The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has signed four agreements with French institutions – two in the cultural field and two in infrastructure sector – to support its strategy to present AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.

The deals, which were signed during the recent visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the kingdom, also included one for Villa Hegra, a key development that introduces the iconic ‘French villa’ model into the Middle East.

The 15,100-sq-m Villa Hegra will be a cluster of entities including the exclusive AlUla International College of Tourism & Hospitality, a 6,600-sq-m lifestyle apartment-hotel, cultural centre, arts residence quarters and social club.

It will be a unique place where artists, writers and painters come together, representing a continuity of AlUla’s legacy as a hub of commercial and cultural exchange. It will be respectful of the environment and history, and inclusive of local populations.

Currently, there are 11 iterations of the “Villa” worldwide, with seven in France and four overseas from Mexico to Rome, each showcasing the best of French and global culture.

RCU also signed an exclusive agreement with the Ferrandi Paris Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute to jointly create a Ferrandi-branded AlUla International College of Tourism & Hospitality to establishi AlUla as the regional home of hospitality, tourism and the culinary arts.

In addition to Villa Hegra and the Ferrandi Paris Culinary Arts and Hospitality Institute, RCU has concluded agreements with Dassault Systèmes and RATP DeV Saudi Arabia, focused on delivering a city fit for the future.

With Dassault Systèmes, RCU has partnered on the creation of a digital twin – a digital copy of AlUla that will function as an important tool for planning, development, municipal operations, community and investor citizens and investors. The agreement builds on the efforts of RCU to develop an integrated geo-spatial database.

Similarly, the partnership with RATP DeV Saudi Arabia leverages the organisation’s 120 years of transport operation in the development of a world class public transportation system in AlUla.