You thought Dubai — the city home to the world’s tallest building and the world’s largest mall — was the Middle East’s most over-the-top metropolis.
Saudi Arabia seems to be giving it a run for its money, with dazzling new renderings that show the interior of the kingdom’s proposed 75-mile-long, and mirror-wrapped, ‘landscraper’ city — whose images look straight out of a science fiction film. When completed, it will stand higher than New York’s Empire State Building.
The $1 trillion mega-development is called The Line, part of a desert complex known as Neom, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Daily Mail. All together, Neom — beginning on the Gulf of Aqaba just east of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — will additionally include an artificial ski resort, as well as robots and AI for the project’s inhabitants.
Bin Salman, who’s been accused of approving the savage 2018 murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi (though he has denied involvement), aims for Saudi Arabia — itself relatively newly open to tourism despite its history of brutal religious policing — to have a spectacle as eternal as Egypt’s pyramids.
The Line, needless to say, is ambitious — and the prince has set a goal of completing it by 2030, though engineers have reportedly said the massive undertaking could take five decades to complete. NPR notes that, of the new statistics and designs revealed on Monday, the development will rise higher than New York’s Empire State Building, residents can have what they need within a five-minute walk — and there will neither be cars nor roads.
“The designs revealed today for the city’s vertically layered communities will challenge the traditional flat, horizontal cities and create a model for nature preservation and enhanced human livability,” bin Salman said on Monday while unveiling the designs.
Not everyone was pleased, with NPR adding one commenter replied to a video posted by the kingdom’s press agency saying, “I never seen something more dystopian.”
Construction has already begun for the project, which is funded by the government’s public investment fund. It will have two 1,600-foot-high buildings running parallel to each other across a 75-mile-long strip of desert and mountains. Properties running along that kind of distance must take the curvature of the planet into account for their construction, and for the mere sake of getting around, there will be a high-speed train running from end to end within 20 minutes.
Inside, the renderings show a dizzying network of towers hugging lush greenery, an artificial river, neon lights, vertical farms and walkways with views of the surrounding desert. There will even be a sports arena 1,000 feet above the ground.
The development will house 5 million people, according to the Wall Street Journal, and even include a marina for boats. It also stands to create thousands of jobs.
That doesn’t mean the Neom development overall has gone without other controversies. The Daily Mail notes that native tribes were forcibly removed from the area, and security allegedly shot and killed a resident.