Vision for Al-Ula launched

February 10, 2019

AL-ULA – The Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) announced its vision to responsibly develop Al-Ula as a world heritage destination centered around conservation and collaboration with the local community.

The projects announced include the Sharaan Nature Reserve, Sharaan Resort and the establishment of The Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier, minister of defense, and chairman of RCU, patronized the ceremony of launching the Vision for Al-Ula, hosted by the Royal Commission for Al-Ula.

The Crown Prince announced RCU’s plan to responsibly develop Al-Ula, the place of heritage for the world, into a destination centered around the conservation of the region’s spectacular natural and cultural heritage, hand-in-hand with the local community.

The ceremony was attended by a diverse audience of senior local and international officials, as well as leading arts and cultural figures, heritage and nature experts, and major investors, according to a press statement of the Royal Commission.

Minister of Culture and Governor of RCU Prince Badr Bin Abdullah Al Saud said: “With a past that represents an authentic history of exchange and trade between cultures, Al-Ula offers explorers from around the world a once-hidden destination to discover and celebrate. We invite archaeologists and visionary thinkers from around the world to explore alongside us.”

Located in the Kingdom’s northwest region, Al-Ula hosts a number of archaeological treasures and ancient cities, with evidence of major civilizations, including most notably the Dadan/Lihyan and the Nabataean kingdoms. Hegra or Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the prominent southern capital of the Nabataeans.

RCU is delivering a sensitive, responsible transformation of the region. Heritage, the local community, aspirations for Al-Ula, and the creation of a lasting footprint form Al-Ula’s narrative and underpin a destination with a unique constellation of historic and new wonders.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of RCU, stated: “The public launch of our vision for Al-Ula is an exciting step forward in our journey to protect the natural heritage of the region and share its rich cultural history around the globe. A trip to Al-Ula is like taking a journey through time; where every rock tells a story, and we want to introduce this beautiful place to the world.”

As part of its mission to protect and responsibly develop the Kingdom’ world heritage site, the Royal Commission maintains strong partnerships with international experts, one of which is the partnership with France, namely with the French Agency for Al-Ula Development (AFALULA). Minister of Culture of France Franck Riester attended the ceremony to celebrate this

continued partnership. AFALULA Executive President Gérard Mestrallet said: “Witnessing the launch of the vision for this unique destination is beyond inspiring. We look forward to the continued partnership with RCU on how the exploration of Al-Ula can develop a global destination loved by the world.”

Highly committed to preserving the natural integrity of Al-Ula’s landscapes and to re-establishing the rich diversity of plant-life and wildlife that once flourished here, the canyon area of Sharaan has been designated a nature reserve. This reserve will set a new standard for restoring fragile ecosystems and reflecting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protecting the earth’s natural environment. A number of endangered animal species including Nubian ibexes, red-necked ostriches and idmi gazelles were also reintroduced into the reserve. As part of this conservation initiative, the Royal Commission announced its goal to create the Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard, the world’s largest fund to protect the endangered big cat native to the mountains of the region.

Additionally, the Royal Commission broke ground on the site for the just-announced Sharaan Resort, a responsibly-designed development and summit center designed by iconic French architect Jean Nouvel. The Resort will be uniquely integrated into its monumental sandstone setting, a testament to architecture rooted in Nabatean history and hosted by nature. Realizing Al-Ula’s potential to become a premier visitor destination will be additionally made possible through fostering an experience-driven economy, with the local community driving this sector through its cultural roots.

As a cornerstone of Vision 2030, RCU will contribute SR 120 billion in growth to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2035 through these projects, much of which will be injected in the local Al-Ula economy. To help achieve this vision, the Royal Commission is engaging the local community heavily in these projects through the Hammayah program, in which 2,500 residents will train to be advocates for Al-Ula’s natural and human heritage. The Royal Commission has launched a second round of its successful international scholarship program, which helps connect qualified applicants with study abroad opportunities in the United States, the United Kingdom or France in fields that relate to the development plans for Al-Ula.

As these initiatives get underway, RCU remains committed to excellence and best-practice, working with universities and specialist institutions throughout the world in all related fields. It continues to mobilize its expert archaeology program to survey and uncover the layers of history in the region. The first step has been to establish a comprehensive understanding of the cultural heritage of the landscape, using the latest technologies and recording the findings in a bespoke database. This work will contribute to the creation of a Centre of Excellence for global knowledge exchange and research in heritage, archaeology and conservation.

About Al-Ula

Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in North-West Saudi Arabia, Al-Ula is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. The vast area, covering 22,561sq. km, includes a lush oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites dating back thousands of years to when the Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms reigned.

The most well-known and recognized site in Al-Ula is Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 52-hectare ancient city was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and is comprised of more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut out of the sandstone outcrops surrounding the walled urban settlement. Current research suggests Hegra was the most southern outpost of the Roman Empire after conquering the Nabataeans in 106 CE.

In addition to Hegra, Al-Ula is home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites such as: Al-Khuraybah (ancient Dadan), the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions.

The Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU) was established by royal decree in July 2017 to protect and safeguard Al-Ula, a region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in North-West Saudi Arabia. RCU is embarking on a long-term plan to develop and deliver a sensitive, sustainable transformation of the region, reaffirming it as one of country’s most important archaeological and cultural destinations and preparing it to welcome visitors from around the world. RCU’s development work in Al-Ula encompasses a broad range of initiatives across archaeology, tourism, culture, education and the arts, reflecting the ambitious commitment to cultivate tourism and leisure in Saudi Arabia, outlined in Vision 2030.

The French Agency for Al-Ula Development was established in July 2018 after the signing in Paris in April 2018 of a bilateral agreement between France and Saudi Arabia concerning the development of Al-Ula.

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