How Much Does It Cost To Build A Metro In Saudi Arabia?


Alan Light, Flickr

If you live in a cosmopolitan city with a good subway system, it can be easy to take your public transportation for granted. Many of the world’s most famous subway systems have been around for decades, and most of us have forgotten the price and political willpower it took to put them in place.

Building a completely new metro or subway system nowadays isn’t only a longterm commitment, it’s a large financial one. Saudi Arabia is the latest place to jump on board the public transportation train. So how much does it cost to build a Saudi Arabian metro? $22 billion apparently. That’s the number attached to the new system proposed for the capital city of Riyadh. Construction will begin next year and trains should be running by 2019.The design alone is a major cost — one of the main stations will be done by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid — not to mention the construction and other expenses. But investing in infrastructure is smart, even in oil-rich countries of the Middle East. As the president of the Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) Ibrahim bin Mohammed al Sultan said, the project will be “a major driver of employment and economic development.”

But how does the cost of the new metro system compare to others around the world? Two years ago Africa’s second metro opened up in Algiers, and came in at a final price of only $1.2 billion. But in the Western World, that doesn’t cover a whole lot. In Singapore, the new Circle Line which runs 22 miles, cost $4.8 billion. In New York City the Second Avenue subway line is projected at over $17 billion — and that’s just one line. Meanwhile in Paris, $39 billion is being spent to build 200 kilometers of new metro lines with 72 stations in and around Paris. How long does that take? The project should be finished by 2030. That makes 2019 seem like it’s just around the corner.

Raha Moharrak Becomes First Saudi Woman To Climb Mt. Everest

Raha Moharrak
Raha Moharrak

Raha Moharrak has become the first woman from Saudi Arabia to climb Mt. Everest when she made it to the summit yesterday after a grueling climb.

The 25-year-old climber first had to convince her family to allow her to make the attempt, and then had to undergo rigorous training to climb the world’s tallest peak. She was part of a four-person team called Arabs on Top of the World. The team also includes Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani, the first Qatari, and Raed Zidan, the first Palestinian to make the attempt. Masoud Mohammad, an Iranian, is also on the expedition.

The team is working on a rotation system with other expeditions, so the men are currently trying to make the ascent.

The team isn’t only making history; they’re also making a difference. They’re trying to raise $1 million for educational projects in Nepal. A donate button can be found on their website. This is a cause near and dear to Moharrak’s heart. She’s currently a graduate student in Dubai.

A Pre-Islamic Civilization In Saudi Arabia

Pre-Islamic Civilization, Saudi Arabia
The ancient past of one of the world’s most closed countries is beginning to be revealed.

Mada’in Saleh, about 200 miles north of Medina in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is an impressive remnant of the Nabataean civilization, the same people who built Petra in Jordan 2,000 years ago. Massive tombs carved out of cliffs tower over the desert. Some are decorated with carvings or bear ancient inscriptions dedicated to the dead who lie within. Around the tombs are the ruins of a once-thriving city at a key node of an extensive trade network.

The Nabataean Kingdom stretched from its capital Petra in what is now Jordan deep into the Arabian Peninsula. It grew wealthy from trading in incense from southern Arabia to the Mediterranean. Incense was used in religious rituals and burials and was vitally important for many cultures, including the Romans. The Nabataeans had a powerful kingdom from 168 B.C. until the Roman Empire annexed it in 106 A.D.

Mada’in Saleh was near the southern edge of Nabataean territory, perfectly poised to control the trade route. Even though it’s in the middle of a desert, there are good wells at the site and the Nabataeans managed to cultivate sizable tracts of land.

The most visible remains are the 131 rock-cut tombs with carved facades of a style similar to those in Petra 300 miles to the northwest. There are less grandiose attractions too. Here and there on the sandstone outcroppings are little niches that once held statues of pagan gods. Other stones have carved designs of animals dating from before the kingdom, back to an earlier people called the Lihyanites.

%Gallery-167884%Despite being alongside one of the main pilgrimage routes for the Hajj, the ruins of Mada’in Saleh were ignored for years by Saudi authorities who had no interest in civilizations before the advent of Islam. Now that’s changing, AFP reports. Saudi Arabia is slowly opening up to tourism and the site is drawing an increasing number of tourists. Last year Mada’in Saleh attracted 40,000 visitors and site managers want to double that figure this year. Most visitors are curious Saudis, but the country’s tourism office is encouraging foreigners to visit as well.

There are two museums on the site, although neither is about the Nabataean civilization. One is about the nearby pilgrimage route and another is dedicated to the Hejaz railway opened by the Ottomans in the early 20th century.

French archaeologists are currently excavating the site so hopefully more information about this southern outpost of the Nabataean civilization will come to light.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user Sammy Six]

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh opens, featuring bowling alley and cigar bar


ritz-carlton riyadh


The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. continues to expand into the Middle East market with their first hotel in Saudi Arabia, The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh. The 493 room hotel in the Diplomatic Quarter is adjacent to the King Abdul Aziz Convention Centre.

Of course, the hotel has to be appropriately palatial – it includes 52 acres of landscaped gardens, a massive fountain, and a one kilometer driveway.

Originally envisioned as a royal guest palace for visiting dignitaries and heads of state, the hotel’s architecture is modeled on traditional palaces and elegant Arabian residences. Native palms, 600-year old olive trees from Lebanon, and water fountains abound.

“This majestic hotel’s prime location in the literal heart of the Arabian Peninsula offers many significant advantages to visiting guests and dignitaries,” said Herve Humler, president and chief operations officer of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. “We are extremely proud that The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh represents our first hotel into the Kingdom. We have been aggressively seeking the right first location in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, and believe there could be no better place for a Ritz-Carlton than in this” added Humler.

The interior of the hotel is also imbued with a sense of place – guestrooms and suites use the vibrant colors and ethnic textures of the region. Highlights include not just one, but 49 exquisitely appointed two-bedroom Royal Suites, each generously measuring 4,574 square feet and 50 one-bedroom, opulent Executive Suites at 1,022 square feet. Wow.

The hotel also features 62,000 square feet of meeting space, an Aubergine restaurant, a buffet-style restaurant serving Lebanese favorites, Asian and Italian restaurants, a tea lounge and a cigar lounge that will be home to one of the widest selection of Cuban cigars in Saudi Arabia. The hotel also features an indoor six-lane bowling alley, indoor swimming pool and men’s health club with three treatment rooms. Sorry ladies, you’re out of luck here- there isn’t a women’s health club or spa. See more pictures, below:
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*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the hotel has an on-site ICU. This information has since been removed.

Interesting indoor spaces around the world

indoor spacesI love the outdoors, to the extent that I tend to bypass or overlook exceptional indoor spaces when I’m traveling or recounting a great trip. Fortunately, Lonely Planet author/former Gadling contributor Leif Pettersen’s recent list on LP’s website has reminded me that—as many a grandmother has said—beauty is on the inside.

Pettersen says only in recent years has he developed a special appreciation for the indoors. He had ample time to contemplate his new interest “during two sadistically cold weeks last winter when I voluntarily confined myself to the Minneapolis Skyway System as a livability experiment for an article I was working on.”

He’s since started a list of “singular, practical” indoor spaces (traveloguebookdealforthewin!) of note, including (obviously) Minneapolis’ Skyway System (“The largest contiguous skyway system in the world, connecting what may be the largest contiguous indoor space anywhere.”); Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar; Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure; NYC’s Grand Central Terminal (aka Grand Central Station); St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, and the Queen Mary 2. Here’s to keeping warm indoors this winter.

[Photo credit: Flickr user davedehetre]

Indoor Skydiving