A resort has been designed by AW2 just 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from Saudi Arabia‘s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra. Following the Strategic Master planning Guidelines for Alula and the Saudi Vision 2030, this resort design takes into account Saudi Arabia’s ambitions for the future as well as the resort’s desert setting surrounded by rock formations and historical sites. This resort preserves the natural beauty and history of the location while acting as a modern tourist attraction for the Kingdom.

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Tall rock mountains behind resort

A total of 47 sustainable tent-covered suites ranging in size from one to three bedrooms make up the AlUla desert resort. Two gourmet restaurants also serve the resort in public areas, along with a high-end spa. A swimming pool is nestled into a natural crevice in the rocks, designed to look like the Wadis that appear at the foot of the local cliffs after rainfall.

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Tent-like roof of the AlUla resort

AW2 tried to have as light a footprint as possible in the design of this resort. This was accomplished by blending the topography into the natural landscape of the Ashar valley. Each suite is built on a platform with a solid structure for the walls that mimic the surrounding rock formations. Sand-colored canvas creates natural ventilation between the walls and the roof while shading occupants from the sun.

Tent-like roof serving as shading

Additionally, the spa facades are made of compacted sand. Horizontal lines show variations in colored sand lines that match rock formations in the area.

Sitting area under tent or umbrella-like roof

The designers say that beyond sustainability, they wanted to make sure that the scale of the resort did not become overwhelming to guests. Therefore, privacy and shelter became guiding principles for creating the flow of the space. This, in turn, framed beautiful views within private spaces.

Rock stairs leading down steep rock mountain

Moreover, Nabataean nomadic themes combined with a modern international luxury aesthetic informed interior design. The designers say that the interior design is a modern interpretation of the Bedouin way of life. Spaces are decorated inside with motifs inspired by traditional Nabataean and Arab tribal motifs. Guests are also encouraged to feel connected to nature by designing interiors with an indoor-outdoor feel and extending terraces from interior spaces into the exterior by covering the whole square footage with the canvas tent above.

Terrace for shading and couches for sitting

Specially designed furniture also reflects nomadic culture and patterns from the Nabataean tribes to celebrate the history of Ashar. Paths and walkways were designed to look like trails in the sand, which also celebrates the traditional cultures here. Local craftsmanship, resources and minerals were used to minimize the project’s footprint.

Walkway with glass doors

For vegetation, local plants were used to focus on the endemic species native to the desert climate. Architects used water harvesting to guide rainwater toward small micro-catchment gardens to reduce water consumption. The garden also protects the site from floods during higher rainfall months when the area is prone to flash floods.

While this may all sound quite rustic, the resort blends all these sustainable and natural features with a high-end luxurious standard of amenities for a hospitality property. The result is closer to a luxury home that blends seamlessly with its desert surroundings. Awnings, tent coverings, and sand motifs are all combined with high-end fixtures, comfy furniture, and a beautiful modern ethos that is nothing short of breathtaking.

+ AW2 Architects

Images via AW2 Architects