The Kingdom is undergoing tremendous social and economic transformation. It is opening its doors to the world in its economic reforms and this also includes a journey to transform the country into a major global travel destination welcoming international visitors to see for themselves the changes in its society. Some of the major signposts along the way that mark this purpose led progress in sectors such as entertainment, food, sports, the arts and new adventures and experiences are taking place in the whole of Saudi Arabia
Photos: Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 A STORY OF TRANSFORMATION
QIDDIYA is planned to be the world’s largest entertainment city, at least three times bigger than Walt Disney World. It will feature over 300 leisure and entertainment facilities, including a 20,000-seat clifftop stadium, motorsports facilities, the world’s largest Six Flags theme park, a world-class waterpark, golf courses, cinemas, and a performing arts theatre. Qiddiya aims to attract over 14 million visitors per year. The US$500 million purchase of a 5.7 percent stake in Live Nation Entertainment by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund beamed out the government’s serious intent to support growth in this sector. Live Nation is the world’s largest live-entertainment company.
Over the past five years, the area of entertainment has progressed swiftly with the government lifting its 30-year ban on cinema in the Kingdom. This change has been underpinned by the over 10000 films screened across 45 cinema halls by the end of 2021 alone. Adding more power to this initiative was the fact that that the inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival would feature Arab and international films. The AlUla region will see the coming up of an exclusive, spanking new film studio to support both domestic works and attract international film and TV productions. Set to be established in the Fadhla area it will feature two sound stages with the backup of all facilities.
The performing arts in the Kingdom have witnessed huge developments, particularly so with the setting up of the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, to further improve the sector. The year 2021 ended with # Soundstorm21 the region’s biggest music festival in Riyadh, in December, with a 200-strong line-up of international artists and DJs, over four days of incredible live performances.
Live entertainment has also come by way of international entertainers such as Grammy superstar Alicia Keys at the Al Maraya Concert Hall as recently as February 2022. The American singer songwriter rocked the audience with her thrilling performance in the setting of the historic AlUla archaeological site. The event was part of the AlUla Moments season of events, which ran until March 27. She also co-host a town hall event discussing female empowerment initiatives and plans for the Kingdom’s evolved vision, alongside HRH Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, the first woman Ambassador from the Kingdom to the United States.
The Al Maraya concert hall in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern desert holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest mirrored building on earth. Five hundred seats, along with five boxes with space for up to 60 more guests have been accommodated in the main auditorium. The complex also features a terrace, a conference centre, exhibition space and a restaurant.
Another major all-family entertainer was the Cirque du Soleil’s show, Fuzion, scheduled in Jeddah on the first day of the Eid Al Fitr holidays until June 28 as part of Jeddah Season 2022 in King Abdullah Sports City. An agreement was signed by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture with the Canadian entertainment group to enable it to put on its renowned creative performances in the Kingdom. Cirque du Soleil has presented six shows in Saudi Arabia since 2018, the last of which was the “Messi 10” show, which was held in November during the Riyadh Season.
Explore the Kingdom’s amazing offerings in the canvas of modern art. Find the contemporary artsy mojo of Saudi Arabia at Desert X AlUla, where giant installations are scattered across the stunning desert landscape. A living museum, AlUla is painted by Nature’s hand to bring you even more delights to keep the artist in you inspired. Stand entranced as you gaze upon its natural beauty, ranging from the colours of the rocks… the sand – and even the fantastic shape of the rocks.
Abandon yourself to the superb culinary adventures across the Kingdom which can range from samplings of regional favourites like Kabsa and Jareesh in traditional local restaurants, to international fine dining options in the metros.
World-class restaurants, live music and a thrilling line-up of immersive art activities are the highpoints of The Groves, Riyadh’s must-visit five-star dining hot-spot. With a traditional qahwa (Arabic coffee), or just a classic cup of Joe, you can indulge your pick-me-up-cravings in hosts of pit stops in Riyadh and Jeddah, which are awash with cafés. In winter, Riyadh’s cafe culture is abuzz with the citizenry stepping out to a line-up of amazing hubs for conversations over coffee. In Jeddah, an alluring cauldron of cultures and traditions, indulge your seafood fantasies with some sensational culinary offerings.
Unmissable experiences await at the strawberry farms of Asir. Visitors loved the celebrations of the first Citrus Festival here, which brought together local farmers, traditional auctions, and delicious homemade products from AlUla’s oasis farms, which grow over 25 types of citrus fruit.
“World-class restaurants, live music and a thrilling line-up of immersive art activities are the highpoints of The Groves, Riyadh’s must- visit five-star dining hot-spot”
The envisaged Sports Boulevard in Riyadh will stretch 135 km from end-to-end and feature green pedestrian pathways, cycling lanes, horse-riding tracks, arts centers, museums, studios, libraries, conference halls, and indoor sports facilities.
Saudi Arabia has hosted the Diriyah ePrix, the PGA European Tour, the WWE Crown Jewel, the Clash on the Dunes Boxing Heavyweight Title Fight, the Saudi Cup Horse Race, and the Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Amongst the fabulous line-up of events at the Riyadh Season 21, climbing, combat games, ice hockey, next-level football challenges and much more was enjoyed by participants and viewers alike at Boulevard Riyadh City .
The Ikhmah Fashion Cavalry Show turned out to be a unique and elegant event where horses meet high fashion, against the beautiful backdrop of AlUla. The event was a fabulous showcase of antiquity and the contemporary world as it celebrated the elegance and power of the Saudi horse and the creativity of haute couture. Attendees were blown away by the fabulous parade of 10 Arabian horses attired in customised equestrian accessories outfitted by a global fashion house.
Journey to King Abdullah Economic City for its fantastic sporting allurements raging from golf to scuba diving to go-karting.
Dune bashing in Qasim is one of the hottest adrenalin-pumping activities which are becoming a huge draw for sporting buffs. This winter season adventure involves a bit of camping to embrace the tradition of Kashta, sleeping under the stars after riding a camel in the desert.
Launch your explorations of Saudi Arabia’s fabulous tourist attractions with a round of superb experiences in national capital Riyadh. This bustling hub of hectic activity is packed with wonderful galleries, intriguing souqs, cafes, malls and scores of incredible heritage sites.
Road journeys along the coastal expanses of the Red Sea offer some of the most eloquent experiences of travel in the Kingdom. This Hop-on-Hop-off road safari is great for visiting seaside towns, snorkelling and dive sites, water sport hubs and coastal restaurants. If your fancy wills there are fishing hot spots as well that you can check out.
The underwater landmarks of Saudi include Abu Galawa, to witness the unexplored Galawa reefs. Here you can see schools of Barracuda and even have the odd encounter with hammerhead or tiger sharks. As you set off exploring the developments on the coast off Neom, you are bound to hear all about incredible scuba diving sites, amongst them of a half-submerged wreck that begs to be explored up-close
Saudi Arabia has hosted the Diriyah ePrix, the PGA European Tour, the WWE Crown Jewel, the Clash on the Dunes Boxing Heavyweight Title Fight, the Saudi Cup Horse Race, and the Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix!
(Above row): Reema Juffali the first Saudi woman racing driver in the Kingdom. Vision 2030 has brought sports and recreation to the mainstream including the Dakar Rally, Formula 1 Grand Prix, Extreme E (five-stage Saudi Tour cycling race) and the Saudi international golf tournament
Go camping under the stars at Moon Mountain an hour’s drive north of Jeddah. Get blown away by its unique otherwordly landscape with its unparalleled views of the starry night skies. In Taif, the Al Sharif Museum is worth exploring for its treasure trove of incredible of antiques and artifacts -gathered by its owner for over 30 years. Travel to Taif in spring when roses become centrestage in an explosion of festivities. Farms in Taif and Al Baha are home to over 200,000 pomegranate trees, producing 30,000 tons of the flavourful fruit every year. Marvel at the unique architecture at Al Balad with its stunning and brightly coloured buildings which were constructed by using coral limestone wrested from the Red Sea.
The Riviera of the Middle East, Amaala, is an ultra-luxury tourism destination located in the north-western coast of Saudi Arabia. Focused on art, wellness, and lifestyle, Amaala will be a destination for the connoisseurs of fine living, targeting the world’s top 2.5 million ultra-high net worth travellers.