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Saudi giga-project Diriyah Gate targets 2027 completion

Diriyah Gate encompasses the Al-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site Diriyah Gate
Diriyah Gate encompasses the Al-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site
  • First hotel rescheduled for later this year
  • Golf course created in the desert
  • ‘Not just a development project’

Diriyah Gate, one of the first Saudi giga-projects, said this week that it was on target for completion by late 2027.

The opening of the project’s first hotel is now rescheduled for later this year. 

“We’re looking forward to the conclusion of our project, probably toward the end of 2027,” said Andrew Tonnor, Diriyah Gate’s chief delivery officer, in a presentation to potential vendors. 

“We’re one of the five PIF giga-projects, we’ve been incorporated since 2019 when we were founded as a project and development company. 

“We’re active, we’re not just a development project, we’re delivering against our mandate. we’ve got a lot of progress in terms of our delivered and active projects,” Tonnor said.   

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) owns most of the major projects at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s vast economic transformation programme.

Doubts have begun to set in over the future of some projects, with budget constraints, and confirmation from Neom that desert city The Line will be less than 5km long in 2030, instead of the proposed 170km. 

Diriyah is one of the most expensive projects, valued by the real estate consultancy Knight Frank at $63 billion. It is also one of the most prestigious, encompassing the Al-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site, where the Al Saud family first established a state in 1727. 

Some parts of the project are already open, including a restaurant district, museums in the old city, and some music and art venues.

An opera house, sports stadium and modern art museum are planned for a district with a 1.9km central artery that the group CEO of the Diriyah Company, Jerry Inzerillo, has called a new Champs Élysées. It will also include three metro stations.

Golf in the desert

A golf course and villas for high-net-worth individuals are also being developed out in the desert at Wadi Safar.

The opening of Bab Samhan, the first of the project’s hotels, which are all being constructed in the style of the local Najdi architecture, has been moved from January to the summer. 

Tonnor said underground parking would be provided throughout the area, which lies in rocky desert terrain west of Riyadh, along with a multi-lane highway system underneath the site and connecting to Riyadh’s ring road. 

“We’ve enhanced and improved the public realm, looking at landscaping and car parking,” he said. “It’s important for us, the lack of car parking and it’s been a problem for the local community.”

The government is racing to improve challenges such as traffic congestion and pollution by 2030, when the World Expo is to be held in the Saudi capital. A new metro system is still not yet running, although Diriyah is to include three stops. 

Mohamed Thabet, Diriyah Gate’s executive commercial director, appealed to interested vendors to take advantage of a flexible tendering system that Diriyah has introduced, cutting out some of the bottlenecks that have plagued contracting in Saudi Arabia in the past. 

Thabet said: “Our tender process is extremely simple. It starts with an expression of interest and shortlisting for tender, and we try to keep the timeline to a minimum, but give them reasonable time to price.”

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