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The New Arab Staff

Saudi Arabia unveils plans for Red Sea 'giga-resort'

The vast project will be made up of 50 resorts [Red Sea Development Company]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2021

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The British architecture company behind the designs has already been criticised for planning an airport in the kingdom.

Renowned British architecture firm Foster + Partners has unveiled the first plans for Saudi Arabia's "giga-resort" on the kingdom's Red Sea coast.

Foster + Partners published designs for the project, entitled "Coral Bloom", this week.

The resort is set to include 11 hotels "designed to give the impression that they have washed up on the beaches and nestled among the dunes almost like driftwood", said head of studio Gerard Evenden.

However, the plans for Shurayrah Island also include man-made elements including several new beaches and a dolphin-shaped lagoon.

The designs have already been given the seal of approval by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de-facto ruler who has launched ambitious development projects for the kingdom.

Bin Salman chairs the Red Sea Project, one of several mega-projects that hope to make the kingdom into a major destination for tourism and investors.

[Red Sea Development Company]

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company charged with the plans, said this week travelers will be able to visit the resort in 2022.

Hotels in Shurayrah and an international airport close by will be open by the end of 2022, he said.

Shurayrah Island will reportedly serve as the gateway to the rest of the Red Sea Project, which Riyadh envisions to be made up of nearly 50 resorts and completed by 2030. 

Another 22 previously uninhabited islands will be developed as part of the project.

Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record and adherence to a strict interpretation of Islamic law make the kingdom a hard-sell for most international tourists.

Riyadh began offering tourist visas last year, and has promised international travelers rights not afforded to Saudis. Female travelers will not be required to wear a headscarf, for example.

Riyadh, architects face criticism

Those ambitious figures come on top of plans to build a vast and futuristic city in the kingdom's northwest, also planned to be completed as part of bin Salman's "Vision 2030".

Tribal activists have accused Saudi Arabia of forcibly displacing locals to make way for the Neom mega-city.

Thousands of people have already been evicted from their homes and in April last year, tribal activist Abdul-Rahman al-Huweiti was killed by Saudi authorities while resisting the eviction efforts.

Foster + Partners was criticised last year by fellow architects for designing the planned Amaala luxury airport in Saudi Arabia.

The Architects Climate Action Network called on the firm to withdraw from the project, pointing to Foster + Partners' status as a founding signatory of Architects Declare, a network designed to promote practices to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.

The British firm subsequently withdrew from Architects Declare.

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