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Wadi AlFann Project To See Monumental Artworks By Eminent Artists


Saudi Arabia attempts to bring national and international artists together to achieve the goals of Vision 2030 and add to the economic growth. The vision has recently thrown light on the hidden gem, the desert of Al Ula in form of Wadi Alfann Project.

It was not long ago when Saudi Artist Manal AlDowayan set up trampolines on the tan sands of Al Ula. When seen from the sky, the trampolines looked like water puddles in the hot desert. These installed trampolines were intended to draw attention to the water crisis in the Al Ula region. The TikTok videos of the trampolines became viral and garnered a lot of attention from the public, which in a way, established the city of Al Ula on the world map of art.

Al Ula is undoubtedly Saudi Arabia’s best-kept secret. Al Ula, once a part of the Silk Route, has an amazing landscape with an old city dating back to the 12th century. People can find old mazes made of bricks and mud and incredible picturesque rock formations, naturally sculpted into beautiful shapes. The desert is also home to UNESCO’s world heritage site of Hegra, quite similar to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.

Wadi AlFann project

To make Al Ula the next artistic and cultural destination for tourists in Saudi Arabia, the Royal Commission for Al Ula (RCU), in close collaboration with national and international artists, has come together to execute a challenging new project known as ‘Wadi AlFann’ or the ‘Valley of the Arts’. The project will span 65 square kilometers. The initiative is a significant part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 2030 Vision. According to this, the country is attempting to build an economy which is not primarily dependent on oil and petroleum by promoting Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination and cultural hub.

The project has attracted some major international names, including artist Agnes Denes, who is famous for planting and harvesting two acres of wheat just a few buildings away from Wall Street, and James Turrell, who turned an extinct volcano in Arizona into a significant piece of art. The project has also attracted entertainment artists like Kanye West. The project is under the supervision of famous curator Iwona Blazwick, a former director of London’s Whitechapel Gallery.

Current developments

While there will always be concerns about censorship and restrictions in Saudi Arabia, things do seem to be changing. For example, the human image is crucial to Saudi artist Ahmed Mater’s vision even though Islamic art prohibits human illustration. Agnes Denes will build distinctive pyramids, and Manal AlDowayan will use a maze-like setup modeled on the old city’s mud walls to record the stories and memories of local people.

Returning to Al Ula’s development as an artistic and tourist destination, this process looks to be well underway. The city has successfully hosted Desert X, a Coachella-style art event; the largest Saudi gallery, Athr, has opened an exhibition space here; a number of opulent resorts are opening to give tourists a taste of glamping in the desert, and operators offer helicopter tours so that visitors can take pictures in the breathtaking scenery. Al Ula, which is about a four-hour journey from Madinah, also boasts of having an international airport.

Suggested Read: 8 Popular Places To Visit In Al Ula, A Global Cultural Hub In The KSA

Pratyush Srivastava

I think, every human is a beautifully concealed epoch in the making with God to unravel it at the perfect time. Hence, synergizing with distinctive individuals in search of an interesting story is my favorite work as a writer and creator.

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