May 10, 2018

Details of the multi-billion dollar cultural partnership between France and Saudi Arabia are emerging.

A museum three times the size of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, tours of rarely seen Roman ruins, tombs from the 1st century BC—these are just some of the planned attractions that will soon be available to the public thanks to an agreement between France and Saudi Arabia. The Art Newspaper reports that contracts were signed in Paris by French and Saudi cultural ministers in the presence of French president Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (who is known as MBS). The agreement will develop the region in the northwest part of the county known as Al-Ula. The cost of the project, a ten-year deal between the two countries, is said to be budgeted somewhere between $50 billion and $100 billion, and France will receive a chunk of that funding in return for its advisory role.
The development is in line with the Vision 2030 plan of MBS, which seeks to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil and usher in some social reforms. While no opening date has been announced, 20 cultural and educational emissaries from France will be dispatched to the region to complete a plan by the end of the year. Experts from France and the Louvre will help open an archeological museum, expand excavations, create a research center devoted to the history of the Arabian peninsula, and build urban infrastructure to foster new businesses that can cater to tourists. The Art Newspaper’s Anna Somers Cocks wrote in a separate piece of commentary that the groundbreaking collaboration has its roots in a visit that former French prime minister Jacques Chirac made to Riyadh in 2006, to open a show of Islamic art on loan from the Louvre.