Masterplan aims to protect, preserve and sustainably rejuvenate massive historical region
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched the ‘Journey through Time’ masterplan as part of the AlUla Development programme, marking a new chapter in the development of the historical AlUla region, which has been described as the world’s largest living museum.
Located 1,100km from Riyadh in north-west Saudi Arabia, AlUla is a vast area covering 22,561sqkm, including an oasis valley, sandstone mountains, and ancient cultural heritage sites that date back thousands of years, a statement explained.
Described as a ‘complex and elegant urban planning solution’, the Journey through Time masterplan aims to use innovation to maintain a balance between nature, heritage, culture and sustainable development. The roadmap aims to protect, preserve, and sustainably rejuvenate AlUla, forming the backbone of the project.
According to the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), work has begun across all sectors of AlUla’s development: community, arts and culture, heritage and archaeology, nature and wildlife, agriculture, tourism and hospitality and infrastructure.
Once completed, it will see the establishment of five unique districts in the heart of AlUla, from Old Town in the south to Hegra Historical City in the north, each shaped by the site’s natural and cultural heritage.
All the districts – AlUla Old Town; Dadan; Jabal Ikmah; Nabataean Horizon and Hegra Historical City – will each focus on an existing heritage site and will be traversed by AlUla’s ancient oasis.
Under the masterplan, a 9km portion, constituting the heart of the Cultural Oasis, will be fully rejuvenated, starting in AlUla Old Town.
Furthermore, a total of 5,000 additional room keys will be added into the overall target of 9,400 keys by 2035, with each district set to offer its own tailored blend of living and hospitality options, ranging from hotels and eco-tourism resorts to luxury lodges and canyon farms carved into the sandstone rocks.
In addition, 15 new cultural assets including museums, galleries and cultural centres will also be developed as landmarks across the district.
A 20km-long ‘Wadi of Hospitality’ will run along the ancient oasis’s bed, connecting the five districts and acting as the green pedestrian ‘spine’ of The Journey Through Time, the statement explained.
A 46km low-carbon tram line will connect AlUla International Airport to the five districts. A scenic roadway as well as bicycle, equestrian and pedestrian trails will also promote a smooth and experiential approach to mobility.
The wadi and the low-carbon tramway will mostly follow the route used by pilgrims on the Hijaz Railway for many centuries before, ensuring a memorable visual and interpretive experience of the transition from oasis to desert.
Unveiling the masterplan, Mohammed bin Salman said: “Today, we embark on a journey to preserve the world’s largest cultural oasis and advance our understanding of 200,000 years of heritage. The Journey Through Time master plan is a leap forward to sustainably and responsibly develop AlUla and share our cultural legacy with the world.”
He also launched two flagship projects of the masterplan – the Kingdoms Institute and the Cultural Oasis – that reflect Saudi Arabia’s commitment to offer the world a viable model for protecting, preserving and contributing to the world’s cultural and natural legacy.
The Kingdoms Institute will be a global hub for archaeological knowledge and research dedicated to the cultures and civilisations that have inhabited this area for more than 7,000 years, including the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan and the magnificent Nabataeans, who built the city of Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According RCU, the Journey Through Time Masterplan is the first in a series of plans for AlUla and constitutes the first and most important part of AlUla’s development.
It will be implemented in three phases until 2035, while the first phase is set to be completed by 2023, aiming to provide a comprehensive visitor-centric experience.
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.
AlUla will contribute $32 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP. Additionally, 80% of AlUla County will have been designated as nature reserves with key flora and fauna reintroduced, it added.