Saudi Arabia’s King Salman held his first-ever Cabinet meeting in NEOM, a planned $500 billion futuristic city that will host more robots than people in a desolate peninsula in the kingdom’s northwest. The sci-fi city on the Red Sea coast is designed to represent Saudi Arabia’s efforts to transform itself away from oil. The 82-year-old monarch’s visit there for a Cabinet meeting and, according to the official Saudi Press Agency, to “spend some time in rest and recreation,” suggested a show of support for the project.
This is a “historic beginning for a city of dreams,” Bader al-Asaker, the head of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s private office, said on his Twitter account.
The kingdom’s top economic council also convened a meeting in NEOM, according to SPA.
In announcing the city in October, the crown prince said the metropolis would promise a lifestyle not available in today’s Saudi Arabia, and a “civilization leap for humanity.”
It will have a link “with artificial intelligence, with the internet of things – everything,” the crown prince said in an interview in October after NEOM was announced.
The ambitious plan includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa.
Some 25,900 square kilometers have been allocated for the development of the urban area, which will stretch into Jordan and Egypt.
Critics have questioned the megaproject after previous efforts to build industrial and financial cities have struggled to take off.
Construction of the $10 billion King Abdullah Financial District in north Riyadh began in 2006 but the 73-building hub remains unfinished.
The Cabinet also announced that the crown prince will chair a new government committee that will serve as an authority on all issues related to hydrocarbons, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The committee also includes Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, and the finance, commerce and investment and economy ministers, the agency said.
The Daily Star