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Ten things to know about Neom, Saudi Arabia’s proposed $500 billion mega-city

A trailer for the proposed mega-city shows women running in crop tops, robots and clean energy.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2017 19:08 IST
Neom,Saudi Arabia mega city,Saudi Arabia $500 billion project
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shaking hands with Klaus Kleinfeld, whom he appointed as the chief executive officer of the kingdom’s ambitious project, Neom. (AFP)

Women working along side men, and running in the open in crop tops and yoga pants. Robots and driverless cars. Scientific research. Clean energy.

This will be a part of Neom, the proposed independent $500 billion megacity, the plan for which was unveiled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on Tuesday. Dubbed as the “world’s most ambitious project”, Neom will span three different countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.

The influential Crown Prince unveiled the plan for the proposed city at a glittering conference in Riyadh. The conference, organised by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, was attended by more than 3500 of the who’s who of business, corporate executives and government officials from 88 countries.

Speaking to the foreign investors, Salman also pledged to “return” Saudi Arabia to a more “moderate, open” version of Islam practiced thirty years ago.

“We want to live a normal life. A life in which our religion translates to tolerance, to our traditions of kindness,” the crown prince told the international investors.

“Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under 30, and honestly we will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas. We will destroy them today and at once,” Salman said. In an earlier decision this month, the kingdom promised to roll back its regressive laws that do not allow women to drive.

A visitor takes pictures of a robot during an exhibition on 'Neom', a new business and industrial city, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)

The speech came as the 32-year-old prince oversees reforms that mark the biggest cultural and economic shake-up in the kingdom’s modern history, while sidelining powerful clergy who have long dominated the public discourse.

Neom is being billed as Saudi Arabia’s effort to transform its economy from being completely dependant on petro-dollars, as oil becomes cheaper around the world. The Crown Prince is seen as the driving force behind Saudi Vision 2030, that aims to woo foreign investors, find private employment opportunities for the country’s young and decrease dependance on oil.

Here is a fact sheet of ten things to know about Neom:

1. Neom is a one-of-its-kind industrial zone which will span three countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. It will be adjacent to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba and near maritime trade routes that use the Suez Canal.

2. The 26,500 square km (10,230 square mile) zone, will focus on industries including energy and water, biotechnology, food, advanced manufacturing and entertainment.

3. Neom will be powered entirely by wind and solar energy.

4. The Saudi government, the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and local and international investors are expected to put more than half a trillion dollars into the zone in coming years, Prince Mohammed said.

5. In advertisements for Neom, women are shown working along side men and running in crop tops in the open, a stark departure from rules governing how women should dress in the Islamic kingdom.

6. Prince Mohammed appointed Klaus Kleinfeld, a former chief executive of Siemens AG and Alcoa Inc, to run the Neom project.

7. Neom’s high-tech world imagines repetitive tasks being outsourced to robots or fully automated.

8. Neom is developed to be independent of the Kingdom’s existing governmental framework, excluding sovereignty.

9. The industrial and scientific zone’s strategic location will ensure it emerges as a global hub connecting Asia, Europe and Africa.

10. Riyadh said it was in contact with potential investors and the project’s first phase would be completed by 2025.

-- with “separate regulation” -- along the Red Sea coastline.

First Published: Oct 26, 2017 19:04 IST