In October of 2017 the planned transnational city and economic zone of Neom was announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (the reformer who arrested his relatives and detained them in the Ritz Carlton Riyadh). The Crown Prince has appointed the former CEO of Siemens to run the $500 billion project. Operating independently of Saudi law, with “autonomous tax and labour laws”, Neom will be built south of the Sinai Peninsula near the borders with Egypt and Jordan.
The promotional video for Neom features people working out mathematical solutions on a glass wall. Parachute boarders and scuba divers. Neomians turning cartwheels in the desert. Group tandem skydives. A man executing figure skating’s Ina Bauer move on the prow of a yacht. The website promises “Futuristic record-breaking theme parks. Endless natural parkland. The world’s largest garden in the heart of the metropolis. A waterpark with a wave machine where Olympians will perfect their technique.” The narration calls to mind Ja Rule’s ignominious Fyre Festival on the island ‘once owned by Pablo Escobar.’
‘You can look at these ancient hills and see nothing. Or, you can see nothing to hold you back. No set ways of thinking. No restrictions. No divisions. No excuses. Just endless potential.
This is the blank page that you need to write humanity’s next chapter. Neom. Over twenty five thousand square kilometers of inspiration. With room for your biggest ideas. A part of the world set aside for those who want to change the world. A land created to free people from stress.
With more time for the things that really matter. A truly global culture, from every place and background you can image. That can show the rest of the planet how it’s done. With energy that flows from the sun and wind, neighborhoods that can feed and clean themselves.
Technologies that can make life everything it can be. This is where we can prepare together for the next era of human progress.
Some will look at these ancient hills and see nothing. But the rest of the world will know that this is where a new way of living began.”