Saudi Arabia is building a futuristic city in the middle of a vast desert— from scratch.
A vital element of the country’s Vision 2030 plan, the project is the brainchild of Saudi’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. The site covers an area of more than 10,000 square miles, about the same size as Massachusetts. And it could cost $500 billion to complete.
“So Mohammed bin Salman wants to project himself as a liberal leader within the conservative royal family in Saudi Arabia,” Ali Dogan, research fellow at the Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient institute, told CNBC in an interview. “Neom is a mega project seen in Saudi Arabia and the young Saudi population as part of this liberalization process.”
The Neom project is far from without controversy, though. Critics say it’s another attempt by the crown prince to improve his image after U.S. intelligence officials concluded he was behind the 2018 killing of journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. It also is being seen by some as a way to distract attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Watch the video above to find out why MBS is betting on this futuristic city.