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The Future City, too Good to be True?

by Nancy
Published: Updated: 928 views

We have seen many science fiction movies that had given a glimpse of what our future city can shape into. Well, Saudia Arabia might provide us with a real experience of a dystopian city soon. They are taking a step towards a futuristic city life with no cars, no streets, and zero net carbon emissions called NEOM. Here are some interesting points about the project, which is currently in the pipeline. 

The Conceptualization of NEOM

The word Neom comes from the combination of the Greek words for “new” and the Arabic term for “future.” It aims to be a futuristic version of paradise that will incorporate a vast data-gathering network, including drone and facial-recognition technology in the whole area. Moreover, the size of the visionary city will approximately cover an area of the country Belgium. 

Since 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MBS, has been working with overseas consultants to develop his futuristic vision for the $500 billion cities. The new city site is in the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia. It will stretch across 26,500 square kilometers of the barren desert on the Red Sea coast.


The Reason to build NEOM

The $500 billion cities will cover 10,000 square miles of barren desert and coastline. It claims to welcome the “world’s greatest minds and best talents” to the best-paying jobs in the world’s most livable city. In addition, the prince wants to develop an area to target economic diversification for the Saudi Kingdom. Most importantly it will increase business in emerging industries such as biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and renewable energies.

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Introduction to the Project- THE LINE:

“The Line” is a 106-mile-long belt that will stretch the mountains of northwest Saudi Arabia to the Red Sea. It links from the coast of the Red Sea to the hills and upper valleys of the northwest of Saudi Arabia. According to the development plans, it will be accessible to more than 40% of the global population. People will be able to reach NEOM in less than a four-hour flight. Also, 13% of the world’s trade will happen through the Red Sea.

Here are some key points of the project:
  • NEOM’s vision is to be home and workplace for more than a million residents worldwide. It will include towns and cities, ports, research centers, sports, entertainment places, and tourist destinations. 
  • It will be a hub for innovation. Where entrepreneurs, business leaders, and companies will come to research, innovate new technologies, and commercialize them. Therefore increase the economy. 
  • The residents will be exposed to culture and diversity.
  • It will be a progressive law compatible with international norms.  
  • The objective for “THE LINE” is to implement design around people, not roads. Everything that residents will need- education, healthcare, green spaces will be within a five-minute walk.
  • Ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will be introduced. It will make travel easier for residents and give them time for their health and well-being. According to tentative estimation, no journey will be longer than 20 minutes.
  • THE LINE’s communities will have Artificial Intelligence (AI). It will continuously evolve and introduce predictive ways to make life easier.

If you want to know more about this project visit their official page

The Leaked Confidential Documents:

According to a 2019 Article from Wall Street Journal, extraordinary ideas were laid out in 2,300 pages of confidential documents by consultants at Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Co., and Oliver Wyman. The document dates back to September 2018. WSJ added in their article that the consultants working on the project have overused science fiction jargon and corporate words.

It includes human gene editing clinics, robot dinosaurs, flourishing the agricultural sector through cloud seeding, robots performing domestic duties, human genetic modification, glowing desert sand, and 24/7 government surveillance. Also, in the leaked report, there was mention of the forcible relocation of local tribes. So, it’s not necessary that NEOM will be the new face of humanity!


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Controversy Regarding the Huwaitat tribe:

NEOM aims to be a sustainable and urbanized vision that creates hope for the future. There are enthusiastic promises and ideas on the surface, but no one can ignore the voices of the Huwaitat tribe. The tribe lives across Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Sinai peninsula for generations.

Saudi Arabia lacks poor human rights. Al Khuraiba village’s land is coming in the way of the project. Approximately 20,000 Huwaitat tribe people live there. Therefore, they have to face forced eviction due to the project.  In addition, there are no plans about where they will be relocated. 

In March 2020, the authorities began pressuring people and sending in the Saudi special forces to evacuate the land. On April 12, 2020, Abdul Rahim Al Huwaiti a resident of the village, refused to allow a land registry committee into his home. He posted on social media, criticizing the forced eviction of his tribe. As a result, on April 13, 2020, a few hours after his social media remarks, he was executed by Saudi special forces in an open firing that happened in the early hours of the morning at his home.

Alia Hayel Aboutiyah al-Huwaiti, an activist and member of the tribe currently living in London, says, “For the Huwaitat tribe, Neom is being built on our blood, on our bones. It’s not for the people already living there! It’s for tourists, people with money. But not for the original people living there.”

According to her, the forced displacement of the people indicates the kingdom’s lack of care towards tribal communities. “MBS began by telling the tribes: ‘We will develop your area. You will make money.” In 2019, they said, “We will empty three villages and force people to move. There is nothing called a tribe for Mohammed bin Salman. He doesn’t care about the tribes” she added.

Some Saudis, including the Huwaitat tribe, perceive that NEOM will represent an elite version of Saudi society. According to a proposal, residents and visitors can consume alcohol in fine dining and they will also have a parallel legal system connecting directly to the king. Hence, it’s natural to feel oppressed when the new city is showered with privileges that are far from them.

The Hurdles for the new city’s development:

Dan Cooper, head of real estate development strategy for Deloitte gives his opinion on Saudi’s development projects. According to him, market dynamics are continuously changing, but the country fails to address immediate market requirements. This stops their development projects reach the desired potential. Like Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and Jeddah’s King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). Therefore, to make this project a success, the government should pay closer attention to external market conditions.

Till now, there have been many cost overruns, and the funding is also draining. Also, the technology required for the futuristic city is still not available. It will take time.


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