Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced plans to build a new futuristic city on the Red Sea coast that would push the country into the 21st century. The powerful new Saudi Arabian prince vowed to return his country to a more tolerant form of Islam in a rare public appearance to promote the more than 10,000 square mile development. The Prince stated, “We are only going back to how we were to the tolerant, moderate Islam that is open to the world, to all the religions and traditions of its people.” He told the businessmen and investors in attendance that the kingdom is striving to create a “new generation of cities,” called NEOM, which is expected to cost about $500 billion to be funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The city is described as a futuristic utopia with smart technology integrated throughout the new city and powered by clean energy. The prince acknowledged that achieving these plans will be a challenge. “It’s easy to dream. Making it a reality is difficult,” the 32 year old prince said. The new project is part of the prince’s overall strategy to promote Saudi Arabia as an investment destination, as Saudi Arabia prepares for a post-oil era. Since his meteoric rise to power he has made a series of major announcements, including plans to sell a stake in oil giant Saudi Aramco, to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and his plans to end the long-standing ban on women drivers.
A Vision of Utopia
The new city will be completely different than any other city in Saudi Arabia. NEOM is envisioned to have more robots than people deployed to provide services from health care to security. The city will have driverless cars, and be powered by sun and wind alone. NEOM will have its own unique set of laws and regulations, separate from the Saudi kingdom. The city hopes to be more inviting to both businesses and foreign residents, with a dramatic departure from conservative conventions. “We won’t waste 30 years of our lives in dealing with any extremist thoughts. We will abolish them today, and immediately,” Prince Mohammed said. “We want to live a normal life, a life that reflects our tolerant religion and our good customs and traditions so that we coexist with the world and contribute in developing our nation and the world.”
Source: Wall Street Journal: “Saudi Prince Touts Tolerance, Unveils Plan for New City,” October 25, 2017
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