These historic Saudi spots are about to get bigger

Travel

The young crown prince of Saudi Arabia is fast building a reputation as a bold reformer keen on weaning the kingdom off oil. Tourism has been identified as a key driver of growth in the Kingdom, and soon two historical sites will be spruced up to become major attractions.

Al Ula and Diriyah Gate are two of Saudi's most important archaeological and historical sites, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be heading the boards of commissions set up to develop them.

Saudi Arabia_Ruins of Dariyah clay castle

Photo: Palm trees and ruins of Diriyah clay castle, also known as Dereyeh and Dariyya, a town in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which was the original home of the Saudi royal family, and the capital of the Emirate of Diriyah. Image: Shutterstock

Founded in the 6th century, the town of Al-Ula is the gateway to Mada’en Saleh, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was built more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans, the ancient people who also built Petra in Jordan.

Saudi Arabia_Al Ula Madain Saleh

Photo: Unesco ancient historical place Al Ula Mada'en Saleh Saudi Arabia. / Mohammed Kamaludheen / Shutterstock

Diriyah served the Saudi royal dynasty as their first capital from 1744 to 1818, and the town boasts plenty of Najdi architecture from that period. Najdi architecture is based on the use of existing and available natural materials from the surrounding environments.

Saudi Arabia_Elephant rock Madaen Saleh

Photo: Elephant Rock Madaen Saleh, Al Ula Madina Region, Saudi Arabia. / Shutterstock / Mohamed Hashif

The historical, cultural and architectural significance of the two sites is expected to make them major tourist attractions as the Kingdom’s tourism industry gears up to welcome tourists from across the globe.

These endeavours are supported by Vision 2030, a package of economic and social policies unveiled in April 2016 that are designed to free the kingdom from dependence on oil exports.

Saudi Arabia_Diriyah clay castle

Photo: Historic cottage buildings in Diriyah clay castle, also known as Dereyeh and Dariyya, a town in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; original home of the Saudi royal family, the capital of the Emirate of Diriyah. Image: Shutterstock

The Kingdom’s hospitality and tourism sector is expecting to attract 1.5 million tourists by 2020. An Islamic museum is next on the cards, and the Kingdom aims to and raise the overall revenue generated from tourism in the next 14 years. 

(Reporting by Seban Scaria)

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