Saudi Arabia’s Sci-Fi Megacity in the Desert Isn’t Going Well


Over the last several years, Saudi Arabia has been working on a massive infrastructure project that its leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (or MBS) hopes will transform the Kingdom and its relationship with the outside world. The Neom project is a series of developments that are currently under construction in the nation’s Tabuk region. Saudi leaders hope the project will attract foreign visitors while also helping to modernize the country through innovative technological development and applications.

Chief among the development projects associated with Neom is The Line, a proposed 105-mile-long city that will run along the coast of the Dead Sea. The city, which developers had initially projected could house as many as 9 million people by the year 2030, is currently under construction. Ground was officially broken on the project two years ago, and ever since then, the Saudis have been racing to erect their massive metropolis, which is projected to cost as much as $500 billion.

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The designs for this city are intense, enormous, and seem almost impossible to achieve. The Line itself is expected to be elevated above the desert at a height taller than the Empire State Building. At the same time, the entire length of this construction will be supported by a gigantic mirrored facade that will stretch its entire length. The city is also supposed to have no cars or streets, instead relying on a comprehensive rail system, so that residents may live in an environmentally friendly environment.

“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,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in 2022 when the project was originally announced.

While developers have said they hope much of the Neom project will be completed by 2039, lately, things haven’t been going so smoothly. The hugely ambitious sci-fi-tinged dreams that have animated the project seem to be dying while being replaced with more realistic plans. Here’s what’s been happening with the project over the last several months, as the Saudis have struggled to advance their floundering new desert metropolis.

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