That’s how one of the most ambitious city projects in the contemporary time can be described when viewed in terms of size and magnitude.
A start-up city 33x the size of New York and almost the size of Belgium, this megacity project is estimated to require around $500 billion.
The NEOM Project forms part and parcel of the Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Known as the largest oil exporter in the world, Saudi Arabia has recently felt the pang of falling oil prices. It can be recalled that the kingdom experienced budget deficit of around US$90 billion, which required it to reconsider its budgetary spending and initiate some progressive reforms along taxation, education and women’s rights.
To awaken from its economic slumber, the country aims to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund to invest in infrastructure and industrial projects. NEOM is viewed as a departure point to minimize the kingdom’s reliance to crude oil and ultimately expand its economic base beyond oil.
Envisioned as a crossroad that will link Asia and Africa, NEOM will span 10,230 square miles (26,500 square km) traversing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and will connect Jordan and Egypt, opening a corridor for the two continents.
The Saudi government through the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and a range of investment from private and international investors are expected to finance the project. A funding program which aims at raising US$300 billion which include the sale of 5% of oil giant Saudi Aramco will jumpstart NEOM’s construction.
Land of the future
NEOM’s lofty vision is to be “the land of the future where the greatest minds and best talents are empowered to embody pioneering ideas and exceed boundaries in a world inspired by imagination.”
To attain this vision, NEOM plans to bellwether pioneering prospects in nine sectors:
- Energy and water. NEOM envisions using renewable energy—sun, wind, water, heat and other forms of regenerative energy imaginable;
- Mobility. Across land, sea and air, NEOM aims to become a global hub of connectivity; progressive, automated and 100% green transport system will connect Asia to Africa;
- Biotechnology. NEOM plans to be the pioneer in the next generation of gene therapy, genomics, stem cell research, nanobiology and biomedical engineering;
- Food. State-of-the-art technology like arid and seawater farming, solar-powered greenhouses, and vertical urban farms will provide food and water making the city a lush oasis in the middle of the desert;
- Advanced Manufacturing. With pioneering innovations in nanotechnology, 3D printing., sensors, IoT devices, electrical vehicles and robotics, NEOM will be an innovation hub;
- Media. The city will be equipped with support infrastructure from production houses to studios to transform it into a media hub not just for the Middle East but for the entire world;
- Entertainment. Sports, visual arts venues, world-renowned restaurants, waterside marinas, waterparks, etc, will give the city its life, energy and vitality;
- Technological and Digital Sciences. With artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and Internet of things, NEOM will be at the forefront of technological frontiers;
- Living as NEOM’s foundation. NEOM is positioned to become an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilization by offering its inhabitants an idyllic lifestyle set against a backdrop of a community founded on modern architecture, lush green spaces, quality of life, safety and technology in the service of humanity paired with excellent economic opportunities.
A place for dreamers
NEOM’s first phase of completion is slated to be unveiled in 2025.
With a goal set high and with a fiery determination to see the successful completion of this vision, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, heir apparent to the throne, feels very optimistic: “This place is not for conventional people or conventional companies, this will be a place for the dreamers for the world…the strong political will and the desire of a nation. All the success factors are there to create something big in Saudi Arabia.”
Will NEOM live up to expectations as the lush verdant city oasis in the midst of the desert?
Source: Business Insider, Arch Daily, Discover Neom
Photo: discoverneom.com, youtube.com