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27-11-20 Events

Innovation

AlUla, “a land of opportunity” in Saudi Arabia

With the opening of Saudi Arabia to tourism, AlUla becomes one of the main tourist and economic attractions of the kingdom. As a natural, architectural and archaeological treasure, the region has become the standard-bearer of the country’s economic diversification policy and an opportunity for France to introduce its know-how via the French Agency for the Development of AlUla.

It is the jewel on which Saudi Arabia is betting while promoting its opening to tourism. This jewel is AlUla, an oasis in the province of Medina in the north-west of the kingdom. 22,561 km² of sand dunes and sandstone dotted with palm trees, mountains and rocky montains. A dream playground for lovers of desert raids. A haven of peace for wilderness aficionados. In this green, rocky and sandy setting, AlUla conceals other treasures, archaeological ones as well. Among them, Mada’in Saleh is undoubtedly the most polished one. This ancient Nabataean city extends over some 52 hectares and contains several remains and more than a hundred tombs dating from the 4th century BC. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the site is now at the centre of one of the most ambitious development projects in the region.

France at the helm of the AlUla development project

A project for which France has taken the lead alongside Saudi Arabia via the French Agency for Development in Alula (Afalula). Afalula was born out of a bilateral agreement signed on 10 April 2018 at the Elysée Palace. The agency was founded in July 2018 in Paris to support Saudi Arabia in the sustainable economic, tourist and cultural development of AlUla. “AlUla is one of the main themes of cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia today,” confirms Gérard Mestrallet, the agency’s CEO. It was created with two objectives: to co-construct this amazing project with the Saudis and to mobilise French know-how”.

“This is a land of opportunity, and Afalula is there precisely to help companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups to try their luck”.

Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of Afalula

The CEO of Afalula was one of the distinguished guests of the French young entrepreneurs’ delegation of the G20 YEA last October. On the sidelines of the virtual summit chaired by Saudi Arabia, the leader had come to meet a selection of French start-ups to showcase AfAlula’s work. “To mobilise French know-how, we inform them, we give them all the elements so that they can respond to calls for tenders and show proactivity, imagination, and innovation by coming to offer their services,” Gérard Mestrallet said. We are here to help them.”

Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of Afalula

AfAlula, a gateway for French know-how in AlUla

Thus, Afalula is today a gateway for several projects aimed at developing AlUla. The agency is involved in many fields including museography, archaeology, architecture and urban planning, agriculture and botany, tourism, education, security and water and environmental management.

Aerial view of AlUla (Saudi Arabia)

“35,000 jobs are going to be created, there will be tens of billions of dollars invested, 10,000 hotel rooms, 8 museums, with a lot of activities and services that will be made necessary”, Gérard Mestrallet is delighted to say. AlUla seems to have all the makings of a new entrepreneurial Eldorado. The Frenchman is even certain of it: “It’s a land of opportunities, and Afalula is there precisely to help companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups to try their luck”.

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