An eco-friendly resort carved in the mountains is coming to Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Project

Accessed through a hidden valley, Desert Rock is the first hotel to be announced for the giga-project on the kingdom's west coast

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The first hotel to be announced for the Red Sea Project in western Saudi Arabia is an eco-friendly mountain retreat that will be carved out of the surrounding peaks.

Sculpted in the desert cliffs, Desert Rock – with its uninterrupted views of the boundless wadis – will be Saudi Arabia’s newest sustainable luxury address.

Built to blend in with its environment, the mountain resort is one of Saudi Arabia's giga-projects and will encourage guests to truly connect with the surrounding nature and the region's local culture.

Desert Rock is accessed through a hidden valley, nestled between the mountains. It will have 48 villas and 12 hotel rooms that will be dotted across the cliff-strewn landscape.

Guests will be able to choose where they want to bed down, choosing anything from a ground-level dwelling or a crevice suite in the middle of the mountain, to an excavated room located within the rock massif.

All of the villas and hotel rooms will be designed to work with the landscape. This means Desert Rock will not dominate its setting, which will instead remain as the silhouette of the Saudi mountain range.

The resort is the work of Oppenheim Architecture, a company that's known for its philosophy of building with the land, rather than on the land.

“We wanted to create a destination that allows guests to experience Saudi Arabia’s untouched beauty," said John Pagano, chief executive at The Red Sea Development Company.

"Desert Rock will provide guests with uninterrupted spectacular views while preserving the natural landscape for future generations to enjoy.”

Endless wadi views and dark-sky tourism

From each room at Desert Rock, guests will enjoy views of the endless landscape. These wide-open views are being carefully preserved, with developers building access roads to the hotel right on the edge of the wadi, hidden behind landscape mounds when possible.

This design will also minimise sound and light pollution, making the resort an ideal choice for travellers who want to indulge in some stargazing.

Guests staying at Desert Rock will be able to enjoy a first-class spa and the region's lagoon oasis. There will also be a fitness centre where several activities will be offered, including hiking and dune-buggy tours.

The resort will be staffed by local people who will also conduct tours of the region, giving travellers the chance to find out more about the kingdom.

Remote destination dining areas will allow travellers to sample regional cuisine in splendid isolation.

Repurposing mountain rock to create a sustainable resort

The entire project is focused on sustainability. Its architecture is designed to reduce energy consumption and preserve water. Harvested rainwater will be used to regenerate native flora in the area.

As developers excavate the site, rock and stone removed from the landscape will be repurposed to form the resort's infrastructure. Stone taken from the mountain will be used to build the interior and exterior walls, while ground stone and sand will be used to make concrete aggregate, the principal building material for the hotel.

“Desert Rock is one of the most dramatic desert landscapes in the world, which is why we wanted to use the architecture as a way to honour and respect it,” said Chad Oppenheim, founder of Oppenheim Architecture.

“By utilising natural materials and integrating the resort into the rock, guests can connect physically with the destination and experience Saudi Arabia’s stunning, natural beauty.”

Construction at Desert Rock is already under way with site preparation having started in July. It’s part of Phase One of the Red Sea Project.

The project spans more than 28,000 square kilometres of untouched land and pristine waters including an archipelago of more than 90 islands that have been said to rival those in the Maldives.

The region is also filled with sweeping desert dunes, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient cultural and heritage sites. The Red Sea Project is on track to welcome its first guests by next year.

Last week, Saudi Arabia announced it was merging two government-owned developers working on Red Sea tourism projects. The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala are being merged into a single entity as the kingdom accelerates the development of its tourism industry.

Updated: September 27, 2021, 2:32 PM