The Sharaan luxury resort: A tourist attraction carved into the mountains of Saudi Arabia

Luxury resort complex Sharaan will feature monumental designs carved into the rock carved out of the sandstone mountains of AlUla in the Arabian desert.

The Sharaan luxury resort: A tourist attraction carved into the mountains of Saudi Arabia
Photo by Akil Imran / Unsplash

The Sharaan luxury resort will feature monumental designs carved into the rock excavated from the sandstone mountains of AlUla, in the Arabian desert, and will unite landscape, art, history, and architecture, in an unprecedented project.

The new masterpiece of French architect Jean Nouvel, who designed spectacular buildings, such as the National Museum of Qatar, in the shape of a rock called Desert Rose, is perhaps his most ambitious project: a resort to be built in the mountains and inspired by the millenary Nabataean constructions carved out of the stone.

Two of the most emblematic works of the Nabataeans, an ancient people whose activity developed especially in the present-day region of Palestine and Jordan and whose splendor spanned from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD, are the monuments of Al Khazneh and Ad Deir built in the capital of their kingdom, Petra, a city excavated and carved out of sandstone.

Nouvel's luxury complex will be built in the mountains of the Sharaan nature reserve, hidden among the rocky dwellings of AlUla, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, and "celebrates the designs and genius of the Nabataeans without caricaturing them, or endangering what humanity and time have consecrated," according to this architect (

The Sharaan project is in the conceptual design stage (basic idea), that is, the first phase of the process of constructing a building, which consists of imagining in broad strokes the characteristics of the finished work.

The resort, to be completed in 2024, will include forty guest suites, three villas, restaurants, and a retreat center with 14 private pavilions. It nestles in AlUla, which will reopen its most emblematic sites, such as Hegra (a Unesco World Heritage Site), the ancient kingdom of Dadan, and the whispering canyons of Jabal Ikmah.

Sharaan's designs showcase a modern version of the millennia-old Nabataean ways of life with monumental designs carved into the rocks that respect and sustainably preserve AlUla's landscape based on concepts from nearby Hegra (Al Hijr - Madain Salih), Saudi Arabia's first Unesco World Heritage archaeological site.

Known in antiquity as Hegra, Al Hijr is the best-preserved site of the Nabataean civilization south of Petra (Jordan), and comprises a series of monumental wells and tombs with ornate facades, and is an exceptional example of the architectural achievements of the Nabataeans and their mastery of hydraulic techniques, according to Unesco.

With the approach of a museum art curator, carefully selecting what will be displayed, he has created in his Sharaan design a series of public spaces geared to the joy of living there, day and night, reflecting all the colors, lights, shadows, wind, torrential rains and the passage of time.

This resort will invite visitors to embark on a journey through thousands of years of civilizations and geographical strata within every detail of its designs, from the permanent feel of the rocks to the soft comfort of the couches, sofas, and seats, to discover the essence of AlUla.

The Sharaan Resort complex will include a retreat center and restaurants and will be a key element of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) strategy that seeks to develop this Arab region as a high-end global tourism destination focused on culture, heritage, and ecotourism.