The five districts along AlUla’s ‘green pedestrian spine’

AlUla old town district
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AlUla old town district
Jabal Ikmah District viewing deck. As AlUla is spread across 22,500 square km, a major mobility plan is in the works to allow visitors to move freely between districts without undue harm to the environment.
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Jabal Ikmah District viewing deck. As AlUla is spread across 22,500 square km, a major mobility plan is in the works to allow visitors to move freely between districts without undue harm to the environment.
A panoramic view of AlUla old town district
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A panoramic view of AlUla old town district
Nabatean tombs
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Nabatean tombs
Nabatean village
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Nabatean village
Wadi of hospitality
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Wadi of hospitality
The cultural oasis
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The cultural oasis
The tomb of Lihyan, son of Kuza, at Hegra.
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The tomb of Lihyan, son of Kuza, at Hegra.
Dadan district
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Dadan district
Hegra Museum
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Hegra Museum
Alula low carbon experimental tram
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Alula low carbon experimental tram
Jabal Ikmah interpretive center
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Jabal Ikmah interpretive center
Panoramic view of Dadan district
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Panoramic view of Dadan district
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Updated 15 April 2021

The five districts along AlUla’s ‘green pedestrian spine’

The five districts along  AlUla’s ‘green pedestrian spine’
  • The idea is to allow visitors to ‘journey through time’ and relive a bygone era along the ancient incense route

DUBAI: A living museum. That is hardly a phrase usually heard to describe an ancient site whose history stretches back some 2,000 years to the time of the Nabataeans, an enigmatic people whose trading empire carved out this mysterious hidden gem in the Saudi desert, known today as AlUla.

The site will soon enjoy a second chance at glory thanks to The Journey Through Time, a master plan developed under the leadership of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), and the guidance of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture and governor of the RCU.

The plan, announced on April 7, falls under Saudi Arabia’s broader Vision 2030 strategy to radically diversify its economy away from oil and embrace the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors and a host of other cultural and creative industries as it opens up to the world.

It signals a new chapter in the life of AlUla, sustainably developing the heritage site into a place of education, nature, art and leisure —  the essence of a “living museum.” The idea is to allow visitors to literally “journey through time” and relive a bygone era along the region’s ancient incense route.




Nabataean Theatre

Visitors will begin their journey at AlUla Old Town in the south before moving north into Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and the Nabataean Horizon, before concluding at Hegra Historical City, home of Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. Each district will be shaped around its specific natural and cultural heritage.

As AlUla is spread across 22,500 square km — an area roughly the size of the US state of New Jersey — a major mobility plan is in the works to allow visitors to move freely between districts without undue harm to the environment.

A 46-km low-carbon tram line will connect AlUla International Airport to the five districts and a scenic roadway will allow visitors to travel by car or, if they prefer another immersive option, on foot, by bicycle, or even on horseback.




AlUla's experimental low-carbon tram line. (Supplied)

Sustainable mobility solutions are built into the plan, “notably the AlUla experiential tram, Wadi Path and Hejaz Railway bike trail, all of which unobtrusively traverse an ancient landscape,” Phillip J. Jones, the RCU’s chief destination marketing and management officer, told Arab News.

To accommodate the expected flood of visitors, planners will provide 5,000 additional rooms to the overall target of 9,400 by 2035. These will range from luxury hotels to eco-tourism lodges.

“Hospitality is ingrained in the culture of AlUla. For millennia, AlUla has served as a vital waystation and meeting point for people from different cultures and civilizations,” Jones said.


READ MORE: The Journey Through Time: A master plan for preserving and sustainably developing Saudi Arabia’s ancient AlUla


And in addition to the site’s many ancient wonders, 15 new cultural assets will be opened along the route. “Each of our districts act as urban centers, with museums, gardens, galleries and villages, resorts, eco-lodges, riding and walking trails, as well as wellness and agriculture experiences,” Jones said.

“Through our efforts, we hope to responsibly grow the tourism industry in AlUla, develop economic prospects and contribute to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.”

A flagship component of the master plan is the Kingdoms Institute, a global hub for archaeological learning and research dedicated to cultures and civilizations that have inhabited the area for more than 7,000 years. These include the ancient kingdoms of Lihyan and Dadan as well as the Nabataeans.




Jabal Ikmah interpretive center

“AlUla has a rich legacy of creativity and culture, and we are committed to preserving, protecting and uplifting its unique cultural landscape,” Nora Al-Dabal, RCU arts and culture programming director, told Arab News.

“From the preservation of heritage sites, the establishment of the different cultural assets to programs designed to promote traditional arts and artisanal practices, many initiatives have been built into the masterplan to advance AlUla’s identity as a crossroads of civilizations.”

In Saudi Arabia’s drive to develop AlUla and open its treasures to the world, it is important to note that a crucial part of the Journey Through Time master plan is about empowering and educating the local population.

“We believe that empowering the community, which has been the cultural custodian of this county, will lead to a stronger tourism, cultural and agricultural economy for AlUla,” RCU spokesperson, Saad Al-Matrafi, told Arab News.

“Through these comprehensive measures, we hope to revitalize AlUla as a vibrant and thriving Saudi community.” 

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani chief of army staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince, deputy prime minister and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia, and reviewed bilateral relations, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Bajwa arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan will also embark on a three-day visit to the Kingdom today.

The media wing of the Pakistani military said “matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including recent developments in Afghan Peace Process, bilateral defense, security, collaboration for regional peace and connectivity were discussed” during Friday’s meeting.

 

 

“COAS said that Pakistan is resolute in its commitment to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of KSA and defense of the two Holy Mosques. The Crown Prince acknowledged Pakistan’s role toward regional peace and stability,” the military said.

“The Crown Prince also said that the relations between KSA & Pakistan are based on bonds of brotherhood & mutual trust and both nations will continue to play their part for peace, stability & betterment of Muslim Ummah.”

SPA reported that the two leaders “reviewed bilateral relations, especially in the military and defense fields, and discussed opportunities for their development, in addition to a number of issues of common concern” during their meeting.

“The meeting was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense, His Excellency the Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, National Security Adviser Dr. Musaed bin Muhammad Al-Aiban, His Excellency the Head of General Intelligence, Mr. Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan, and the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Pakistan Mr. Nawwaf bin Saeed Maliki.”

On the Pakistani side, Pakistani ambassador to the kingdom, Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar, the secretary to the army chief, Major General Muhammad Irfan, and the Defense Attaché of the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, Brig. Gen. Harun Ishaq Raja, were present.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 May 2021

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Meetings with Saudi leadership to cover areas including economics, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia today, Friday, on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In meetings with the Saudi leadership, Khan will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation including economics, trade, investment, environment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and the welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom, the foreign office said. 
“The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the Foreign Minister and other members of the Cabinet,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
During Khan’s visit, “the two sides will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest … A number of bilateral agreements/MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit.”
Khan will also meet the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary General of the World Muslim League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. 
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will also interact with the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah,” the foreign office said.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history and mutual support. The relationship is marked by close cooperation in all fields and mutual collaboration on regional and international issues, in particular those faced by the Muslim Ummah,” the foreign office said, adding:
“​Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing toward the progress and prosperity of both countries. Regular high-level bilateral visits continue to play a pivotal role in providing impetus to the fraternal ties and close cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”
Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Riyadh this week and on Wednesday discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili.
During the meeting with Al-Ruwaili, Gen Bajwa “emphasized the need to further enhance military-to-military cooperation between the two-armed forces and said that Pakistan-KSA cooperation will have positive impact on peace and security in the region.”


Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
  • There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia

Not only does she report on the growing empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia, journalist Deema Al-Khudair said that every day she gets to experience the advances and greater freedoms women in the Kingdom now enjoy as a result of the ongoing reforms under her nation’s Vision 2030 development plan.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Show” on the US Arab Radio Network on Wednesday, Al-Khudair, a reporter with Arab News, talked about her experiences and some of the stories she has worked on that reveal the changing role of women in Saudi society.

Recently, for example, she wrote a story about women who work as security guards in the women’s prayer section at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. It was exciting, she said, to see them proudly working on an equal footing with male security guards.

There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia, said Al-Khudair, including the military.

“Women have been enrolling in the military for about three years now,” she said. “But for them to be noticed (working) in the Two Holy Mosques is still relatively new.

“The female security guards in Makkah (started working there around the time of the) last Hajj season. Most of these women I interviewed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah told me they have been working there for six months.”

Previously, the women’s prayer section was monitored by women who received only the most basic training and support. Thanks to the reforms, all that has changed.

“They receive firearms training, self-defense (instruction), learned about fitness, and they took courses in Islamic studies, computer education and English to (help them) speak with foreigners visiting the mosque,” said Al-Khudair “Anything men went through, they received the same training.”

The female guards are very proud of their new roles and the advances they have made.

“All of the women feel very empowered,” she said. “One of the women I interviewed told me her whole family has a military background — all of her brothers are in the military — and this job made her feel included. She felt right at home.”

Al-Khudair said she began her journalism career in 2017, soon after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled his Vision 2030 project. The success of the initiative, an ambitious program of development and diversification in preparation for the post-oil age, depends in part on the expansion of the rights and freedoms of Saudi women.

In June 2018, for example, women in the Kingdom were granted the right to drive. Their child-custody rights were also reformed, and they were given the right to attend sporting events, among many other new freedoms.

Al-Khudair, who works on the local-news desk at Arab News, covering Saudi issues, said the past few years have been an exciting time for Saudi women.

“Honestly, I am so proud of them, myself, as a Saudi woman,” she said. “Throughout my job as a journalist I have witnessed all the changes the Kingdom went through.”

For example, she added, she has interviewed female athletes, successful businesswomen and other high-ranking Saudi women.”

Al-Khudair has written stories on many topics but said she has a special fondness for stories about children.

“Some of my favorite stories are children’s stories,” she said. For example, she interviewed a 7-year-old gymnast who said her ambition is to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.

The nation’s youngsters can even make her smile when writing about serious issues such as the coronavirus crisis.

“During the pandemic last year, we were all upset about the lockdown and I wanted to find a way to make the situation lighter. So, I interviewed children,” Al-Khudair said.

“I wanted to find out what they knew about the coronavirus. I laughed through the whole article — they thought it was some green monster that was going to turn people into zombies. I loved that article.”

* The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio, and in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 Radio. The show is streamed live on Facebook.com/ArabNews and the podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and many other podcasting providers. For more information on this and other interviews, visit ArabNews.com/RayRadioShow.


Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV
Updated 07 May 2021

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

RIYADH: Every worker in the Kingdom will be required to get inoculated against COVID-19 to be able to attend their workplaces, state TV Al Ehbariya said on Friday, quoting the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

In a series of tweets, Al Ekhbariya said the ministry was also calling on all sectors to ensure that their employees vaccinated.

The mechanism of the forthcoming policy and its date of application will be announced soon, the TV station said.

 


 

 


Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president
Updated 07 May 2021

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president

Pakistan keen on greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia: Pakistan president
  • Strong relationship gains its strength from common religious and cultural values

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed cordial relations.
This strong relationship has been nurtured by successive generations of leadership on both sides and gains its strength from common religious and cultural values and a shared desire for international peace and global development.
Saudi Arabia is held in great reverence by the people of Pakistan and there exists a deep affiliation with the Kingdom, as it is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
There also exists a complete synergy for shared development between the two countries. Pakistani engineers, construction experts and labor have played a leading role in building the infrastructure of modern Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, Pakistani doctors, bankers, entrepreneurs, academics and financial experts have played a premier role in developing the institutional infrastructure of Saudi Arabia.
The visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan in early 2019 ushered in a new area of economic cooperation.
We wish to have greater economic interaction with Saudi Arabia and also look for enhanced trade between the two countries. I am sure the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia will open further avenues of mutual cooperation and broaden understanding on issues of mutual interest.
Pakistan looks forward to the further strengthening of strategic cooperation, trade and investment.
It also looks for cooperation against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become a major challenge for the world including Muslim countries.
Long live the Pakistan-Saudi friendship!

• Dr. Arif Alvi is the president of Pakistan.