King Abdullah Football Stadium – the new national stadium of Saudi Arabia known as “The Jewel in the Desert” – has opened.
It is home to Jeddah’s two Premier League clubs, Al-Ittihad FC and Al-Ahli..
The 60,000-seater stadium is part of the King Abdullah Sports City complex 60 km north of Jeddah. The project was approved in February 2009, designed by global architects Arup Associates, managed by oil-giant Aramco and built by Belgium contractor BESIX together with local firm Al Muhaidib Contracting.
The stadium has been built to FIFA requirements, and includes a 5 premium lounge, boxes and VIP facilities; amenities for visiting top international athletes and press facilities
At least 308 seats are earmarked for persons with special needs, with separate toilets and elevators are provided for them.
As football matches in Saudi Arabia are generally held at night in the cooler months the stadium is naturally ventilated with the design striking a balance between shading the concrete to avoid radiant heat, giving sunlight to the grass and allowing good ventilation to provide breezes to reach down to the pitch and players.
In response to its cultural context the stadium has been built with a gem-like roof and shimmering mashrabiya screen rising above the surrounding sands.