Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Riyadh oasis project to become 'largest urban park in the world'

The entertainment project will include museums, theatres, exhibition centres and cinemas

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques launches 4 major qualitative projects with SR 86 billion in Riyadh. Courtesy Saudi Press Agency
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques launches 4 major qualitative projects with SR 86 billion in Riyadh. Courtesy Saudi Press Agency

Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, in the middle of the vast Arabian desert, will be turned into a green oasis with what the kingdom says will be the largest urban park in the world.

Saudi King Salman announced a massive entertainment project worth 86 billion Saudi riyals (Dh84bn) on Tuesday that will include the development of a 13.4 square kilometre park in the middle of Riyadh with 7.5 million trees planted.

The project, when implemented, is expected to increase the amount of green space in the capital 16-fold.

The project will also include Art Riyadh, a district that will include museums, theatres, exhibitions, cinemas and art academies.

Saudi lifted the ban on cinemas two years ago and has been hosting world-class acts around the country since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began a cultural liberalisation push in 2017.

The arts aspect of the project also plans to bring more than 1,000 urban, architectural and standalone art installations to be scattered throughout the Saudi capital.

Presented by Prince Mohammed as part of Saudi Vision 2030, the project aims to bring life to the city and improve the lifestyle of its residents.

It will also spur the economy by adding 70,000 new jobs – a cornerstone of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan to wean the kingdom off oil and diversify revenue.

As part of the project, a major road named after Crown Prince Mohammed will connect two natural parks.

They will be at Sulai Valley, a dramatic sand dune park including a desert zoo, and Hanifah Valley, home to the Unesco World Heritage site of Al Turaif.

The boulevard will also have sports facilities including tracks for walking, cycling and horse riding to promote a healthier lifestyle in a country where 10 per cent of the population has diabetes.

The project comes after a major announcement this year promised arts and performance events as part of reforms to diversify the economy and satisfy the growing appetite for public entertainment.

Updated: March 20, 2019 01:41 AM

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