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 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 stages, namely 2023, 2030, 2035. As an initial fund, Saudi Arabia provided US$2 billion or around Rp.28 trillion to develop the Al Ula area.
CEO of the Royal Commission for Al Ula (RCU), Amr AlMadani said funds were also obtained from private partnerships amounting to US$3.2 billion or around Rp45 trillion. The funds have been allocated for infrastructure priorities ahead of the completion of the 2023 phase project.
“We have no problem executing phase one, including the airport development, which has already been completed,” said Al Madani.
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 start developing a low-carbon tram infrastructure. This includes the first 22 km of a low-carbon tram system from a planned 46 km of renewable energy network development, and upgrading of water supply systems and wastewater treatment plants.
“And so far, our visitors’ experience at heritage and natural sites is being improved,” said Al Madani.
Al Ula is located 1,100 kilometers from Riyadh. The city comprises 22,561 square kilometers of desert, sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites, including Hegra, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Arabia.
Hegra is the site of an ancient city located in the main southern city of the Nabatean empire. The area consists of nearly 100 tombs with intricate facades cut into sandstone.
In 2020, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, announced the construction of the ‘Al Ula Journey Through Time Masterplan’ which is expected to be completed by 2035.
The project is estimated to create 38,000 jobs, attract 2 million visitors a year, expand the region’s population to 130,000, and contribute $32 billion to the Saudi economy.
“We have entered the market. We have been actively involved with several investment companies and fund structures to participate starting today,” he said.
The majority of investors, said Al Madani, are from the domestic area, but when the project begins to take shape, international businessmen are expected to join.
To realize the project, Al Ula’s global center for archaeological research and conservation, Kingdoms Institute, has carried out extensive excavations in the city.
The team found more than 1,000 unknown impostors. Mustatil is an ancient rectangular stone-walled building. This research is a priority program for RCU.