Jean Nouvel Designed ‘Sharaan’- A Luxury Cave Resort in the AlUla Desert, Saudi Arabia

‘Sharaan’ | AlUla Desert, Saudi Arabia

Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has taken yet another cultural venture in the Middle East and recently disclosed the concept design for a new luxury resort- Sharaan- in one of Saudi Arabia’s most historic and archaeologically significant sites. Positioned amid the rocks deep in a valley of Al-Ula, this new monumental resort will be fully integrated with 40 guest suites and three resort villas. A retreat summit centre near the resort will feature 14 private pavilions. It is said to give a great boost to tourism in the country. Have a look at the glimpses of the magnificent resort at SURFACES REPORTER (SR):

Saudi’s crown prince HRH Mohammed bin Salman announced the project in February 2019 and it is anticipated to be finished by 2024.
Interior Design India-sharan-jean-nouvalDesign of one of the resort’s rooms with terrace:

“Our design principles will guide us as we explore new typologies that reconcile heritage alongside the subtle transformation of the existing architecture.” -Jean Nouvel

Sharaan- Exterior and Interior views

Al-Ula is an archaeological site that locates in the Saudi’s North West region dating back thousands of years. AlUla’s human history began more than 200,000 years ago, yet only recently has modern tourism begun to discover the depth and diversity of its experiences and attractions.

sharan-jean-nouvalThese concept renderings show the resort’s luxurious embrace of AlUla’s natural colours, light, shapes, and materials.

Take a Virtual Tour To Sharaan

Nabataeans, who carved the capital- Petra- out of stone which is now present-day Jordan, built the city. However, unlike Petra, which has become a tourist attraction because of its ‘rose-gold’ temples, Al-ula has remained mainly off the beaten path.

sharan-jean-nouvalConcept rendering of a pool area displaying the interaction of modern designs mixed with the Nabatean way of using light, shadow and rocks.

But with the crown prince’s new concept and a world-famous architect at the helm of the plan, all that is going to change.

sharan-jean-nouvalConcept rendering showing the view from within the resort over the landscape of the Sharaan Nature Reserve.
The new resort is part of the development of AlUla guided by 12 strategic principles drawn from the Commission’s Framework Plan and Charter. This approach to development balances innovation with heritage, arts and culture while unlocking economic potential to provide new opportunities for the local community.
sharan-jean-nouvalInner courtyard resort concept

“Architecture is there to put its stamp on places and bear witness to the evolving spirit of the times.” -Jean Nouvel

Picturesque Sandstone Setting

The designing of the Sharaan Resort is set against a scenic sandstone backdrop, featuring residential estates, a resort, a spa, and an international summit centre.

sharan-jean-nouvalThe designs shows guests within the resort built into the landscape (patio)

The new architectural resort amidst the incredible rock mountains will give an otherworldly feel to the tourists.


Jean Nouvel integrates the way Nabateans interacted with their environment, both verticality and horizontality, to reconnect to the earth and build sustainable habitats, away from the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.

 “The coming together of a landscape and history – the history of past civilisations in an extraordinary landscape – the only place to create such a masterpiece," said Jean Nouvel.

sharan-jean-nouvalShadow and Light
Nouvel views this resort as an opportunity to bring to life a strong spatial, sensorial and emotional experience on the borders of nature, architecture and art– where the sound, musicality, harshness, tactility, power and complexity of nature are everywhere, from finely chopped stones on balconies to the singular granularity of each rock wall, all becomes an artwork in itself.

AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come,” he further added.

sharan-jean-nouvalDesign displaying the view from within the resort over the landscape of Sharaan
“Every urban act is an act of architecture. Our overall strategy should flow fromsite-sensitive rules.” -Jean Nouvel

Designs show Jean Nouvel’s modern take on millennia-old Nabataean ways of living with monumental designs carved into the rocks that sustainably respect and preserve AlUla’s landscape by drawing on concepts from the nearby Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along with this resort, the royal commission also announced plans for a nature reserve, a global fund for Arab leopard conservation, an international scholarship program and a program to support ‘protectors of the heritage of al-ula’.

sharan-jean-nouvalDA scenic express lift will bring guests to the heart of the resort, allowing them to travel through millions of years of geological stratas.

With this project, it is expected that Saudi Arabia will create 38, 000 jobs by 2035 and to draw over 2 million people to the site, which will not only increase the tourism in Al-Ula but also the country as a whole.


The Sharaan by Jean Nouvel Resort will be a key element of RCU’s strategy to develop AlUla as a global destination for culture, heritage, and eco- tourism. It is designed within The Charter of AlUla, a framework document that includes 12 guiding principles that commits The Royal Commission forregion’s diversified economy through a Retreat Summit Centre and restaurants.


The resort embraces the natural colours and materials of AlUla in luxury.

Amr AlMadani, CEO of RCU, said: “These concepts, which showcase Jean Nouvel’s masterly innovation in architecture, underscore our commitment to developing AlUla as a global tourism destination without compromising the history, heritage, and landscape of AlUla. We are a destination built by artists. Sharaan by Jean Nouvel will build on that legacy to become a timeless landscape-architecture that will last forever – a gift to the world.”


By 2035, RCU expects to host two million visitors annually.

Project Details:

Project Name: Sharaan Resort
Architect: Jean Nouvel
Location: Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia

About the Architect

Born in Fumel, Jean Nouvel is the Pritzker Prize-winning architect of several national and international buildings. He has gained worldwide recognition through numerous prestigious French and International prizes and rewards. Few of his famous projects include Arab World Institute (Paris - 1987), Opera House (Lyon – 1993), Agbar Tower (Barcelona – 2005), extending of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid – 2005), 100 11th avenue (New-York – 2010), Louvre Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi – 2017) and National Museum of Qatar (Doha –2019). Ateliers Jean Nouvel recently won several competitions, including the Ecological district and Rassuen Golf Course in Istres with Fontès Architecture (France) and the Rudy Ricciotti Agency (France).

Images and videos © Courtesy of Ateliers Jean Nouvel and Royal Commission for AlUla

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