Al Ula has long been known as a “haunted area.” Many Saudis believe the area is a place of jinn and evil spirits, so it should be avoided.
This development is being carried out to improve the economy by expanding the tourism sector in several areas, one of which is Al Ula.
The construction of Al Ula is divided into three phases namely 2023, 2030, 2035. As an initial fund, Saudi Arabia allocated US$2 billion or around Rs.28 trillion for the development of Al Ula area.
Royal Commission for Al Ula (RCU) CEO Amr AlMadani said funds were also received from private partnerships totaling US$3.2 billion, or around Rs.45 trillion. Funds were allocated ahead of the completion of the 2023 phased project for infrastructure priorities.
“We have no problem carrying out the first phase, including the airport development, which is already completed,” Al Madani said.
RCU was established by the Saudi Ministry of Finance in July 2017 to manage the development of the historic site.
The project, he said, would also begin developing low-carbon tramway infrastructure. This includes the first 22km of a low-carbon tramway system from a planned 46km renewable energy network upgrade, as well as upgrading water supply systems and wastewater treatment plants.
“And so far, our visitors’ experience at heritage and natural sites has been enhanced,” said Al Madani.
Al Ula is 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh. The city encompasses 22,561 square kilometers of desert, sandstone mountains and ancient heritage sites including Hegra, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Arabia.
Hegra is the site of an ancient city in the southern capital of the Nabatean Empire. The area consists of almost 100 tombs with intricate facades carved in sandstone.
In 2020, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced construction of the “Al Ula Journey Through Time Masterplan” to be completed by 2035.
The project is estimated to create 38,000 jobs, attract 2 million visitors a year, increase the region’s population to 130,000 and contribute US$32 billion to the Saudi economy.
“We entered the market. We have been actively involved with several investment companies and fund structures as of today to invest,” he said.
This investment business plan is gawked at by investors. Several international hotel companies will also be involved in the project. These include Accor/Banyan Tree and Habitas.
The majority of investors, Al Madani said, are local, but international businessmen are expected to join as the project takes shape.
To make the project a reality, Al Ula’s global center for archaeological research and conservation, the Kingdoms Institute, has been conducting extensive excavation in the city.
The team found more than 1,000 unknown scammers. Mustatil is an old rectangular building with stone walls. This research is a priority program for RCU.