The first thing those flying towards the Amaala airport in Saudi Arabia will notice is an undulating, glimmering form in the distance that looks almost like an optical illusion, much like the experience of seeing a mirage in the desert.
It is just this, a mirage, that inspired the airport design for the ultra-luxury Red Sea development on the northwestern coast of the kingdom. The renderings have just been unveiled, with the terminal and control tower masterminded by UK-based Foster + Partners, while the master plan has been designed by Egis.
The airport should be operational by 2023, and plans to accommodate one million travellers per year.
A spacious light-filled courtyard will anchor the interior space of the terminal, which will cater to the ultra-high-net-worth travellers Amaala aims to attract with climate-controlled hangars where the top 0.1 per cent can park their private jets. It's tough at the top.
"The passenger experience through the entire building will be akin to a private members club – luxurious and relaxing," says Gerard Evenden of Foster + Partners. "The design seeks to establish a new model for private terminals that provides a seamless experience from resort to airplane."
What is Amaala?
This mega-project along the Red Sea, in the Tabuk province, will border the city of Neom and the Red Sea Project within the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Natural Reserve. It is being billed as a luxury tourism destination.
Dubbed the 'Riviera of the Middle East', the development will consist of 2,500 hotel rooms and 700 private residential villas along with a retail area with 200 outlets. Amaala will also feature an academy of the arts that aims to further develop young artists from Saudi Arabia and the broader region.
There are three areas of Amaala: Triple Bay will have a sports academy and resorts, with a focus on wellness; The Island will feature luxury villas and artist studios and The Coastal Development will be the arts and culture hub of the area.
The initial funding for the project will be provided by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, although the size of the investment has not been revealed. The project, which is expected to be completed in 2028, is expected to generate up to 22,000 jobs for the Kingdom.