The French ambassador to Saudi Arabia on Sunday hailed “great prospects for cooperation” between the countries during a visit to the Dadan archaeological site in Al Ula, in the north-west of the kingdom.
Ludovic Pouille posted photos and videos of his trip on social media, claiming to have had a “fruitful meeting” with archaeologist Dr Abdulrahman Alsuhaibani, co-director of the Dadan archaeological mission, and director of collections at the Commission Royal Al Ula.
Mr. Pouille was accompanied by officials of the Franco-Saudi archaeological mission in Dadan.
The RCU was established by Saudi Arabia in 2017 to preserve and develop the 2,000-year-old archaeological and historical site of Al Ula.
The Ambassador also attended a concert and rendezvous festival in Al Ula, with members of the French Agency for the Development of Al Ula (Afalula).
“Taste the best types of dates in the region and discover many of its wonderful products! Come and find out for yourself! », Declared Mr. Pouille on social networks.
Following a bilateral agreement signed in 2018, Afalula was founded to support Saudi Arabia in the agricultural, economic, tourism and cultural development of Al Ula.
The kingdom aims to develop an archaeological, cultural and tourist complex – a living open-air museum – in a region as large as Belgium.
Afalula President Gérard Mestrallet previously said that Saudi Arabia and France “share a vision” to implement a new model of economic development, focused on preserving the environment, respecting the history and inclusion of local people.
“Through art and culture, the project will be dedicated to providing an authentic tourist experience faithful to the traditions of hospitality in the Arab world,” he said.
The French agreement with the UCR will also include the training of a maximum of 1,000 scholarship holders in the fields of hotels, tourism, agriculture, archeology and heritage.
This will take place over 10 years through short training courses in France.
The agency is currently hosting the photographic exhibition Al Ula, 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 district.
The RCU has signed agreements with the IT company Aecom and a French consortium comprising Aegis, Assystem and Setec which will focus on the development of arts and culture, hospitality, community development and infrastructure in Al Ula in three stages until 2035.
“Our new partners will help us deliver a detailed and certified plan,” said Amr Al Madani, RCU Director General.
“As we focus on Phase I, we will accelerate our integrated approach towards the development of Phases II and III, in order to generate traffic and maintain a steady flow of tourists over the long term. “
Aecom President Lara Poloni welcomed the opportunity to work on the project.
“Al Ula is one of the largest and most complex development projects in the world, home to over 30,000 sites of historical significance, and we are proud to help realize the city’s vision for the future. “she said.
Update: October 31, 2021, 2:30 p.m.