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How are you preparing for the opening Formula E race and looking forward to welcoming the fans back to Diriyah?
Formula E is one of the most important highlights of the Diriyah calendar of events, and as such we have done a tremendous amount to prepare. Our infrastructure has been strengthened, with improvements to our road and transport network particularly noteworthy, allowing those traveling to the event to have an enjoyable and fantastic time at the start of the season.
It’s also the perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah’s position as a global gathering place, as visitors come from all over the world to experience this extraordinary spectacle.
Thanks to this evolution and thanks to the sophisticated vision of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, we have been fortunate to forge great sporting partnerships, as we have with Formula E. Hosting events in the Kingdom and in Diriyah is our greatest pleasure as it tests our readiness as a culturally connected global hub not only for sports, but also for entertainment, culture, heritage and education.
The spectacle and electricity of the Formula E racetrack against the historic backdrop of Diriyah is an apt representation of our shared vision: to respectfully protect the essence of our past while moving forward into the future. We look forward to welcoming fans in person again this year.
This season marks the fourth consecutive year that the race has been held in Diriyah. What’s new that fans and visitors can look forward to?
Last year, during the pandemic, we were lucky enough to run our first night race under LED lights. He looked brilliant on TV and got a huge positive response from fans. This year will be the first time fans will see the night race in person at the track. I just know it’s going to be the most sensational experience for them.
We are also delighted that a new qualifying format will be unveiled at Diriyah for the first time this year, along with a spectacular line-up of concerts especially for this year, featuring artists such as Craig David, Wyclef Jean, James Blunt, Two Door Cinema Club and Le Scenario.
This is the fourth opportunity for Diriyah to host the E-Prix in four years, and the now internationally renowned street racing track around our UNESCO World Heritage Site, At-Turaif, will take life in the spotlight as Saudi Arabia leads the way in adding even more thrills to what is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
The inaugural Diriyah E-Prix in 2018 was the Kingdom’s first major international event; in 2019 it became the Middle East’s first double-header and in 2021 it was the first-ever all-electric ABB FIA Formula E World Championship night race.
Immense thanks and praise must go to Prince Abdul Aziz, Minister of Sports of Saudi Arabia, and His Royal Highness Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, President of the Saudi Automobile and la moto, for their excellent leadership, as well as the entire team at the Ministère des Sports who contribute to bringing such a unique and exciting spectacle to the community.
What makes the Diriyah Gate project unique and what are your plans for the next 10 years?
Our mission at Diriyah Gate Development Authority is to transform one of Saudi Arabia’s most important historic sites into a global hub for culture, heritage and tourism. Diriyah Gate will be an 11 square kilometer development that protects and celebrates the exceptionally distinctive character of Diriyah. It will be a mixed-use space with culture firmly anchored at its heart. There will be a tangible link to history in its execution, with everything built in the traditional Najdi style, but going hand in hand with innovation and the future.
There is immense pride in Diriyah among Saudis, especially because it is the birthplace of the Saudi state. When I bring people to Diriyah, whether it’s global brands or regional players, they fall in love with it. The uniqueness of any project starts with location, so what we try to do is curate an experience that provides an authentic connection with visitors to Diriyah as a place. One of the ways we are doing this is by restoring our UNESCO World Heritage Site at At-Turaif, which will open later this year. There aren’t many new developments in the world that can boast this kind of centerpiece.
We are also looking forward to opening our latest fine dining venue at Bujairi Terrace in the first quarter of this year. The district overlooks At-Turaif and will soon be home to major global food and beverage brands as well as local Saudi cuisine which together will provide a world-class culinary offering.
As the Kingdom prepares to open its doors to international travellers, where does Diriyah Gate fit into the national tourism strategy?
As one of the largest tourism-focused giga-projects, we are an essential part of the success of the national tourism strategy. Our project is colossal, we will create 55,000 jobs and aim for 27 million visitors per year. As one of the first giga-projects scheduled to open, it is truly the catalyst for Vision 2030 and is key to delivering on the Vision’s promise to increase tourism’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP. from 3% to 10% by the end of the decade.
With the number of large-scale sporting events that have now taken place in Diriyah, can we expect more major events to be held in Diriyah in the near future?
In addition to hosting annual events offered to us by our partners in the Ministry of Sports, such as “Sports for All”, we will also be developing a program of our own DGDA sports and lifestyle events in line with what we have delivered before, such as the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, Diriyah Tennis Cup and the 2019 “Clash on the Dunes” boxing match between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua.
In the near future, we plan to host several annual events covering a wide variety of spectator sports, with world-class sports facilities – including world-class golf courses, equestrian and polo facilities for events and competitions local and international; private and community sports and fitness facilities; and in addition to this, the DGDA is working to identify other places that promote a healthier and more active lifestyle through the project, more will be announced in due course.
How does Formula E’s sustainability vision align with DGDA?
Formula E aspires to accelerate change towards an electric future, as well as raise awareness and inspire change in sustainable practices, helping to reduce global carbon emissions and urban air pollution. At DGDA, we share this vision and put in place measures to ensure that development meets the highest sustainability and environmental standards.
We want to create a place where heritage and history are respected, protected and seamlessly intertwine with sustainability and environmental considerations to create a world-class global cultural and lifestyle hub. It’s an exciting challenge and it’s one we look forward to at DGDA.
Our environmental and sustainability initiatives ensure environmental compliance, integrating international best practices, innovative technologies and sustainability certification targets into all our projects.
Drawing inspiration from the Kingdom’s rich past, Diriyah’s buildings will reflect the Najdi architecture of 300 years ago, newly adapted for 21st century living. Our handmade mud brick walls, locally sourced materials, palm groves and farms embody a contextualized approach to social and environmental sustainability, resonating with the site’s history while responding to local climatic conditions.
Using locally sourced materials also helps reduce the overall carbon associated with development, reducing the transportation miles associated with sourcing and installing materials, while helping to support the local economy.
The prospect of lighting the night in a sustainable way was a challenge that sparked great creativity and innovation between our teams, and it is inspiring to see sustainable, more energy efficient and renewable solutions being used at the Formula E event. of this year. This year’s spectacular double header will be held under the glow of energy-efficient LED technology lighting that uses up to 50% less energy compared to non-LED lighting. This is a vital aspect of Formula E, with its creation focused on reducing carbon emissions – and being the first sport to have net zero carbon since its launch eight years ago.