the history, heritage, and landscape of AlUla. We are a destination built by artists. Sharaan by Jean Nouvel will build on that legacy to become a timeless landscape-architecture that will last forever – a gift to the world.”

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world

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Saudi soundsmith Molham blends Arabic rap with Western pop

Updated 46 min 49 sec ago

Saudi soundsmith Molham blends Arabic rap with Western pop

  • Artist’s eclectic taste in music speaks to a global upbringing and the Kingdom’s promising concert scene
  • Themes of Molham’s lyrics range from love to societal matters and mental-health disorders

DUBAI: The career trajectory of Jeddah-born rap artist Molham Krayem has much in common with his native Saudi Arabia, a country undergoing rapid change in different fields. Both take pride in their unique identity, having embraced the best influences of globalization and its cultural mores while preserving the distinctive textures of Middle Eastern heritage.

For Molham, the process of synthesis does not end here. His musical alchemy fuses Arabic and Khaleeji rap with Western pop melodies, creating a whole new sub-genre of music, a sound best defined by his latest track Khayali.

“Pop/rap is going to be my direction moving forward, because rap has been relatively underground in the last two decades and mainstream radio music is very melodic,” Molham told Arab News from his base in Dubai. “You can sing along to the lyrics, memorize them easily, and the melody there is really what hooks you.”

Molham’s diverse taste in music speaks to a global upbringing since childhood. Leaving Jeddah at a young age, he spent much of his early years in Ontario, Canada. “They were my formative years,” he said. “Coming back to Saudi Arabia, I had a bit of reverse culture shock getting back here. It took about a year or so before I felt integrated really well. Then I spent most of my time here.”

Molham’s musical alchemy fuses Arabic and Khaleeji rap with Western pop melodies. (Supplied)

His discovery of music can be traced back to his high school days, when he would jot down lyrics during math class. While on breaks, he would join rap contests with his peers. Fortunately, his grades did not suffer as a result.

“Sometimes during math class, in the last couple of minutes, the teacher knew I would be writing raps, so he would end early and have me do my bit,” he said. “And the whole class would run wild. It was a conducive environment.”

Next came a move to the US, where he attended Georgetown University to study finance and economics. While there, he performed in coffee shops, talent shows and radio stations as part of a duo called 705B. It was also while here that Molham came to understand the complexities of the music industry.

After graduation, he relocated to Dubai and began plotting a course to professional fulfilment and success.

“Before, I never really saw a music career as a possibility,” he said. “As I dug deeper into what I wanted my impact in this world to be, I saw myself as an artist creating music (for) the Saudi Arabian community.”

From his very first performance, Molham knew he had made the right choice. “My first time performing publicly on stage was in Saudi Arabia,” Molham said. “That was the first time I felt the adrenaline of what it felt like to perform. The most gratifying element for me in music is performing, being with fans and having people sing along.”

Molham says Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries should recognize the value of sharing a distinctive musical style with the outside world. (AFP)

Today, Saudi Arabia feels extremely friendly to concertgoers and welcoming to artists like Molham. Big music festivals such as MDL Beast and a whole new industry of studios and promoters have provided the ecosystem and the fan base he needed to launch his career.

“People began to understand my art, and that led to me wanting to give more,” he told Arab News.

Molham says he feels a close affinity with his fans and recalls the time a fan messaged him from hospital where she was recovering from PTSD. She told him his songs had helped her recuperate.

“When I hear things like that, it’s all worth it,” he said. “Seeing people’s responses and enjoyment of the music really is fuel to continue to put out music. It’s all about connecting with people.”

Molham explores a range of themes in his lyrics, from love to societal matters to mental-health disorders, broadening his appeal with a blend of English and Arabic. He launched his debut EP, The Time Is Yesterday, in March of 2018, with features from Egyptian starlet Malak El-Husseiny and Yusra J.

“My parents have always trusted me to do the things that I wanted to do,” says Molham. (Supplied)

The medium-length album’s breakout single, Me Against the World, hit the top hip-hop charts in the Middle East and North Africa, trending across seven different countries. New singles are already in the works.

Molham says his family has supported the choices he has made in life. “My parents have always trusted me to do the things that I wanted to do,” he said.

“It’s been really incredible. Obviously, they have their opinions on certain things. But since I was a kid, I’ve been able to do what I say because I’ve built that trust with them to be able to say something and actually do it.”

As worthy as it may be, music is not Molham’s sole vocation. He is also the founder of Kraytiv Entertainment Group, a Jeddah-based record label, content studio and talent management agency. In addition, he writes for Forbes magazine, providing his take on business strategy.

Looking to the future, he plans to shuttle between Saudi Arabia and Dubai for performances and collaborations. Although the coronavirus crisis has put a break on his travels and concerts for a time, he says it has enabled him to stay focused and further channel his creativity toward music.

Today, Saudi Arabia feels extremely friendly to concertgoers and welcoming to artists like Molham. (AFP)

Molham remains optimistic despite the blows dealt by the pandemic to the global cultural industry. “We’re prepared,” he said. “The future in the Kingdom is very bright. There is a lot of opportunity in Saudi Arabia and more nurturing of talent, so talents will mature earlier. We will see a lot of superstars.”

Citing the example of K-Pop, which became a defining image for South Korea, Molham says Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries should recognize the value of sharing a distinctive musical style with the outside world.

“There’s a space for this genre, which I’m trying to mold and shed light on,” Molham said. “I am creating this new genre called A-pop.”

Saudi Arabia’s cultural revitalization is underway at full pelt but it is early days yet, so rap artists such as Molham remain a rare breed. Which leads to the inevitable question: What reception does he get when foreigners realize he is Saudi?

“There is still a little bit of surprise, but people are pleasantly surprised,” Molham said. “It’s something new to the mainstream. With anything new, people will be surprised. But how you introduce this newness is where the key is. You show people what you have to offer, and you make space for them to appreciate it.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek