(CNN) — The latest luxurious resort being built as part of Saudi Arabia’s epic efforts to rebrand itself into a major tourism destination has been revealed as a stunning and ambitious project built into sandstone near a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Named Sharaan, the resort located within the Sharaan Nature Reserve in the Al-Ula desert is designed by acclaimed French architect Jean Nouvel.
Design images show sleek, vast, exterior courtyards that contrast with rich, intimate interior that Nouvel says were partly inspired by nearby Hegra, a UNESCO site also known as Al-Hijr, which recently opened to the public for the first time.
The architect, who also dreamed up the Louvre Abu Dhabi, says his design aims to preserve the ancient landscape.
“Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration,” he said in a statement.
Landscape and history
The design embraces light and shadow.
Courtesy Atelier Jean Nouvel
Al-Ula is home to sandstone mountains and intriguing heritage sites, including Hegra, which was built by Nabataeans — who famously constructed the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.
Sharaan is set to be open to visitors by 2023, and will include 40 guest suites and three resort villas. The development will be overseen by Nouvel, alongside the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, which was established in 2017 to help develop and promote the region.
The design is said to pay homage to the Nabotean way of using light and shadow in architecture — while much of the resort will be inside the rock, the concept images show that glimpses of daylight are integral to the effect.