There are a few absolutes you can count on in life. Global warming, the end of fossil fuels… and that Saudi Arabia will always be home to some of the most ambitious urban planning on the planet.
The latest endeavour to spring forth from the desert is Neom (or Neo-Mostaqbal — or ‘New Future’), a $US640 billion utopian urban metropolis, designed to benefit all mankind.
Like we said, ambitious.
Last month, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Saudi Arabia’s latest megacity will actually be a combined project built on the intersection of three countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
A self-sustaining metropolis specifically designed to be the economic epicentre of biotech, energy, water and advanced manufacturing and a role-model for all future urban development.
Think vertical farming, flying cars (seriously) and a huge emphasis on renewable power, with Saudi Arabia once again hoping to place itself at the centre of the energy market. This time with something that the region has in infinite supply: sun.
As Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of the SoftBank Group Corp. of Japan, said during the panel:
“Only 3% of the land of Saudi Arabia can provide over 50% of the electricity of the world, with today’s solar technology.”
It’s a move to help prepare for the inevitable time when oil is no longer a commodity the kingdom will be able to sell but also a reflection of the state’s open policy.
To put it bluntly, Neom will accomodate ‘western social norms’, operating as its own ‘special zone’ under Saudi Arabian sovereignty but with its own set of laws and rules. Which means yes, you can bring all the crop tops and exercise gear you can pack.
“We are simply reverting to what we followed — a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions” the Prince told the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh.
“Seventy percent of the Saudis are younger than 30. Honestly, we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts.”
Phase one of the city is expected to be completed by 2025 and the 2030, it said that Neom will most likely contribute around US$100 million per year back into the Saudi economy.