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Saudi Arabia: Neom will 'compete with Miami', promises Mohammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia's planned mega city will prove critics wrong and be timeless piece of art, the crown prince said
Artist view of the 'Mirror Line', a 170-kilometre horizontal skyscraper, announced as a landmark in Neom, north of Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
Artist view of the 'Mirror Line', a 170km horizontal skyscraper, announced as a landmark in Neom, north of Saudi Arabia (Reuters)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has promised to confound critics of the country's flagship Neom megaproject, which he said once completed would "compete with Miami".

"They say a lot of projects that happen in Saudi Arabia can't be done. They can keep saying that and we can keep proving them wrong," the crown prince said in recently released footage.

Since it was announced in 2017, the $500bn prospective megacity, which organisers claim will be 33 times the size of New York City, has been widely derided as unfeasible. Its plans include a 170km straight-line city known as "The Line".

Construction is well underway on "The Line", new satellite imagery seen by Middle East Eye showed last week.

In an interview with the Discovery Channel, Mohammed bin Salman sought to defend his pet project, which he claims will make money, meet demand of a growing population in the country and reinvent how cities are created. 

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Speaking on how he guided the planning process of Neom, Mohammed bin Salman said that most architects "provided us cities based on the existing methods, but with better solutions". 

Initially, most plans were based on the city being a circle extending outwards, except one designer who promised a "line" which the crown prince said piqued his interest.

But the Saudi ruler wasn't satisfied. The initial design would have meant that the city would be a line with a two kilometre width, which Mohammed bin Salman said people "wouldn't feel".

"I told the team: 'how about if we take that two [kilometres] and we flip it [into] two towers [for] the whole line'," he said.

The new city had to be designed from the "top down", said Mohammed bin Salman, who sees the project as a testament of his "visionary" approach to the whole country. 

"Engineering and designers" were not enough, he added. The aim of the project is not just to create a city but a "piece of art".

"Neom will compete with Miami in terms of entertainment, culture, sports and retail," said Mohammed bin Salman, hoping to emulate the US city  known for its long summers, party scene and mega clubs. 

No cars or roads

The Line will have no cars or roads and will be populated by one million residents from around the world, Mohammed bin Salman announced two years ago. 

He also said that it would be possible to travel from one end of The Line to the other in 20 minutes, implying that a high-speed rail service would be built. 

Two parallel, mirrored buildings that are nearly 500 metres tall and 120km long are planned as part of the project, according to designs uncovered last year.

In addition to the horizontal city, Neom is also touted to include an eight-sided city that floats on water and a ski resort with a folded vertical village.

The Saudi government has been accused of forcibly displacing members of the Howeitat tribe, who have lived for centuries in the Tabuk province in northwest Saudi Arabia, to make way for the project.

At least 47 members of the tribe have been either arrested or detained for resisting eviction, including five who have been sentenced to death, according to a report by the UK-based Alqst rights group.

MEE revealed last month that the UK government was facilitating collaboration between British businesses and the planned Saudi megacity Neom, despite allegations of serious human rights abuses taking place to make way for the project.

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