AL DIRIYAH – The celebration of history becomes a mega project

Al Diriyah Gate Development Authority aims at launching a global tourism destination in Saudi Arabia of cultural, historical, and lifestyle interest for 27 million visitors a year. By designing a daring 50 billion dollar mixed-use project, it will enclose the cultural heritage of the Unesco site with a trendy lifestyle.
Al Diriyah ruins from Lucire

Al Diriyah seat of the ancient city of At-Turaif, Saudi Arabia, Unesco heritage

Al Diriyah, Unesco At-Turaif: its mud walls speak of the resilience of a people who, despite extreme climatic conditions and scarcity of local raw materials, have handed down an original example of Saudi architecture, the Najdi building style. At-Turaif Unesco, built-in 1766 in the Al Diriyah oasis and a Unesco site since 2010, is made of sun-baked bricks, limestone extracted from the slopes of Wadi Hanifa, and timber from the sturdy tamarisk tree that once grew in the oasis. It is about 300 years old, and it is truly a miracle that it has been preserved up to us, given the fragility of the materials used. It was the cradle of the birth of the Saudi Kingdom and witness to the history of the Saudi monarchy, the Al-Saud, and it was here that the heroic battle of the opposition of the Saudis to the Ottoman Empire took place in 1818.

Al Diriyah
At-Turaif ruins in 1917 by British explorer Harry St John Bridger Philby, who settled in Jeddah and became an advisor to Ibn Saud (Diriyah Gate Development Authority)

Al Diriyah – the mega project in Saudi Arabia that launches a global cultural destination in Saudi Arabia

The mega project Al Diriyah managed by the Al Diriyah Gate Development Authority, of which Prince MBS chairs the board, aims at celebrating the history of the royal family and the Saudi people without losing sight of the economic objectives of Vision 2030: to diversify the economy, create jobs for the younger generations, launching projects of significant impact while giving visibility to the country on the global stage and of sure economic return. Mega iconic projects, which have as their leitmotiv sustainability, the use of renewable energy, correct management of waste materials, care and protection of the environment, research and technological innovation applied to increasingly green and more liveable cities.

Of course, a very ambitious challenge, especially here in Al Diriyah, where the goal is also to preserve Al-Turaif Unesco, the historical heritage of Saudi Arabia, a site of great emotional impact.

Al Diriyah will be the Beverly Hills of Riyadh, the lifestyle capital

Al Diriyah

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Al Diriyah Gate Development, with a glittering career in tourism, hospitality, and entertainment in the United States, speaks of At-Turaif Unesco as the Parthenon or the Colosseum for the Saudis. In the Masterplan, Inzerillo presents the Wadi Hanifa, the area surrounding the development, as the “future Beverly Hills of Riyadh,” naturally after revitalizing the entire area with the planned massive planting of millions of date plants and other native flora, such as it was in the past.

Inzerillo’s project draws upon a bold mix between the cultural and historical function of At-Turaif Unesco, with appropriate museums, academies, study centers, and headquarters of cultural institutions, together with a vast diversification of activities dedicated to entertainment and free time: the best of the international Hotellerie, restaurants, prestigious residential and shopping areas, offices, and outdoor attractions, such as the Formula E circuit. The pride for Saudi origins celebrations and their passion for luxury pastimes, united in one prestigious location, will make nearby Riyadh the lifestyle capital!

The 7 km development squares foresee, to date, an investment of approximately 50 billion dollars; it is estimated that they will create 55,000 jobs and 27 million visitors per year and contribute 27 billion Saudi Riyals to the country’s gross domestic product. The architectural style of the new city, which will be wholly pedestrian and strictly green, will resume the Saudi Najdi architecture and benefit from the use of the most innovative technologies in the choice of eco-sustainable building materials. It will be a city on a human scale: the very bold idea is to recreate the atmosphere of the ancient Saudi village, with pedestrian streets, squares, outdoor courtyards, souks, and bazaars. Once completed, Al Diriyah will comprise thirteen districts.

Made in Italy in the mega project Al Diriyah (so far …!)

Work on Al Diriyah has already begun: the Italian Webuild ,through its subsidiary Salini Saudi Arabia, has recently signed a 960 million euro contract for the construction of important civil and structural works, roads, tunnels and related works, as well as a huge multi-storey underground car park with 10,500 parking spaces.

A few days ago, there was also the news that Al Diriyah, among other prestigious hotels, will also have an Armani Hotel. The great Italian designer and his team of architects will collaborate with Al Diriyah Gate Development Authority for the construction of the new Armani Hotel, the third one after the Milanese and Dubai ones. Management will be entrusted to Emaar Hospitality Group.

Italy’s contribution to this mega project in terms of culture and sensitivity of restoration to enhance historical sites would undoubtedly be of great value. We hope that Made in Italy will know how to be the protagonist!

Stay tuned for the next article in my series on mega projects in Saudi Arabia: The Red Sea Development

Alessandra Serafini

Alessandra Serafini

ISBG's President

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About ISBG

Italian Saudi Business Group (ISBG) is a not for profit private association based in Milan. It operates since 2013 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, under the patronage of the Italian Consulate General and The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah.

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