A huge tourism initiative has just been in announced in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the region of Al Ula, with plans for a magnificent resort designed by French architect also known for designing Abu Dhabi’s Louvre, Jean Nouvel. The name of the exciting new project is Sharaan and will not only feature a luxury resort located in the mountains of Al Ula, but also a nature reserve, showcasing and preserving local wildlife.
The announcement was made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the governor of the Royal Commission for Al Ula, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, at a trailblazing ceremony at Saudi’s Maraya Theatre. The theatre is a mirrored concert hall that was initially built for the Winter at Tantora festival and has attracted a huge influx of visitors since opening.
MBS visiting Al Ula to announce new resort plans
Jean Nouvel spoke at the event and stated, “The decision to build in this place is brave and will allow Sharaan to be revealed on a world-wide scale.”
Greek composer Yanni, who had performed at Saudi’s winter festival told Arab News of Al Ula, “This is just so beautiful, the desert and the sky at night, the stars… the natural beauty here is stunning. I have never experienced this type of beauty before in my life.”
Al Ula was proclaimed Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008, and is known for its sandstone rock formations and the ancient civilizations of Madain Saleh, which was home to the biggest Nabatean settlement where carved rock tombs can still be found.
French architect Jean Nouvel will now be responsible for building Sharaan, and he seems to have a strong understanding of the region’s culture and history. Speaking about where he will be drawing his inspiration from, he said: “In the thickness of the rock, everything is possible, everything is stable and protected, as if weightless. Rock is an absolutely fantastic material because of its inertia. To put yourself in rock is to protect yourself. To protect yourself from extreme temperatures, to protect yourself security-wise. We’ve chosen to live in these rocks once more. To be able to frame the Sharaan landscape at different heights is amazing, discovering the distant horizons, discovering the different qualities of light, and all this in total thermal comfort.”
Sharaan will not only be a resort for tourists, but will also host residences, a spa, restaurants and more, with designs to be submitted by the end of 2019 and an estimated completion date in 2023. Welcoming tourists from around the world to Saudi Arabia’s first heritage site, the project hopes to attract 2 million visitors to the Al Ula, creating 38,000 jobs and generating SR120 billion ($32 billion) by 2035.
Sharaan will be a new development that sits in conjunction with Saudi Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 plan which is in place to ensure the development of the country’s tourism sector whilst aiming to boost the economy by helping young Saudis to achieve the skills required to establish careers. The post oil plan also aims to preserve its cultural sites and build museums in order to highlight Saudi Arabian heritage.