Money & BusinessSaudi Arabia

High Tech Empire: World’s Tallest Skyscrapers, Flying Cars & Megacities… Inside Saudi Arabia’s $1.09 Trillion Ego Trip to Be ‘Centre of World’

Through massive investments as part of Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, the nation has been unveiling wildly ambitious projects funded by oil billions at an unprecedented rate.

The price of each project is not known – but Saudi is set to spend more than $175 billion every year on mega projects between 2025 and 2028 – with about $1.3 trillion of major projects in the works.

Neom & The Line

Neom is set to be a Jetsons-style ultra-modern metropolis in contrast to the other very conservative parts of the desert kingdom.

Backed by Saudi’s $500 billion Private Investment Fund – the group which bought Newcastle United – the plans for Neom are so ambitious that some of the technology doesn’t even exist yet.

The city will be located on the border with Jordan and Egypt and will start welcoming residents and businesses by 2025.

It is being “built from scratch”, powered by solar and wind, will be 17 times the size of London and “a centre for the development of robotics”.

Planning docs show the city will have flying taxis – a vehicle depicted in science fiction films such as Blade Runner and Back to the Future II.

The most striking thing about Neom is a mirrored megastructure called The Line – a 110-mile, 500m tall and 200m wide mirrored building that will connect Neom to the rest of the kingdom.

But Basyouni, from Reprieve, said “the glossy brochures don’t show that this is a city being built on forcible evictions, state violence and death sentence”.

Campaigners say two towns have been cleared and 20,000 members of the Huwaitat tribe forcibly removed, without compensation, in order to build the megacity.

In September last year, three tribe members were allegedly executed for opposing eviction from the construction site.

Basyouni said Neom represents the “gulf between Mohammed bin Salman’s professed ‘vision’ of Saudi Arabia and the repressive reality of his rule”.

Red Sea Project

The Red Sea Project is a tourism development on an archipelago of Saudi Arabian islands with its dedicated airport. 

It’s set to be built on 90 undeveloped islands between Umluj and Al Wajh on Saudi Arabia’s west coast.

The Red Sea Development Company describes the development as “grounded in sustainability and sustainable tourism” with a range of ultra-lux hotels.

Nicola Maniero, chief project manager at Kengo Kuma and Associates, designed one of the many resorts at the Red Sea Project.

“Our project is almost complete and we expect our first guests to arrive between December and the beginning of next year.

“The island that we built on is only 70 centimetres above sea level.

“So with the sanding work that we’ve done there we managed to raise the island level and preserve the island in the future not only for tourism but for its fauna and flora.”

When the project is finished in 2030, 22 islands and six inland sites will have been developed.

The Red Sea Project is set to be built on 90 undeveloped islands

Super cave hotel

Also part of Neom, Leyja will be a jaw-dropping hotel complex carved into the walls of a giant canyon.

Directors of the project claim it will open its doors to tourists in 2024 – despite not being built yet.

It will have three state of the art hotels, designed by world-leading architects to blend in with the natural surroundings that make up 95 per cent of the futuristic city.

The hotels will have 120 luxurious rooms and will operate completely sustainably to provide “distinct experiences”.

The first hotel is tailored to suit thrill seekers and will be carved into a cliff top – lending itself to keen rock climbers or elevation enthusiasts.

The second property will be closer to the ground and will function as as an “enchanting gateway” to discovery and exploration of the valley that continues beyond.

It will also have a striking staircase that will ascend from the canyon to the entrance of the property and will offer “unrivalled views of the valley in all its beauty.”

The final hotel is set to be a place for guests to kick back and relax – as it will be wellness retreat with a twist.

The retreat will have an impressive high-tech, reflective facade mirroring the surrounding beauty and valley walls. 

It will also boast rooftop infinity-style pools across the three properties and will offer extensive guided wadi walks, and enthralling hikes set in the valley’s dramatic mountain landscapes.

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