Diriyah Gate Development Authority will restrict the number of visitors at the site to protect its integrity
Saudi Arabia’s At-Turaif Unesco world heritage site will open its doors to Saudis and foreign visitors for the first time in the fourth quarter, according to Diriyah Gate Development Authority CEO Gerard ‘Jerry’ Inzerillo.
At-Turaif, often billed by Saudi officials as the ‘jewel of the Kingdom’, was founded as a permanent settlement in 1446 due to its fertile farmlands and date groves along the Wadi Hanifah valley.
What the Acropolis is to the Greeks, the Coliseum is to the Romans and what Chichen Itza is to the Mayans, Diriyah is to the Arabian Peninsula
The settlement was considered a vital part of the creation of the first Saudi state in 1744 and was soon an important political, religious and economic centre.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Inzerillo said that Saudi authorities are “making the final preparations” for the site to open to the public in Q4.
“That Unesco heritage site that hasn’t been open to the public in 274 or 275 years will be open for all to enjoy,” he said. “We’re almost finished.”
An official opening date is expected to be announced soon.
Additionally, Inzerillo said that a large number of visitors are expected at the site, partly due to its proximity to Riyadh’s rapidly expanding urban area.
“The city’s growth will engulf all the Diriyah area,” he said. “This is wonderful, because it will set up the Unesco heritage site almost as an urban oasis.”
Inzerillo added that Saudi officials are studying the experience of tourist and archaeological sites around the world in managing a large influx of visitors.
“It’s easier for us, because we are getting into the game a little later,” he said. “We can learn from what happened to Victoria Falls and to the Pyramids.”
Among the steps that will be taken include restrictions on the number of people and tour buses that can be at the site. Visitors will be asked to make reservations.
“It’s not a tourism asset. It’s a world treasure,” he said. “What the Acropolis is to the Greeks, the Coliseum is to the Romans and what Chichen Itza is to the Mayans, Diriyah is to the Arabian Peninsula.”