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Saudi crown prince launches 'world’s first non-profit city', named after himself

Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non-Profit City will be located in the Irqah neighbourhood of the capital Riyadh
A projected image of the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non-Profit City in Riyadh, launched on 14 November 2021 (Misk Foundation website)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has launched a self-titled, non-profit city to support the goals of his eponymous charitable organisation.

The kingdom's de facto leader, known as MBS, on Sunday launched the Prince Mohammed bin Salman Non-Profit City, as part of the Mohammed bin Salman Misk Foundation's objectives. 

“This will be the first non-profit city of its kind which will contribute to achieving the goals of... Misk Foundation in supporting innovation, entrepreneurship and qualifying future leaders,” MBS said in a statement.

The project was described in a press release as an “incubator for youth and volunteer groups as well as local and international nonprofit institutions”. 

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The new city is to be located in the Irqah neighbourhood of the capital Riyadh, and will span an area of roughly 3.4 square kilometres. It will host colleges, schools, a conference centre, a science museum, an arts academy and gallery, a theatre and a residential complex.

No timeframe was given for when construction would begin or be completed, with further details to be announced in “the coming months”. 

This is not the first time that Saudi Arabia has launched a shiny new city: earlier this year the kingdom announced an ambitious plan to construct a zero-carbon city in a 170km straight line. 

Mired in scandal 

A new “Mohammed bin Salman City” section has been launched on Misk’s website, with a projected image of what the city would look like. 

The crown prince’s flagship charitable foundation, which was launched in 2011, has been a crucial tool in his attempts to increase his influence and improve his brand overseas. 

In recent years, however, Misk has been mired in controversy and scandal. 

Following the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 at the hands of Saudi agents at the consulate in Istanbul, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cancelled the majority of $5m it had pledged to Misk. 

The Saudi leadership ordered a review of the organisation last year after references to Misk and one of its senior officials were made in a US justice department lawsuit that targeted two former Twitter employees and a third man accused of spying on Twitter users at the behest of the Saudis.

Misk’s former secretary-general, Bader al-Asaker, was also named in a lawsuit brought by Saudi dissident and former intelligence official Saad al-Jabri, who claims the crown prince attempted to assassinate him. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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