Saudi Arabia developing luxury train in bid to attract tourists

This rendering shows the concept for the Dream of the Desert luxury train planned for Saudi Arabia next year. It's 11 carriages are being constructed in Italy. Image courtesy of Arsenale Group
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Feb. 13 (UPI) -- As part of its effort to lure more tourists, Saudi Arabia is working with an Italian firm to build a luxury train that will carry passengers on overnight trips through two UNESCO World Heritage archaeological sites.

The Dream of the Desert locomotive will be able to carry 80 travelers in 40 luxury cabins in 11 carriages, including a restaurant.

The train, developed by the Italian Arsenale Group in an Orient Express style and operated by Saudi Arabia Railways, is expected to be built by summer 2025, with a maiden voyage the following November. The carriages are being built in southern Italy.

The 770-mile route will run from the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, to Al Qurayyat in the northern province of Al Jawf, making stops in Al Qassim, Hail and Al Jouf, on the edge of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Nature Reserve.

Two of Saudi Arabia's six World Heritage Sites are on the route -- the Hail Region, which contains ancient art representations of human and animal figures covering 10,000 years, and At-Turaif, a historic district located in Al-Dir'iyah near the capital.

Passengers will be able to book a one- or two-night trip.

"We believe this train will give the people in Saudi Arabia and international tourists the chance to visit one of the most beautiful parts of the kingdom," Arsenale CEO Paolo Barletta told Arabian Gulf Business Insight last year in announcing the company's $75 million investment.

Arsenale is also working on the Orient Express on La Dolce Vita, a new luxury rail service in Italy, and the United Arab Emirate's national railway company, Etihad Railway, to develop a luxury train that will travel across the Middle Eastern peninsula. That project is set to launch this year.

Saudi Arabia is working to expand tourism -- and lessen its economic reliance on oil. It aims to attract 100 million visitors by 2030, up from 30 million in October 2023.

The country's Haramain High Speed Railway opened in 2018 to connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina with King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.