AlUla to be transformed into a living museum

Dadan District, the Ancient Kingdoms of North Arabia, is set to become one of the cultural centres of Saudi Arabia. The Kingdoms Institute was constructed in this district

His Royal Highness the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), has unveiled "The Journey Through Time", a visionary masterplan that sets to responsibly and sustainably develop the core historical area of AlUla, Saudi Arabia.

"The Journey Through Time" represents a key milestone in the transformation of AlUla into a global destination for heritage, culture, and nature, and contributes to the advancement of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030.

Under the leadership of HRH the Crown Prince, Chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla, and the guidance of HRH Prince Badr, the Saudi Minister of Culture, and the Governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), the plan will be implemented in three phases until 2035, with the first phase set to be completed by 2023.

Upon completion of the wider development strategy for AlUla in 2035, 38,000 new jobs amid a population grown to 130,000 will have been created while AlUla will contribute SAR120 billion ($31. billion) to the kingdom's GDP.

The Journey Through Time Masterplan was envisioned as a way to capture the deep-rooted essence of what AlUla already is - an oasis of unique culture, heritage, nature and community – while curating a timeless legacy with stories of the past to inform the future and open new chapters in AlUla's unfolding history.

As part of the masterplan, five districts spanning the 20km heart of AlUla will serve as waypoints on the ‘Journey Through Time’, representing a Living Museum.

The five key districts envisioned in the masterplan include the AlUla Old Town, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, Nabataean Horizon, and Hegra Historical City.

Each of these districts is a cultural landmark in its own right and reflective of the topography and nature that is unique to each location. The highly differentiated experiences and cultural assets are designed to be visitor-centric, rewarding more immersive discovery of the region’s rich culture and history.

Fifteen new cultural assets including museums, galleries, and cultural centres are planned as part of the masterplan, serving as landmarks across each district. Besides, 5,000 room keys will also be added, with each district offering its tailored blend of living and hospitality options, ranging from hotels and eco-tourism resorts to exclusive lodges and canyon farms carved into the sandstone rocks.

The Kingdoms Institute, one of the plan’s flagship components, will be a global hub for archaeological knowledge and research dedicated to the cultures and civilizations that have inhabited this area for more than 7,000 years. This includes the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan and the magnificent Nabataeans, who built the city of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The masterplan offers several sustainable mobility solutions to help visitors traverse each of the districts, to minimise road congestion and noise levels. A scenic roadway as well as bicycle, equestrian, and pedestrian trails will promote a smooth and experiential approach to mobility, championing low-carbon journeys.

Reflecting AlUla’s standing as a historic crossroads and the cultural center of northwestern Arabia, the historical tramway will ensure that visitors enjoy a memorable and historically stimulating experience, connecting from AlUla’s International Airport to the five districts.

The masterplan also serves as an investment in AlUla’s citizens and their future, emphasizing RCU’s commitment to community inclusivity. Fully embedded within the plan, new community-driven services, amenities as well as cultural and educational facilities will together promote the development of the local tourism, cultural and agricultural economies for AlUla, helping to nurture a thriving and vibrant society in a great place to live, work and explore. Also, the masterplan will contribute to the revitalization and rehabilitation of the cultural oasis, and the sustainable development of its agricultural community, as a commitment to developing the agricultural sector in AlUla.

Reinforcing Saudi Arabia’s renewed commitment to the preservation and protection of world heritage, knowledge, and research, the masterplan is backed by extensive scientific studies on AlUla’s human patterns, environmental and geological evolution, led by a team of international and Saudi experts over three years. It seeks to achieve the concept of coexistence with nature and to celebrate the cultural and historical heritage of AlUla.

As a direct result, the revitalisation of AlUla's cultural oasis and the sustainable development of its community is an integral part of the plan, in response to the challenges of sustainably and responsibly developing in a fragile desert environment. At the heart of this are several robust resiliency policies, including circularity commitments, as well as flood and improved water management and sustainable agricultural production.

Together, the two flagship projects of the masterplan – the Kingdoms Institute and the Cultural Oasis – reflect Saudi Arabia’s commitment to offering the world a viable model for protecting, preserving, and contributing to the world’s cultural and natural legacy.

Solid policies have been adopted regarding development in heritage and environmentally sensitive areas, development of AlUla community, sustainable agricultural production, improvement of water management, in addition to promoting the principles of circular economy in the masterplan.

Contributing to the Saudi Green Initiative, the regeneration of AlUla is underpinned by a strategy to rehabilitate the land and reverse the course of desertification in the area. Enabling a major expansion of AlUla’s green and open spaces up to 10 million square meters, 80 per cent of AlUla Province is also being designated as nature reserves with key flora and fauna reintroduced, as well as the conservation of wild animals.

This will be achieved through income generated by welcoming 2 million visitors annually, offering over 9,000 hotel keys in total across the six areas, and further promoting agriculture, arts and culture, and tourism as key economic drivers for AlUla. Unique opportunities brought on by the development of the masterplan will further encourage and accelerate business and investment from partners who share RCU’s values of sustainability, responsible development, and community inclusivity.