Saudi Arabia, the oil-mining, journalist arresting Middle Eastern country that is attempting to rid itself of a negative global image to become a new tourist hotspot, has just revealed its latest in a line of must-visit attractions that finds itself in the most unlikely of places.
As reported by CNN Travel, Saudi Arabia plans to build a new hotel into a huge expanse of sandstone, a stone’s throw from the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Hegra (Mada’in Salih), in the country’s North West.
Taking a leaf out of Santorini’s book and resembling something that wouldn’t look out of place in the Star Wars universe, Sharaan – as it is known – has been designed by French architect Jean Nouvel to be built into the rockface to such a degree that you’ll barely pay a second look if flying overhead.
Positioned as a luxury resort unlike any other and to attract the world’s wealthiest, Sharaan will feature 40 guest suites (a mixture of one- and two-bedroom), 10 tented pavilions and 5 large resort villas, with listed amenities including “restaurants and a large spa.”
Conceived in partnership with the Royal Commission for AlUla, an official statement adds Sharaan will be a “truly unique and instantly recognisable piece of architecture – a prized global icon – that respects and responds to the integrity and authenticity of a desert environment that has remained unaltered for millennia.”
Indeed, AlUla was founded in the 6th century BC and during around 100 BC came under the rule of the Nabataeans, the same people who settled in what is now known as Petra, Jordan. It’s not surprising to learn, then, that Saudi Arabia has earmarked it as being a potentially huge tourism hotspot, owing to its historical and archaeological significance.
Sharaan is expected to be the first in a number of world-class resorts and will, as CNN says, “complement, rather than detract from, the surrounding landscape”, and with other features such as a glass-walled elevator that scales down into exposed rockface, we’d say it’s on course to fulfil its vision.
The RCU says, “Nouvel has introduced a new typology of architecture never seen before, using abstraction, sculpting within the landscape itself rather than competing with it. Inspired by the Nabateans, it plays on the old ways of living to build on the present and meet the challenges of the future.”
“Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.”
Architect Jean Nouvel adds, “Our project should not jeopardise what humanity and time have consecrated,”
“Our project is celebrating the Nabateans spirit without caricaturing it. This creation genuinely becomes a cultural act.”