A Look at the Future: Saudi Arabia’s Mega City

By: Camryn Rayball ’23

     Saudi Arabia has released plans of building a futuristic, one-hundred-mile structure, called, “The Line”.

     Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the mastermind behind The Line. The prince hopes to create an “urban utopia,” which initially caused speculation after all the technological aspirations were announced. These advantageous feats include flying taxis, robot maids, an artificial moon, glow-in-the-dark beaches, and Jurassic Park style attractions featuring animatronic lizards.

     Along with technological goals, there are also ambitions to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060. They hope to achieve this by being a car-free, carbon neutral bubble.

     This will boost almost total sustainability and produce a temperature-regulated microclimate. Prince Mohammed strives for a reduced carbon footprint in hopes of releasing Saudi Arabia from the “oil-dependent” stereotype that currently surrounds the country.   

     Prince Mohammed wants The Line to be world-renowned among other regional countries. To achieve this, he plans to create his own pyramids, create minimum of 380,000 jobs, and be known as the “most livable city by far.”

     Many think this is too ambitious of an idea and doubt that this idea will ever become more.

     The idea was introduced in 2017 and the first phase is said to last until 2030. They plan to spend around $500 billion US dollars, and with this budget they hope to include features such as their own pyramids along with a high-speed rail with an end-to-end transit of twenty minutes.

     Prince Mohammed’s reason for the extravagant idea of The Line  is to raise the capacity of Saudi Arabia, get more citizens and more people in Saudi Arabia.

     “And since we are doing it from nothing, why should we copy normal cities?” he said.

     While Prince Mohammed plans to boost the Saudi Arabian economy by billions, the country has faced much more social criticism due to lack of social reform and human rights issues not being recognized.

     The most relatable issue to The Line is lack of proper treatment of migrant workers.

     Migrant workers have been consistently underpaid, had delayed paychecks and passport confiscations when they “cross the wrong person.” Saudi Arabia has implemented the occasional labor reform laws but the environments workers endure are often seen as exploitative and dangerous for the migrant population.

     Along with other human rights issues, Saudi Arabia has been called out for trying to forcibly remove the Huwaitat tribe who is currently inhabiting the land where The Line is supposed to be. There are around 20,000 members of the tribe who are being evicted with no knowledge of where they will go next.

     “For the Huwaitat tribe, Neom is being built on our blood, on our bones,” says Alia Hayel Aboutiyah al-Huwaiti, an outspoken activist and member of the tribe living in London. “It’s not for the people already living there! It’s for tourists, people with money. But not for the original people living there.”

    The Huwaitat Tribe has sent an urgent message to the United Nations asking for a formal investigation be done on the Saudi authorities on the pretense of harassment, abuse, abductions and forced displacement due to the megacity project. The project is being advertised as being built on “virgin land” which is obviously being revealed as false claims from al-Huwaitat activists.

    Lots of activists and Saudi citizens find issue with this because they are not just trying to forcibly evict the tribe, they are acting as though the tribe is not there.

     Unfortunately, these instances are not the only controversies the project has faced. As the years pass and the news stories continue, it is up in the air whether the project will make it past the drawing board or not.  

Send us your thoughts!