The inaugural excavation for Sharaan, a groundbreaking upcoming resort in Saudi Arabia’s AlUla, took place this week, marking a significant milestone for The Royal Commission for AlUla.

Designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel along with the engineering expertise of Bouygues S.A., Sharaan will offer a unique experience that contributes to AlUla’s journey development into a premier destination for sustainable luxury tourism. The resort is nestled into the rock at Sharaan Nature Reserve, blending in harmoniously with its surrounding ancient geological wonders. It will feature 38 custom suites carved into the sandstone mountains, along with comprehensive wellness facilities, family-friendly amenities, diverse dining options, and unique panoramic views.

It isn’t just the location that’s unique – it’s also the method behind its build: RCU and its contractor partners have developed construction techniques combining the ancient Nabataean practice of creating spaces within rock with modern engineering methods, to create habitable spaces that honour the past while aligning with modern-day expectations, one of which involves excavated spaces that exist on top of each other.

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Aligned with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the AlUla Sustainability Charter, this project represents RCU’s dedication to pioneering sustainable development practices. While its visionary planning, innovative construction techniques, and operational strategies are designed to minimise environmental impact while enhancing the luxury tourism experience the region, the project’s collaborative effort between RCU’s strategic direction and French expertise, particularly through the contributions of Jean Nouvel and Bouygues Construction, underscores the value of international cooperation in the sustainable development of AlUla.

Ben Hudson, chief development and construction officer at RCU, said: “The Sharaan Resort is our most ambitious project yet. This initial excavation is tangible evidence of our continued efforts to develop AlUla into a premier destination that harmonises luxury tourism with the preservation of unique cultural and natural heritage. Our work is fully guided by RCU’s environmental, social, and health impact processes, and we are ensuring that all stakeholders appreciate the special location we are working in.”

RCU aims to have 5,000 hotel rooms in AlUla by 2030 and 8,500 by 2035, and Sharaan is a flagship project that demonstrates the commitment to safeguard the area’s natural beauty and historical importance, while transforming it into a leading global destination for sustainable luxury tourism, and the world’s largest Living Museum.