Neom: Saudi Arabia’s Promise To Build A Utopia

Araby Scott, Contributor

On July 31st Saudi Arabia announced the development of a new city called Neom. The name comes from combining the Greek word, Neo, meaning new, and the Arabic word Mustaqbal which means, future. The city is estimated to cost 500 billion USD and was approved by the thirty-two-year-old prince, Mohammed Bin Salman. The city will be massive, 10,232 square miles in on the Red Sea coast. Though the proposal for the city was approved by the prince, the project was picked up by the American Boston consulting group.

Along with being an incredible tourist attraction, Neom is also going to be run on solar and wind energy. The money will largely come from local investors and some from Saudi Arabia’s government.

The attractions proposed for the city seem like a child dreamt them up. The outlandish promises for the city include flying cars, robot maids, glow-in-the-dark sand, an artificial moon, cage fighting robot dinosaurs, cloud seeding, and schools taught by hologram teachers. Phase one of the massive project is expected to be finished by 2025. The city is not just meant for tourists, the city is also promised to have the “world’s best-paying jobs [and be] the most livable city”

While the theme park-like attractions sound incredible to visit, there are many highly controversial ideas for the future city. For one, there will be twenty-four-hour surveillance. The surveillance will be achieved by mounted cameras around the city, and drones, similar to the monitoring of Singapore. Neom is also promised to have facial-recognition for every citizen. Secondly, the land that the future city will be built on is already inhabited by 20,000 people in various tribes. The people currently living on this land will be forced to relocate. lastly, and perhaps the most controversial, Gattaca. Gattaca will be human gene-modifying program. The goal of Gattaca and its facilities will be to enhance the human gene through physical strength and IQ.

The future laws for Neom are largely unknown. Considering this uncertainty, many people from western countries are uneasy with the idea of visiting Saudi Arabia. The laws will not be the same as the rest of Saudi Arabia, however many Neom hopefuls have questions about the future laws and legal system. What is known is that Neom will have a different government, judicial system and culture than the rest of Saudi Arabia.

Many people have voiced their opinion about this future city, some are supportive of the plans, “The technological advancements within the region will improve the quality of life and people will be more inclined to live within this region.”  Others shared their strong opinions opposing the future city, “Another stupid decision made by stupid and incompetetive [sic] leaders.” Many people are not surprised with direction Saudi Arabia is taking, “With all the recent changes going on in the Kingdom, it is no surprise that the government is leaning greatly towards technological advancement.”

In theory, the city sounds like a beautiful opportunity for Saudi Arabia to enhance tourism and way of life for so many. In practice, however, it is difficult to picture a city in which the time, money, and relocation efforts are worth the investment.