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Saudi Arabia's crown prince reportedly wants to build a $500 billion desert city with artificial rain, a glow-in-the-dark beach, and robot dinosaurs

Saudi Arabia's crown prince reportedly wants to build a $500 billion desert city with artificial rain, a glow-in-the-dark beach, and robot dinosaurs

saudi arabia


A photograph of Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh.

  • Saudi Arabia has long been planning a futuristic mega-city in the desert.
  • A report from the Wall Street Journal included a wild array of details on the plans, including futuristic and bizarre features like something out of a sci-fi movie.
  • Citing documents drawn up by three large consultancy firms, the Journal says the city could feature artificial rain, robotic maids, and holographic teachers.
  • Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants to build the $500 billion project to diversify the Saudi economy and lessen its reliance on oil.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Fresh details have emerged about Saudi Arabia's wildly ambitious plan to build a $500 billion mega-city in the middle of the desert, officially known as the Neom project.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, plans have been drawn up to furnish the city, which Saudi Arabia wants to be the size of Massachusetts, with a variety of futuristic, and in some cases, downright weird sounding, technologies.

The Journal cites reports created by three of the world's biggest consultancy firms - McKinsey & Co, Boston Consulting, and Oliver Wyman - all of whom have been employed to help plan the creation of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's vision for the city.

Read more: Saudi Arabia is building a $500 billion mega-city that's 33 times the size of New York City

mohammed bin salman

Future Investment Initiative.

Saudi Crown Prince at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

The city will be known as Neom, a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning "new," and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for "future."

Among the ideas presented in the consultants' reports, the Journal says, are artificial clouds to create rain in the desert, robotic maids to do housework, and a beach featuring glow-in-the-dark sand.

Proposed features mentioned in the consultancy reports are said to include:

  • Flying taxis. In the future, one report says, according to the Journal: Driving is just for fun, no longer for transportation (e.g. driving Ferrari next to the coast with a nice view)."
  • A giant artificial moon that will be illuminated every evening.
  • A state-of-the-art security and surveillance system, which will use drones, security cameras, and facial recognition technology to track every citizen constantly.
  • "Cloud seeding" technology to make artificial clouds and produce higher rainfall that naturally possible in the Saudi desert.
  • School classes taught by holographic teachers. Neom will have the "leading education system on the planet," the consultants' reports say.
  • A Jurassic Park-like island filled with robotic dinosaurs to entertain residents and visitors.
  • A dining scene including the "highest rate of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant" of any city in the world.

Neom is the centerpiece in bin Salman's Vision 2030 plan to modernize and diversify the Saudi economy, lessening the kingdom's reliance on fossil fuels.

Saudi Arabia is the world's second biggest producer of oil, narrowly behind the US in terms of production capacity.

As a result, its economic prosperity is linked closely with global oil prices, which are volatile.

Read more: Saudi Arabia is reportedly ditching laws that allow men to control women's travel with a government app

saudi arabia women flag

Jamal Saidi/Reuters

A Saudi Arabian woman waves the national flag during a soccer match.

In October 2017, bin Salman first announced the project, at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, saying at the time that Neom will "be a place for the dreamers for the world."

"Neom is all about things that are necessarily future-oriented and visionary," Neom Chief Executive Nadhmi al Nasr said in a statement to the Journal.

"So we are talking about technology that is cutting edge and beyond - and in some cases still in development and maybe theoretical," he added.

Read more: Saudi Arabia books Future, 50 Cent, and Chris Brown to headline landmark music festival after Nicki Minaj pulled out over the kingdom's human-rights record

While the Saudi government says the city will attract the "world's greatest minds and best talents" concerns have been raised about how the project will be funded.

According to the Journal's report, former employees of Neom, and people with knowledge of the project "don't know how much of the plan will become reality due to potential funding issues and technological limitations."

Initial stages of the city's planning and development have been funded by money borrowed from abroad, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

You can read the Wall Street Journal's full report here.


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