Diriyah expected to ramp up tourism revenues

480Diriyah in the Saudi capital has the potential to become a key tourist destination following the completion of the renovation work on its historic mud houses and other buildings, according to sources.

“Diriyah is unique for its fascinating history. It is expected to ramp up tourism revenues once the renovations of the mud houses are completed and promises to be a major tourist destination now that the Kingdom has stepped up efforts to diversify the economy,” said Saad Al-Bazei, a Shoura member and writer.

Al-Bazei, a former professor at the King Saud University (KSU), noted that Diriyah was once the capital of the first Saudi state and that the government is hoping to open it up to tourists and visitors through the ambitious renovation project currently under way.

He added that Diriyah boasts a major tourist attraction in the form of Turaif, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 29, 2010. Turaif is the second historic site in Saudi Arabia to be added to the World Hertage List, following Madain Saleh in 2008.

Experts say a new building technology is being used in the renovation of the buildings in Diriyah which is in accordance with an earlier official announcement.

Abdullah Arrukhban, director of Urban Development at the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA), said: “The project to develop Diriyah is aimed at restoring it to its original historical specifications in terms of architecture and environment and adapting it to modern requirements.”

The new building technology referred to involves cladding and the use of Riyadh stones, experts said.

Cladding involves demolishing a mud house and rebuilding it or changing its façade by using aluminum cladding, according to Eller B.Mendoza, a project architect at Al-Afaq Al-Nunirah Contracting Est.

Another technique is the use of Riyadh stone or concrete blocks to construct a wall and then paint it to resemble a mud house. After constructing the concrete block wall, a plaster of cement is applied. This is painted over to look like a traditional mud house.

According to Mendoza, the ADA has been trying to preserve the traditional image of buildings by using Riyadh stones especially at the Diplomatic Quarter.

“Riyadh stone, which is like a marble slab has been used at the Al-Tuwaiq Palace, Cultural Palace and the ADA building,” said Mendoza.

The Kingdom aims to double tourism revenue by 2020 as part of plans to diversify its economy, according to Fahd Al-Rasheed, CEO and managing director of King Abdullah Economic City.

He said that the tourism sector offers “massive opportunities” for growth on the back of a major investment that is being made to build a high-speed rail network and expanding airports across the country.

He added that new infrastructure is being added to boost Umrah and Haj arrivals from 10 million a year to 20 million annually, as well as expand domestic tourism from 200 million room nights to 700 million room nights a year over the next five years.

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