Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman on Wednesday launched “The Journey Through Time” master plan as part of the ambitious AlUla Development Program. The design and spatial vision of the “Journey Through Time” are heralded as the new chapter in AlUla’s legacy as the world’s largest living museum.
The Crown Prince also launched the Kingdoms Institute as a scientific center for research and studies of civilizations of the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula.
Within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030, the master plan commits to achieving harmonious coexistence between nature and humankind, preservation of the cultural legacy of AlUla for the world, development opportunities, and sustainable economic growth. The Crown Prince envisioned the master plan as a way to capture the essence of AlUla, 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.
The master plan is one of AlUla’s development programs to become the world’s largest living museum and a global destination for arts, heritage, culture, and nature. It establishes a new cultural legacy for AlUla and contributes to the advancement of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
The master plan is an ambitious roadmap to protect, preserve and sustainably rejuvenate AlUla, the world’s largest and oldest cultural landscape formed from the combined works of man and nature over millennia. Work has already begun across all sectors of AlUla development: community, arts and culture, heritage and archeology, nature and wildlife, agriculture, tourism and hospitality, and infrastructure.
The AlUla Development Project is the largest initiative to revive, preserve and rehabilitate the world’s largest cultural oasis, delving deep into its 200,000 years of richest heritage. The master plan is a leap forward to sustainably and responsibly develop Al-Ula and share the Kingdom’s cultural legacy with the world.
Under the leadership of the Crown Prince, who is also chairman of the Royal Commission for AlUla, and the guidance of Minister of Culture Prince Badr Bin Abdullah, who is also the governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula (RCU), the plan will be implemented in three phases until 2035, with the first phase set to be completed by 2023.
The master plan represents the first phase of a wider development strategy for AlUla, which is being overseen by RCU. Upon completion in 2035, the Commission aims to create 38,000 new jobs amid a population grown to 130,000, with AlUla contributing SR120 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP.
The master plan draws on the deep-rooted essence of what AlUla already is — an oasis of unique culture, heritage, nature, and community – promoting the inclusion of the local community in AlUla’s development process to inform the future and open new chapters in AlUla’s unfolding history.
The master plan envisages the development of five distinct districts from AlUla Old Town in the south to Hegra Historical City in the north by the year 2035. The districts also include Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and Habataen Horizon. Spanning the 20 km heart of AlUla and shaped by the site’s natural and cultural heritage, they will serve as waypoints on the Journey Through Time.
Fifteen new cultural assets, including museums, galleries, and cultural centers will serve as landmarks across each district.
Fifteen new cultural assets including museums, galleries, and cultural centers are planned as part of the master plan, 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 master plan offers several sustainable mobility solutions to help visitors traverse each of the districts, to minimize 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 master plan 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 master plan 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 master plan 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 revitalization 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 master plan — 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 master plan.
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 percent of AlUla region 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 two 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 master plan will further encourage and accelerate business and investment from partners who share RCU’s values of sustainability, responsible development, and community inclusivity.