Saudi Arabia joins hands with France on sustainable development of Al-Ula


● Agreement signed in the presence of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, French President Emmanuel Macron

● Long-term project to protect, develop and promote Al-Ula’s historical and cultural sites, create thriving economy in line with Vision 2030

Paris — A historic agreement of cooperation was signed here on Tuesday as part of the ambitious development project of Al-Ula.

A region of outstanding natural and cultural significance in northwest Saudi Arabia, Al-Ula is home to the Nabataean city of Mada’in Salih, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.

In the presence of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and French President Emmanuel Macron and Gérard Mestrallet, Special Envoy of the French President for Al-Ula, the intergovernmental agreement was signed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, Governor of Al-Ula, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic

The new partnership reflects Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protect and promote world heritage and develop a sustainable tourism and cultural sector with international partners, reinforcing cooperation in all these fields through concreteactions and structured projects.

As one of the Kingdom’s primary cultural development projects, both nations will embark on a collaborative project to planning & articulating development the historical sites of Al-Ula and the necessary infrastructure for tourism in the context of a sensitive transformation of the region. The aim is to enable local, regional and international visitors to Al-Ula to experience the richness of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage, Arabian civilizations and local values, and in line with Vision 2030, to positively support the creation of a thriving economy.

Home to dramatic desert landscapes, spectacular rock formations and some of the Middle East’s most significant ancient sites, including those built by Lihyanite and Nabataean civilisations of the 1st millennium BCE and beyond, Al-Ula is a wonder of the ancient Arabian world. Originally called Hegra, Mada’in Salih was the Southern Nabataean capital with Petra the Northern capital.

Situated at a historic crossroads of civilisations, this 22,561km² area located 300km north of Madinah, has been on an important route of travel used from at least the first millennium BCE for the trade of valuable commodities such as frankincense and myrrh, and has witnessed a history of exchange between cultures.

Both parties are driven by a joint commitment & willingness to protect and promote world heritage and environment, to support sustainable tourism, cultural and educational programme, openness to the dialogue between culture.

The terms of the agreement are:

- An intergovernmental agreement related to the cultural, heritage, natural, tourism, human & economic development of the Al-Ula county between both States.

In order to achieve these ambitions, the agreement includes the following areas of cooperation:

o Urban master planning, infrastructure and mobility;

o Archaeological and architectural heritage preservation and planning;

o Cultural and artistic offerings and cultural engineering;

o Hospitality development promoting sustainable tourism and preservation of the environment;

o Handicraft and local economy;

o Strengthening of capacities, skills and technology transfer and provision of expertise

In addition to the agreement, further Memorandum of Understandings were signed to ensure activation of the promising partnership:

- A MoU between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and Campus France, the leading international academic and vocational public institution in France, to welcome Al-Ula’s students starting from Autumn 2018. The MoU was signed during the CEO Forum where the French institutions and companies were publicly invited to take part in the changes taking place in the Kingdom by participating in the education and professional training of Saudi youth, ensuring the success and sustainability of the economic transformation plan of the country.

- A MoU between the Royal Commission for Al-Ula and the Arab World Institute to produce a touring exhibition on Al-Ula’s Civilizations opening Spring 2019 at the Arab World Institute in Paris. The French Capital will be the first city in the world to welcome and display Al-Ula’s treasures. The exhibition will explore the Al-Ula region’s rich history from ancient times to future projects in this new era for Al-Ula.