Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched on Sunday mega tourism projects in the ancient desert city of al-Ula.
Among the major strategic projects launched was the Sharaan Nature Reserve, implemented by the Royal Commission for the Governorate of al-Ula.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, Minister of Culture and Governor of the Royal Commission for al-Ula, said in a statement that the reserve has set a new standard in the region to rebalance ecosystems.
“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,” he said.
The crown prince launched the projects at a ceremony in the Maraya Theater, amid hundreds of notable guests. A sound and light show and charter for al-Ula was also presented during the ceremony.
According to the Royal Commission for al-Ula, the projects are set to rake in a $32 billion increase in GDP, over two million visitors, and 38,000 jobs by 2035.
The Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard was another project launched by the crown prince, through which the RCU aims to make the biggest fund of its kind. The fund will enable Sharaan Nature Reserve, in addition to other sites, to become a suitable area for releasing and reintroducing the Arabian Leopard.
The development of the nature reserve focuses on the rehabilitation of the region’s natural ecosystem, development of vegetation by planting indigenous acacia trees and reintroduction of wild species into the reserve based on global standards, specifically as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature Reintroduction Guidelines.
During the event, local park rangers trained by the Saudi Wildlife Authority together with the Mweka Wildlife College in Tanzania released 10 Nubian ibexes, 10 red-necked ostriches and 20 Idmi gazelles into the reserve. These species face numerous threats in the wild, and their numbers have been declining rapidly.
Muhammad Sulayem, Head of Nature at the Royal Commission, stated: “Rehabilitating the natural habitat and reintroducing endangered species into a nature reserve, has immense impact on the biodiversity of the region. We’re excited to be working with global experts, our adept team at RCU, and the community of al-Ula to restore Sharaan’s natural ecosystem.”
The launch of the Sharaan Nature Reserve is one of the key strategic projects of the Royal Commission for al-Ula (RCU), as the governorate has an abundance of archaeological treasures and ancient cities, with evidence of major civilizations including most notably the Dadan/Lihyan and the Nabataean kingdoms.
Jean Nouvel, the French architect who designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, will also build a resort in the mountains of al-Ula as part of a plan launched on Sunday night to transform the home of ancient civilizations into a destination for visitors from around the world.