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Dec / Jan 2014
Rub of the Green

WRITER: Warren Singh-Bartlett

Commissioned by the Mayor of Riyadh and funded by contributions from the city’s businesses and individuals, the King Abdullah International Gardens will be an incredibly high-tech, specialised and sustainable botanical sanctuary once it has been built.


Kew. Singapore. Riyadh? It may lie at the heart of one of the driest regions in the world but once the immense confines of the King Abdullah International Gardens are completed, the Middle East should have a garden sanctuary to rival the biospheres at Eden and maybe even overshadow those legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Covering a projected area of almost 250 hectares, the KAIG will include water gardens, desert gardens, butterfly gardens and scientific gardens dedicated to research and botany, as well as a 10-hectare crescent-shaped paleobotanic building, which will be home to a highly original living natural history garden designed to emulate the region’s flora throughout time.

Designed by Barton Willmore International, the 170 million USD KAIG is meant to be a working garden reserve, dedicated to researching the process of climate change, a prospect that could have especially disastrous consequences for our region, particularly if global temperatures continue to rise.

But if the prospect of lush landscapes in the Arabian Peninsula sounds far-fetched then ruminate on this: recent discoveries have shown that this was not always the way and the land that’s now defined by its harsh desert climate was a place of rivers, lakes, forests and herds of wild animals, back when humankind was young.

WHERE Southwest of Riyadh
DUE To be built in three stages, the first is due October 2015
WHY This ambitious project will include a free flight aviary, a physics garden designed with Islamic geometrical principles as well as Devonian, Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Cenezoic and Pliocene gardens, to show how life has changed with the passing of time.

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