We exclusively reveal the details of the plans for a “historic” collaboration
France and Saudi Arabia reached agreement last month on a grandiose cultural and tourism collaboration that is not only a coup for President Emmanuel Macron’s soft-power diplomacy but may also be a major vehicle of change in the Middle Eastern kingdom.
The 20-page document, seen by The Art Newspaper, was signed in Paris by France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Prince Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud, the governor of Al-Ula province, in the presence of Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (known as MBS). Hailed as “historic” by the Saudi media, the ten-year deal gives France an exclusive role in a project potentially worth tens of billions of euros in an area almost the size of Belgium. It also confirms the role that culture, tourism and the arts could play in the opening-up and modernisation of the country, in line with the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 plan.
Al-Ula is home to Al-Hijr, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008, currently closed to tourists and visited only by a privileged few.