Uncovering ancient kingdoms, Saudi Arabia develops modern sites in al-Ula

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On Sunday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched mega tourism projects in the ancient desert city of al-Ula in Saudi Arabia. The projects implemented by the Royal Commission for the Governorate of al-Ula include the global fund for the Arabian leopard, the Sharaan Nature Reserve, and the Sharaan Resort, which will attract tourists to the area.

Tourism is one of the key aspects of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 to diversify the Saudi economy.

During the launch, The Royal Commission for al-Ula announced its commitment to protecting the Arabian leopard through the creation of The Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard, which is the largest conservation fund for this endangered species.

“The beautiful canyon area of Sharaan is now a designated nature reserve, setting a new standard in the region for re-balancing ecosystems and reflecting Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protecting the natural environment of al-Ula. The Sharaan Nature Reserve initiative includes the establishment of a global fund for the protection and reproduction of the Arabian leopard,” said Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan al-Saud, Saudi Minster of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for al-Ula.

Al-Ula was the site of the winter festival titled “Winter at Tantora,” which ran from December 2018 until February 2019. The festival offered its visitors a wide range of activities and entertainment performances.

“There are many spectacular places in the Kingdom that we don’t know about,” said Saudi national Fares al-Mashat, who recently visited al-Ula. “I was amazed by the natural landscape.”

The launch of the Sharaan Nature Reserve is one of the key strategic projects, which focuses on the rehabilitation of the region’s natural ecosystem and the reintroduction of wild species into the reserve.

“Our ambitions for al-Ula is led by a firm commitment to preserve and nurture human and cultural heritage, and stems from the vision of our beloved kingdom,” Prince Badr said.

Al-Ula’s mountain landscape will serve as the foundation of the Sharaan Resort, which will employ architecture inspired and hosted by the area’s nature. The resort will be designed by Jean Nouvel, the French architect who designed the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Rich in cultural heritage

Al-Ula valley is located 300km north of Medina in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The area is notable for its natural heritage and rich history. The area is home to a series of important historical and archaeological sites such as Mada'in Saleh and al-Khuraybah.

The ancient city of Mada’in Saleh is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as Al-Hijr and Hegra. It 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 sandstone outcrops surrounding the walled urban settlement.

Al-Khuraybah (ancient Dadan) was the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms. It is considered to be one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula.

“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,” said Amr Al Madani, the CEO of the Royal Commission for al-Ula.