Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major economic transformation in line with its overarching Vision 2030 strategy, which also involves creating a better quality of life for residents, attracting more tourists and developing a more diverse and future-focused economy.
The kingdom has announced a host of ambitious new projects to support its plans, such as Neom and the Red Sea Project, which in turn have created hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Here’s a rundown of the megaprojects in store for Saudi Arabia:
This is arguably the most eye-catching of Saudi Arabia’s megaprojects.
Located in the north-west of the country, the zone spans 26,500 square kilometers. Designed as a futuristic smart city, which will be powered by clean energy and have no cars or carbon emissions, it has various attractions under its umbrella.
The $500 billion giga-project will be treated as a country within a country, with its own economic zone and its own authority, meaning it will be separate from the rules that govern the rest of the kingdom.
People living there would not be referred to as Saudis but would be called by the title “Neomians”, and the development is planned to have millions of residents by 2030, the project’s head of tourism Andrew McEvoy told The National in May.
There are plans to establish a network of airports in Neom that will include an international hub. The first, called Neom Bay Airport in the northern region of Sharma, has already opened and is being used by investors and on-site employees.
A $5bn partnership with Acwa Power and Air Products in the US was signed to develop the world’s largest green hydrogen and green ammonia plant, scheduled to be operational in 2025.
Set within Neom, The Line is an extraordinary project which consists of a 170km-long skyscraper that is 200 meters wide and more than 300 meters tall. It is projected to provide homes for nine million people.
The structures will be connected by walkways and a high-speed train will run beneath.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said The Line would “embody how urban communities will be in the future”.
“The idea of layering city functions vertically, giving people possibility of moving seamlessly in three dimensions to access them, is a concept referred to as Zero Gravity Urbanism,” he said.
The entire 170km will be free of cars and streets, with the city set to be completely carbon neutral.
Also set within Neom, this is a futuristic industrial city set in the sea, and is planned to be the largest floating industrial complex in the world.
Its industrial development plan will focus on seven sectors — sustainable energy, autonomous mobility, water innovation, sustainable food production, health and well-being, modern methods of construction and technology and digital manufacturing, including telecoms, space technology and robotics.
“Oxagon will contribute to redefining the world’s approach to industrial development in the future, protecting the environment while creating jobs and growth for Neom,” said Prince Mohammed.
“It will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s regional trade and commerce and support, creating a new focal point for global trade flows. This new city, built around innovative new industries, has started its development and we look forward to the city’s rapid expansion.”
Another development coming up inside Neom, Trojena will cater more to tourism.
The mountain tourist destination will be the first major outdoor skiing site in the GCC.
It will include six districts: Gateway, Discover, Valley, Explore, Relax and Fun.
Journeys to Trojena will begin in The Vault — a futuristic vertical village nestled within the mountains where, according to developers, advanced architecture and technology “integrates reality with the virtual world”.
As well as winter sports, Trojena will have a nature reserve, hiking routes, mountain biking trails and water sports that will take place on a sprawling man-made freshwater lake.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non Profit City
Announced late last year, the development will house venture capital companies and investors who will support and incubate talent and businesses to drive community contributions from around the world.
“Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non Profit City will host academies, colleges, ‘Misk schools’, a conference centre, a science museum, and a creative center offering a space to support the ambitions of innovators in sciences and new generation technology such as AI [artificial intelligence]IoT [Internet of Things] and robotics,” Prince Mohammed said.
The city is near Wadi Hanifa, on an area estimated to be about 3.4 square kilometers in Riyadh province.
The general master-plan includes residential areas with 500 villas and town houses, as well as 6,000 apartments with multiple floor plans, accommodating about 18,000 residents.
Being built on the outskirts of the Riyadh, this project is all about entertainment.
It includes a Six Flags theme park, a golf course and an arts complex.
Qiddiya Investment Company in February awarded a contract worth 2.8 billion Saudi riyals ($746.6 million) to a joint venture of Alec Saudi Arabia Engineering and Contracting and El Seif Engineering Contracting for the construction of the kingdom’s first and the region’s largest water theme park.
The park will sit on 22.5 hectares of land and will be home to 22 rides and attractions — including nine that will be “world firsts”. It will span nine zones, inspired by animals that inhabit the areas around Qiddiya.
Some of the rides have been designed to use 75 per cent less water compared with the more conventional offerings at other water parks.
By 2030, Qiddiya hopes to draw up to 17 million visitors annually.
Red Sea Project
A key element of Saudi Arabia’s tourism drive, the Red Sea Project has had awarded billions of riyals worth of contracts as it pushes ahead with construction.
The project will comprise 50 resorts, offering up to 8,000 hotel rooms and more than 1,000 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.
The destination also features mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes and ancient cultural and heritage sites.
The project is expected to generate 22bn riyals of revenue annually by 2030 and 464bn riyals in cumulative revenue through its construction cycle and its 10 years of steady operation by 2040, according to The Red Sea Development Company’s inaugural sustainability report.
It is also expected to support 70,000 jobs by 2040.
Phase one of the Red Sea Project is due to be delivered by the end of 2023, with phase two to include the development of four or five additional islands.
The Red Sea Development Company in May said it was evaluating locations and types of experiences that will be complementary to phase one, with decisions to be made by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the tourism destination’s dedicated airport is “virtually done” on the airside and the first phase is expected to welcome passengers early next year, officials said.
This luxury development on Saudi Arabia’s north-western coast will border Neom and the Red Sea Project and is another key part of the kingdom’s tourism drive.
The development will add 2,500 hotel rooms and 700 private residential villas, along with a retail area featuring 200 outlets.
It will have a Triple Bay Yacht Club in the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Nature Reserve designed after traditional Arabian houses, with a smooth white exterior and a palette of natural and locally sourced materials, such as stone, timber and leather.
“We anticipate that Amaala will become an international hub for luxury yachting, and as such, the yacht club required a world-class design, influenced by the surrounding natural elements and Arabic heritage, and underpinned by our commitment to sustainability,” said John Pagano , chief executive of Amaala.
Saudi Arabia last year merged the two government-owned developers owned by sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund — The Red Sea Development Company and Amaala — into a single entity to cut costs and boost synergies.
Located on the outskirts of Riyadh and the site of the first Saudi Arabian state, Ad Diriyah is regarded as a heritage jewel.
The $17bn development will encompass several luxury resorts, including major international hotel brands. It is being transformed into an educational, cultural, recreational and hospitality centre.
Diriyah Gate I will feature 18 hotels within the mixed-use traditional urban community that is to be created in an authentic Najdi architectural style, typical of the kingdom’s villages, using the same mud bricks and plaster used centuries ago, while providing modern amenities.
Diriyah Gate II is envisioned as a Parisian-scale, pedestrian-focused, mixed-use development with all the cultural entertainment assets, while Diriyah Gate 3 will have a huge residential aspect.
Ad Diriyah was once an ancient trade and pilgrimage route and a meeting point for those traveling to or from Asia, Africa or Europe.
The $50.6bn heritage mega project is targeting 27 million domestic and international visitors by 2030.
King Salman Park
The 16 sq km park in Riyadh is scheduled to be the largest urban park in the world.
It will be a global center for culture, arts and nature, with Islamic-themed and vertical gardens, a labyrinth and a bird and butterfly conservatory, as well as a 7.5km circular walkway and an 800,000 sq m “wadi”.
The arts section will house the Royal Arts Complex, which will have a museum, library, art studios and an auditorium.
This project goes up — and is planned to go up a long way.
It has been labeled as the world’s future tallest building, with plans for its 252 floors to reach 1km, making it taller than Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Construction started in 2011 and was 20 per cent complete in 2017 after delays. Building slowed due to the pandemic and is reportedly about a third complete.
Updated: August 17, 2022, 4:30 AM