A Saudi hospitality project will allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of royals, in palaces steeped in history

Al-Hamra Palace, Tuwaiq Palace and the Red Palace in Saudi Arabia will make up the first round of boutique sites, with Khuzam Palace and Al-Saqqaf Palace also under consideration. (Supplied)
Al-Hamra Palace, Tuwaiq Palace and the Red Palace in Saudi Arabia will make up the first round of boutique sites, with Khuzam Palace and Al-Saqqaf Palace also under consideration. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 January 2022

A Saudi hospitality project will allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of royals, in palaces steeped in history

Al-Hamra Palace, Tuwaiq Palace and the Red Palace in Saudi Arabia will make up the first round of boutique sites, with Khuzam Palace and Al-Saqqaf Palace also under consideration. (Supplied)
  • Three iconic palaces will soon be transformed into hotels with luxurious interiors and unparalleled architecture 
  • Heritage experts say the Boutique Group project will open up cultural treasures of Saudi Arabia for all the world to enjoy 

MAKKAH/RIYADH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently announced the launch of the Boutique Group, which plans to transform a number of palaces of historical and cultural significance in Saudi Arabia into ultra-luxury hotels.

The move is part of the efforts to showcase the Kingdom’s rich heritage and vibrant culture to visitors from home and abroad, along with the hospitality for which the country is renowned. The first phase of the project focuses on the development of three historical destinations: Al-Hamra Palace in Jeddah, Tuwaiq Palace and Red Palace in Riyadh.

Al-Hamra Palace

Al-Hamra Palace is one of the most historically significant palaces of the modern era, according to Saleh Al-Misnad Al-Tamimi, a researcher in contemporary Saudi history.

Inspired by Andalusian culture and style, it was built during the reign of King Saud bin Abdulaziz for Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz but was not intended to host official receptions and conferences.

The palace, which is located to the north of the US embassy, was relatively small when it was built in the late 1950s, Al-Tamimi told Arab News. It was later expanded and turned into a place to receive royal guests and hold official meetings.

The prince had an office on the south side of the building, directly overlooking the palace mosque, according to Al-Tamimi. Palace employees would hear requests and complaints from citizens and then pass them on to the royal in his office, close to the reception area.

The palace hosted many important events, Al-Tamimi said, including the first conference of foreign ministers of Islamic countries in March 1970, which resulted in the formation of the General Secretariat of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, now known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.




Inspired by Andalusian culture and style, Al-Hamra Palace was built during the reign of King Saud bin Abdulaziz for Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz. (Supplied)

The many foreign leaders and heads of state who met King Faisal at the palace included US President Richard Nixon, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Lebanese President Suleiman Frangieh and Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiry. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a rare exception, who was instead received at the Royal Court in the Khuzam Palace.

Al-Hamra Palace was built by the Arab Engineering Company, which had built many similar structures in Jeddah, including those belonging to Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz and politician, economist and poet Mohammed Surur Sabban.

After its development by Boutique Group, Al-Hamra Palace will have 77 rooms, including 33 luxury suites and 44 luxury villas.

Mohammed H. Al-Ruwaili, from Al-Sudairy Cultural Center in Jouf, described the launch of the Boutique Group as a civilizational, historical and cultural-investment leap that will open up the heritage and cultural treasures of Saudi Arabia for the world to see and appreciate.

He said the project aims to capitalize on the aspect of Saudi heritage represented by the luxurious palaces that are nestled in nature and formerly owned by kings and princes, by turning them into tourist attractions that visitors from around the globe can enjoy.

With their eye-catching courtyards, gardens and floors, they will be transformed into world-class luxury hotels with ornate interior decorations and unparalleled architectural designs, he told Arab News.




The palace, which is located to the north of the US embassy, was relatively small when it was built in the late 1950s. (Supplied)

“I think we are on the verge of an important and qualitative change in investing and introducing historical and cultural destinations that have value in our country,” said Al-Ruwaili, referring to the first phase of the Boutique Group’s project.

“The announcement (by the crown prince) is historic as it is likely to be followed by important steps and stages that the citizens of Saudi Arabia will benefit from.”

Abdullah Almuneef, dean of the tourism and antiquities faculty at King Saud University, also welcomed the announcement, saying the project will ensure the restoration and preservation of the historic sites by turning them into elite tourist destinations.

“It is an important experience for the Kingdom, similar to that of Europe, where many famous palaces have benefited from restoration and preservation projects,” he said.

The Red Palace

King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of the Red Palace in Riyadh in 1942 to serve as a residence for his son, Saud, who was then the crown prince. It was also used to receive official guests.

After King Saud moved to his palace in Nasiriyah in 1956, the Red Palace became the seat of the Council of Ministers during the reigns of King Faisal, King Khalid and King Fahd, before becoming the headquarters of the Board of Grievances.




After the redevelopment, the Red Palace will have 71 rooms, including 46 luxury suites and 25 luxurious guest rooms. (Supplied)

It was called the Red Palace on account of the distinctive color of its exterior. Notable guests hosted within its walls included Egyptian presidents Nasser and Sadat, Syrian President Shukri Al-Quwatli, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and King Talal bin Abdullah of Jordan.

The palace consists of 16 suites and rooms equipped with air conditioning and ceiling fans, along with a system that allows sunlight to illuminate the palace interior. After the redevelopment, the palace will have 71 rooms, including 46 luxury suites and 25 luxurious guest rooms.

Tuwaiq Palace

Tuwaiq Palace is located in Riyadh’s diplomatic quarter, occupying an area of about 24,000 square meters. Designed in 1981 and completed in 1985, it was awarded the Aga Khan International Award for Architecture in 1998.

Now the palace is a center for cultural activities, conferences, seminars, specialized exhibitions and social activities. It also hosts workshops, festivals, meetings and training events.

It includes several halls, public facilities and hospitality spaces behind a long, wavy wall covered in Riyadh stone, a beige-colored limestone quarried in Saudi Arabia.




Designed in 1981 and completed in 1985, Tuwaiq Palace was awarded the Aga Khan International Award for Architecture in 1998. (Supplied)

It also has a three-story guesthouse overlooking the valley, with four suites and 25 rooms.

There are several reception rooms and lecture halls, all equipped with presentation and translation facilities, in addition to dining halls and other hospitality services.

Three distinctive white canopies extend over the main halls, the glass walls of which offer a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding valley, gardens and scenic outdoor paths. After redevelopment, the palace will include 96 rooms, including 40 luxury suites and 56 luxury villas.

Khuzam Palace

Although it is not currently included in the redevelopment plan, Khuzam Palace has great potential to become a boutique hotel. Located in Al-Nazla Al-Yamaniya in the southeast of historic Jeddah, the palace was named after the Khuzam tulips that grow abundantly in its grounds. Construction began in 1928 and its was completed in 1932.

“The palace was built of stone bricks and its roof was constructed using Javanese wood,” said Al-Tamimi. “About three years later, the Egyptian National Company built annexes to it that were made of reinforced concrete, including the palace that King Abdulaziz used to receive kings, heads of state, ministers, ambassadors and senior officials.”




Located in Al-Nazla Al-Yamaniya in the southeast of historic Jeddah, Khuzam Palace was named after the Khuzam tulips that grow abundantly in its grounds. (Supplied)

According to Al-Tamimi, Khuzam Palace was where the concession agreement allowing for oil exploration was signed between the Saudi government, represented by Minister of Finance Sheikh Abdullah bin Suleiman, and Standard Oil of California, represented by Lloyd Hamilton, on May 29, 1933.

The palace also hosted the signing ceremonies for a border agreement with Kuwait and a reciprocal memorandum with Egypt regarding construction projects, according to Al-Tamimi. Other notable events that took place there included the renewal of the Treaty of Jeddah with the British government in 1943, the signing of the Dhahran Airfield Agreement with the US, a commercial agreement with Syria, and a friendship treaty with Pakistan.

Such has been the significance of the palace throughout the Kingdom’s history that its iconic main gates once featured on Saudi banknotes.

Al-Saqqaf Palace

Al-Saqqaf Palace, also known as the Royal Al-Bayyadiyah Palace, is situated in the holy city of Makkah. It is expected to be included in the next phase of the Boutique Group project, as it is currently undergoing restoration work.

“The palace is a lofty beacon of architectural art and one of the oldest archeological buildings,” Samir Ahmed Barqa, a researcher of the history of Makkah, told Arab News.

“It represents heritage architectural designs and bears the Islamic architectural character because it contains a lot of Islamic arts and decorations. It also witnessed many high-level occasions throughout a royal era, whose roots extend to the first Saudi state.”




Al-Saqqaf Palace, also known as the Royal Al-Bayyadiyah Palace, is situated in the holy city of Makkah. (Supplied)

The site consists of two older palaces, Al-Bayyadiyah Al-Shamali and Al-Bayyadiyah Al-Janoubi, which were combined with a newer palace built by King Abdulaziz, who lived there from 1924.

“The palace became the seat of government when the founding king came to Makkah,” said Barqa. “After that, the palace was used as a headquarters for the deputy of King Abdulaziz in Hejaz, his son Prince Faisal, and in later periods it was used as a headquarters for the Muslim World League and then as a headquarters for Makkah Police.”




King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of several halls to host visiting presidents, kings and other dignitaries, as well as the heads of Hajj missions. (Supplied)

King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of several halls to host visiting presidents, kings and other dignitaries, as well as the heads of Hajj missions. The palace became the headquarters of the Royal Court in 1953, and then was occupied by a number of government departments between 1960 and 1982.

It includes more than 100 rooms, including a central meeting hall. The main entrance is distinguished by its exquisite grandeur.

If included in the boutique project, it would no doubt become a significant attraction for religious tourists visiting Makkah and enthralled by the Kingdom’s heritage.


Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2022

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

Japanese delegation completes training program in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A number of young Japanese diplomats completed a training program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies and Jouf University.

The program was part of an initiative aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan and included field visits, educational lectures, and tours in Riyadh and Jouf.

The Japanese diplomats visited a large number of public and private agencies including the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Shoura Council, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy and Planning, the Ministry of Culture, the headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Riyadh, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Princess Noura bint Abdul Rahman University and the headquarters of Arab News.

They also attended lectures on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its most important achievements since its launching.

The diplomats learned about Saudi Arabia’s energy sector and its future prospects, as well as the Kingdom’s efforts in combatting terrorism, and combatting financing extremism.

Jouf University organized lectures on pre-Islamic Arabic literature, and organized a distinguished touristic program to present the civilizational heritage of the region.

At the end of the training program, the Japanese delegation praised the economic, social and cultural achievements of Vision 2030, which has opened new horizons for economic diversification and income diversity, and rendered the Saudi economy a role model to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

They also praised the beauty of the Jouf region and the touristic, archeological and historical landmarks that it includes.

The program organized by Prince Saud Al-Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies to train Japanese diplomats was launched in 2015 based on a joint statement by Japan and Saudi Arabia on the occasion of the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Japan in 2014.

This story was originally published on Arab News Japan


Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination

Saudi deputy defense minister, US central command chief discuss defense coordination
  • Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday

RIYADH: Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister, on Monday met the commander of the US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, to discuss developments in the Middle East.

“We discussed our joint defense coordination, addressing regional challenges, and stressed the need to work together on preserving regional and global stability,” Prince Khalid said on Twitter.

Prince Khalid visited the Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, as part of the official visit to the US of his delegation, which began last Tuesday.

The CentCom’s area of responsibility covers the Middle East, including Egypt in Africa, and Central Asia and parts of South Asia.

On Sunday, Prince Khalid met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington during which they affirmed their countries’ common vision to confront Iran’s destabilizing policies in the region.

They also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, with Prince Khalid reaffirming Saudi Arabia’s aspirations for the Yemenis “to reach a comprehensive political solution that would move Yemen to peace and development.”

He said the UN and world organizations need “to put pressure on Houthi militias to open Taiz roads, deposit the revenues of Hodeidah port and engage seriously in peace efforts to move Yemen to security, stability, construction and prosperity.”
 


Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in

Saudi leaders congratulate new Australian PM on being sworn in
  • Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman congratulated Anthony Albanese on his being sworn in as the new prime minister of Australia, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Tuesday.

In a cable, the king wished the prime minister success and the Australian people further progress and prosperity.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to Albanese.

Australia’s new prime minister was sworn in Monday and flew to Tokyo for a summit with US President Joe Biden while vote counting continued to determine whether he will control a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change.

“I want to lead a government that has the same sentiment of optimism and hope that I think defines the Australian people,” Albanese said in his hometown of Sydney before flying to the national capital Canberra to be sworn in.

Albanese and Malaysian-born Penny Wong, Australia’s first foreign minister to be born overseas, were sworn into office by Governor-General David Hurley before the pair flew to Tokyo for a security summit on Tuesday with Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“We will return (from Japan) on Wednesday and set about implementing our agenda, our agenda that received the endorsement of the Australian people,” Albanese said, highlighting items such as climate change, affordable child care and strengthening Medicare.

(With AP)


Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

Saudi FM visits Misk Youth Council pavilion, Saudi Cafe at Davos

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan attends events on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited the Youth Council pavilion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Misk Foundation, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Prince Faisal also the Saudi Tourism Authority booth, during his participation in the World Economic Forum (Davos), in Switzerland.
The foreign minister was briefed on the youth dialogue sessions, with the aim of developing young people and enabling them to find creative solutions that seek to address future challenges facing the world.
He also toured the “Saudi Cafe” managed by the Saudi Tourism Authority, represented by the national tourism promotion of “Spirit of Saudi Arabia,” where Saudi coffee is served.
The initiative also includes presenting integrated information about tourism in the Kingdom, to raise awareness about the Kingdom as a tourist destination, for the participants in the Davos forum.


1,339 Houthi mines dismantled in Yemen

Since the beginning of the project, as many as 339,431 mines have been dismantled. (SPA)
Since the beginning of the project, as many as 339,431 mines have been dismantled. (SPA)
Updated 24 May 2022

1,339 Houthi mines dismantled in Yemen

Since the beginning of the project, as many as 339,431 mines have been dismantled. (SPA)
  • The project aims to assist the Yemeni people to effectively address the human tragedy caused by landmines, UXO and IEDs, create resilience within communities and empower them to take long-term responsibility

ADEN: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s Masam project during the third week of May dismantled 1,339 mines planted by the Houthi militia across Yemen.
It included 65 anti-personnel mines, 577 anti-tank mines, 692 unexploded ordnance and five explosive devices.
Since the beginning of the project, as many as 339,431 mines have been dismantled.
Saudi Arabia, represented by the center, seeks to use the project to clear Yemen of mines planted by the Houthi militia, which have caused deaths and injuries to innocent children, women and the elderly.
The project aims to assist the Yemeni people to effectively address the human tragedy caused by landmines, UXO and IEDs, create resilience within communities and empower them to take long-term responsibility.
Last week, Yemeni Minister of Information Muammar Al-Eryani said that the mines laid by the Houthi militia are preventing millions of people from returning to their homes, villages and farms to lead their normal lives.