AlUla provides stunning backdrop to French ambassador's talks on Saudi Arabia initiative

France and Saudi Arabia are partnering on a multi-billion cultural and tourism plan

France's ambassador to Saudi Arabia hailed “great prospects for co-operation,” between the countries during a visit to the archaeological site of Dadan in AlUla, in the north-west of the kingdom, on Sunday.

Ludovic Pouille posted pictures and videos of his trip on social media, saying he had a “fruitful meeting” with archaeologist Dr Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, co-director of the archaeological mission of Dadan, and director of collections at the Royal Commission of AlUla.

Taste the best types of dates in the region and discover many of its wonderful products! Come and find out for yourself!
Ambassador Ludovic Pouille

Mr Pouille was accompanied by officials from the French-Saudi archaeological mission at Dadan.

The RCU was established by Saudi Arabia in 2017 to preserve and develop the 2,000-year-old archaeological and historical site of AlUla.

The ambassador also attended a concert and date festival at AlUla, with members of the French Agency for the Development of AlUla (Afalula).

“Taste the best types of dates in the region and discover many of its wonderful products! Come and find out for yourself," Mr Pouille said on social media.

Following a bilateral agreement signed in 2018, Afalula was founded to support Saudi Arabia in the agricultural, economic, tourism and cultural development of AlUla.

The kingdom aims to develop an archaeological, cultural and touristic complex – an open-air living museum – in a region as large as Belgium.

Afalula chairman Gerard Mestrallet previously said that Saudi Arabia and France “share a vision” to implement a new economic development model, focused on preservation of the environment, respect for history, and inclusive of local populations.

“Through art and culture, the project will be dedicated to offering an authentic touristic experience faithful to the traditions of hospitality in the Arab World,” he said.

The French agreement with the RCU will also include training up to 1,000 recipients of scholarships in the areas of hotel management, tourism, agriculture, archaeology and heritage.

This will take place over 10 years through short courses in France.

The agency is currently hosting the photographic exhibition, AlUla, a Journey through Time by photographer Robert Polidori.

During the Future Investment Initiative held in Riyadh last week, the RCU signed agreements with French companies to accelerate the regeneration of the historic area.

The RCU signed agreements with IT firm Aecom and a French consortium comprising Aegis, Assystem and Setec that will focus on developing arts and culture, hospitality, community development, and infrastructure in AlUla over three stages until 2035.

“Our new partners will be instrumental in helping us deliver a detailed and certified plan,” said Amr Al Madani, chief executive of the RCU.

“While our focus is set on phase I, we will ramp up our integrated approach towards the development of phase II and III, to drive traffic, and sustain a regular flow of tourists in the long run.”

Aecom president Lara Poloni welcomed the opportunity to work on the project.

“AlUla is one of the world’s largest and most complex development projects, home to more than 30,000 sites of historical significance, and we are proud to help realise the city’s vision for the future,” she said.

Updated: November 02, 2021, 9:11 AM