SCTA launches tourism projects in Al-Ula to boost local economy
JEDDAH, Feb 15, 2013 (Arab News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) and Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman visited a number of heritage and archaeological sites in Al-Ula, about 350 km north of Madinah, and inaugurated a series of tourism and antiquities projects aimed at boosting the local economy and creating jobs.
The two princes commenced their tour by inspecting restoration work at the local heritage village being carried out by the SCTA and the Heritage Villages and Towns Development Program. The SCTA carries out this program in collaboration with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and local communities.
During his tour of the village, Prince Sultan was briefed on the restoration and cleaning work taking place at a number of houses in the village. Some villagers had also presented their own houses for restoration after learning about the economic benefits for the area.
Following his tour of the village, Prince Sultan announced that the SCTA would allocate immediate funding to accelerate village rehabilitation and development works. He instructed the SCTA to appoint a director in the Al-Ula Tourism and Antiquities Office.
Prince Sultan and Prince Faisal also visited the SCTA's Al-Hurrah Matal project. They later visited Madain Saleh where Prince Sultan inaugurated the Madain Saleh Development and Rehabilitation Project, which is being carried out by the SCTA with the Madinah governorate.
The Madain Saleh rehabilitation includes establishing infrastructure at the site, constructing a visitor's center, establishing a Hejaz railway museum and another museum in the Islamic castle on pilgrim routes. There are also plans to establish a number of service facilities, and erect information signboards for visitors on the site and its history.
Prince Sultan also inaugurated the Ekma and Al-Kheraiba site projects.
The SCTA has completed the Hejaz Railway Station building restoration, located in the northwest part of Madain Saleh, which comprises 16 stone buildings and is considered the second largest station after Madinah.
The Ekma and Al-Kheraiba sites, located in Al-Ula Municipality, are the most important archaeological sites in the area. The SCTA has recently finalized their rehabilitation and development. The Ekma site is seen as a gold mine for researchers on Al-Ula's history because of the many Lehyanite inscriptions found there.
Rehabilitation works at the Ekma site include a visitor's center, stone pathways, a special pathway for disabled people, and a number of signboards on the site's history and antiquities.
Developmental works in Al-Kheraiba include a visitor's center, a VIP visitor's hall, visual presentation hall, a research center, stone pathways, and signboards providing information on the site's history and antiquities.
Prince Sultan and Prince Faisal were in Al-Ula to take part in a conference on archaeology and tourism. The first session discussed the economic importance of tourism projects, basic tourism potential, development of tourism products, marketing and tourism services in the Kingdom, and the role of tourism beneficiaries in marketing tourism destinations.
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