Recently, Neom has once again been the protagonist in the headlines of the media thanks to its agreement with Volocopter for the creation of the first public service of eVTOL-type flying taxis, that is, electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
Similarly, Neom recently announced agreements with other companies for the creation of ambitious projects such as an advanced satellite connectivity network, coral gardens in the depths of the Red Sea, a mega-fish farm or the generation and export of green hydrogen, among many others. things.
But what is Neom really, and how real is he? Is it more than the product of a crown prince's delusions of grandeur or a marketing ploy to whitewash the Saudi dictatorship?
Neom is a city of the future devised by Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, which will be similar in size to Belgium and located in the far north from the Red Sea coast belonging to the Arab country.
The announced budget for the construction of the projected more than 26,000 square meters is 500,000 million dollars (about 443,000 million euros) and it is expected to be completed in 2025. Its main attraction lies in its concept of sustainability, adaptability and technology at the service of well-being.
Promotional video of The Line, residential city of Neom.
It will mainly consist of two sectors, The Line (residential) and Oxagon (industrial). The first will consist of a strip of 170 km. in length that will unite the Red Sea coast with the desert, the mountains and the Tabuk Valley. The second, has been projected as a technological and industrial headquarters partially artificially located on the Red Sea.
The marketing campaign built around Neom is as exuberant as the project itself. According to its creators, it is a futuristic city that aims to "redefine the country, the region and beyond without separate ways of thinking, without divisions, without restrictions."
In the promotional trailer for Neom, you can see women with modern clothes, clean energy sources and a lot of open minds in a metropolis that wants to become the next global center with the best of Arabia, Asia, Africa, Europe and America.
NEOM will focus on nine investment sectors and living conditions that form the fabric of its philosophy:
From a technological point of view, Neom aspires to be the center of the world in the coming years, since it is not in vain that technologies form the cornerstone for the development of the city.
And beyond extravagances like a big artificial moon, we talk about bigger issues like disruptive solutions for transportation from automated driving to passenger drones, new ways to grow and process food, patient-centric healthcare for your holistic well-being, high-speed wireless internet as a free commodity called “digital air”, world-class free online continuing education, large-scale e-government that puts city services within the reach of the citizen, building codes making net-zero carbon homes the standard, a city design that encourages walking and biking, and running everything solely on renewable energy.
All services and processes in Neom will be 100% automated, with the aim of making it the most efficient destination in the world, and in turn will be implemented in all activities such as legal, government and investment procedures, among others. In addition, Neom will be held to the highest sustainability standards and will provide all transactions, procedures and claims through electronic and paperless means.
Repetitive and arduous tasks will be fully automated and handled by robots. "All these elements will put Neom at the forefront of the world in terms of efficiency, which will make it the best destination in the world to live," they say.
With these premises, Neom aspires to be the safest, most efficient, future-oriented and best place to live and work. But, if from the point of view of creators and investors we are talking about little less than paradise on earth, there are many doubts that it generates abroad.
The first stumbling block that has come to light is the legitimacy of the location where Neom is intended to be built, as a part of it is located in the home of the Huwaitat tribe, which has settled in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula for generations and even before the Saudi state was established in 1932. According to various international media reports, 20,000 tribesmen have already been scheduled to be evicted without being informed of their next place of residence.
Not only that, but Neom, as part of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 project, will be independent of the Kingdom's existing governmental framework. In other words, you will have a lot of independence in relation to laws and regulations, except sovereignty.
All this makes many analysts suspect the true objective of its creators, since it is seen by many as a place destined for high-level tourism with the elite of Saudi society as the main beneficiary in an environment in which the current repression experienced by the citizens of the Arab country will be parked at the door of Neom.
A suspicion of murder also hangs over the project. Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, one of the main opponents of the project and a resident of Khuraibat denounced that they had “begun the process of eviction of people to deport them from their lands. They arrested anyone who said they are against deportation, they don't want to leave, they want to stay in their home, they don't want money."
In the same video posted on YouTube, he stated that "I wouldn't be surprised if they come to kill me at my house now." Later the same day, she filmed a video from her rooftop of the police entering her house. Other Khuraibat citizens recorded videos of shots being fired from outside his home, before Saudi authorities reported that he had been killed in a shootout with regional security forces, claiming that Abdul Rahim wounded two members of them."
Will Neom do more than satisfy the wishes of a wealthy heir? Will it be a turning point in technology and the way of conceiving cities? The future will speak.