Saudi Arabia

Saudi king arrives in $500B still unbuilt mega city for holiday

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Monday has arrived in NEOM, a still undeveloped mega city where he will spend some time for a holiday, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

NEOM is a new and unusual destination for the royal family which has traditionally spent much of the summer outside the country in places such as the French Riviera, Marbella in southern Spain and Tangier, Morocco.

The king “has arrived in NEOM, where he will spend some time in rest and recreation”, the official Saudi Press Agency said in a brief statement.

It was unclear where the king would stay in the still unbuilt area that remains off limits to civilians.

In February, it has been reported that the government had asked local construction companies to build five palaces for the king, crown prince and other senior royals on the Red Sea coast about 150 km (95 miles) west of the city of Tabuk. These would be among the first contracts awarded for NEOM.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the NEOM project last year. The mega city focuses on industries including water and energy, food, media, advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and entertainment.

NEOM is part Saudi Arabia’s economic and social transformation plan, dubbed Vision 2030.

The mega-city project is expected to attract more than $500 billon of investment from the Saudi government, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) and international investors. NEOM’s contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP is projected to reach $100 billion.

The mega city will run along the coast of the Red Sea as well as the Gulf of Aqaba. Its borders will extend across Egyptian and Jordanian borders, making it the first private economic zone to span three countries.

A design document seen by Reuters shows opulent buildings with modern and traditional Moroccan-style architecture featuring Islamic designs and colorful ceramic tiles. The complex of palaces is set to include helipads, a marina and a golf course.

The royal court did not immediately respond to questions about the current status of construction in NEOM, which is largely inaccessible to civilians. At least some of the palaces are believed to have been completed in a matter of months, at undisclosed cost.

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