Saudi Arabia is attempting to steer away from a total economic reliance on crude oil production. With the country's vast empty lands, the government has been investing in mega-projects that should bring heaps of tourists and pilgrims in the near future.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman presented the kingdom's Vision 2030 in 2016, with an aim of using the country's natural resources and land to further develop the economy. According to INDEX Saudi - the country's leading interior design, fit-out, and architecture event - there are over 80 mega-projects being planned or developed around the kingdom, some of which are cities that will play a major role in the attraction of tourists.
Here are five of the newest up-and-coming mega-cities in Saudi Arabia:
With an estimated total cost of $500 billion, NEOM is Saudi Arabia's biggest giga-project to date. The project's first phase was completed in May 2019; the second phase has reportedly launched. The futuristic city, located along the Red Sea coastline in Tabuk, will span 26,500 square kilometers after its completion.
"The world's most ambitious project" aims to be mainly run by tech, and will include features such as flying taxis, glow-in-the-dark sand, robot cage fights, and even a Jurassic Park-type island.
2. Qiddiya Entertainment City
The Qiddiya Entertainment City is among the largest projects currently being developed in Saudi Arabia. Standing around and along the famous Edge of the World, the "capital of entertainment, sports, and the arts" is located a mere 40 kilometers away from the center of Riyadh.
Construction began on the 334-square-kilometer city in 2019, and the first phase is set to open in 2022. Some of its main features include a Six Flags theme park - with the world's longest, tallest, and fastest roller coaster - motor-sport tracks, safaris as well as water and snow activities.
3. King Abdullah Economic City
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is considered the kingdom's new destination for international sports. The almost completed 173-square-kilometer city is equipped for elite sports such as golfing, marine sports such as diving and fishing, as well as GO karting.
In order to increase the number of tourists who visit the city, festivals, concerts, and competitions are held at different times throughout the year. The city has also laid down investments for the building of a culinary school.
KAEC is one of the five locations in Saudi Arabia to have a Haramain Railway station. The fastest high-speed train in the kingdom is also in Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and King Abdulaziz International Airport.
"Amaala will be better than the Maldives," and that's according to Farah Zafar, the chief legal officer at the Public Investment Fund KSA - Amaala.
"Sustainability is one of the key driving factors of Amaala and Vision 2030 and this project has taken a lead on the preservation of the environment, the future of sustainability and the preservation of the oceans," Zafar told Arabian Business.
Amaala will sit alongside NEOM on a 3,800-square-kilometer stretch of land, complementing the giga-city as a mega-resort for wellness.
5. Al Faisaliah City
Al Faisaliah City is considered an extension of the Saudi holy city of Mecca and will be residing in the western part of the city. The 2,450-square-kilometer expansion is expected to accommodate 6.5 million people by 2050. Due to the kingdom's initiatives to increase the number of pilgrims visiting the two holy cities, Mecca and Medina, the government decided to build this megacity to ease the pressure off Mecca and Jeddah.
Al Faisaliah City will have its own airport, governmental departments, a waterfront, and over 990,000 residential units to accommodate citizens as well as pilgrims.