AMAALA international airport
CNN  — 

A design for a lavish new airport that looks like a shimmering desert mirage has been unveiled as part of Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion plan to reinvent itself as a major international tourism destination.

The airport will serve the Middle Eastern kingdom’s new super luxury resort AMAALA, a vast complex focused on wellness and sustainability that will span three sites on the Red Sea coast.

It’s scheduled to be fully completed in 2028, while the new airport is planned to be up and running by 2023, to coincide with the opening of the first phase of the resort. The terminal is designed to accommodate one million visitors per year.

The new structure is expected to handle almost exclusively wealthy travelers, and is intended as a mood-setting statement of opulence. Inside there’ll be a spacious courtyard and plenty of features that lean into that “ultra-luxury” vibe.

“Given the nature of AMAALA’S very high to ultra-high net worth guest profile, our mobility strategy demonstrates that more than 80% of AMAALA guests will be arriving by air,” AMAALA’s chief development officer Carlos Wakim tells CNN.

UK-based architectural and design firm Foster + Partners is behind the striking design, which is apparently inspired by the optical illusion of a desert mirage. Consultancy and engineering group Egis is mapping out the airport master plan.

Wakim says AMAALA worked closely with the designers to create the overall effect.

“Private club experience”

Inside, the airport is designed to be just as swanky, as this rendering illustrates.

The team describes the airport as closer to “an exclusive private club experience” than a simple transport hub.

Wakim says it calls to mind the lobby of a grand hotel, and describes the terminal as a spot “where people can rendezvous, where business and leisure combine in an environment unrecognizable as an airport, but as the beginning and ending of an ultra-luxury resort experience curated for a like minded community.”

The airport is set to open in 2023.

It’ll also offer hangars designed for private jets, as well as spots for commercial aircraft.

Wakim also reckons the terminal will be well-equipped to handle social distancing measures, should that be needed, pointing out that “lobbies and lounges easily allow for privacy and seamless passengers’ traffic flow.”

The airport will begin operations ahead of the rest of the resort to facilitate preparations for opening.