Neom (styled NEOM; Arabic: نيوم Neom, Hejazi pronunciation: [nɪˈjo̞ːm]) is a Saudi city being built[2] in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia. It is planned to incorporate smart city technologies and to function as a tourist destination. The site is north of the Red Sea, east of Egypt across the Gulf of Aqaba, and south of Jordan.[3] It will cover a total area of 26,500 km2 (10,200 sq mi) and will extend 460 km along the coast of the Red Sea.

Neom
نيوم
City
Official seal of Neom
Neom in Saudi Arabia
Neom in Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 28°0′23″N 35°12′9″E / 28.00639°N 35.20250°E / 28.00639; 35.20250Coordinates: 28°0′23″N 35°12′9″E / 28.00639°N 35.20250°E / 28.00639; 35.20250
Country Saudi Arabia
ProvinceTabuk
Announced24 October 2017; 4 years ago (2017-10-24)
Founded byMohammad bin Salman
SeatHouse of Saud
Government
 • DirectorNadhmi Al-Nasr[1]
Area
 • Total26,500 km2 (10,200 sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+03 (Arabian Standard Time)
WebsiteOfficial website

Saudi Arabia aims to complete the first section of Neom by 2025.[4][5] The project has an estimated cost of $500 billion.[6] On January 29, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it had set up a closed joint-stock company named Neom.[7] The aim of this company, which is wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund, is to develop the economic zone of Neom.[8] The project is planned to be totally powered by renewable energy sources.[9] Nadhmi Al-Nasr is the chief executive officer of the Neom joint-stock company.[10]

Inauguration of the projectEdit

The city was announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 24, 2017.[11] He said it will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with its own tax and labor laws and an "autonomous judicial system."[12] Egypt announced in 2018 that it is contributing some land to the Neom project.[13]

The initiative emerged from Saudi Vision 2030, a plan that seeks to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors.[14] Plans call for robots to perform functions such as security, logistics, home delivery, and caregiving[15] and for the city to be powered solely with wind and solar power.[12] Because the city will be designed and constructed from scratch, other innovations in infrastructure and mobility have been suggested. Planning and construction will be initiated with $500 billion from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and international investors.[16] The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion by 2025.[17]

In July 2020, the US’s Air Products & Chemicals Inc announced that it will build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia. The US$5 billion project will be jointly owned by Air Products, Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Neom.[18] In May 2022, Indian conglomerate Larsen & Toubro was awarded the contract for constructing of 2,930 MW solar power generation plant, a 1,370 MW wind power farm, a 400 MW battery energy storage system, along with power transmission network of around 190 km.[19]

NameEdit

The name "Neom" was constructed from two words. The first three letters form the Ancient Greek prefix νέο Neo- meaning “new”. The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of Arabic: مستقبل, romanizedMustaqbal, (Hejazi pronunciation: [mʊsˈtaɡbal]), the Arabic word for “future.”[20]

LocationEdit

The Neom project[21] is located in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia in the northwest of the kingdom,[22] extended along with Aqaba Gulf and 468 km of coastline with beaches and coral reefs, as well as mountains up to 2,500 m high, with a total area of around 26,500 sq. km.[23]

DirectorsEdit

Klaus Kleinfeld was announced as the inaugural director for the Neom project upon its launch by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman on 24 October 2017.[24] In 2018, Kleinfeld signed Gladstone Place Partners LLC for "Communications Services" for the Neom project, for a fee of $199,500 plus expenses of $45,000.[25][26]

On 3 July 2018, Kleinfeld was announced as the new advisor to Muhammad bin Salman from 1 August 2018 onwards. Nadhmi Al-Nasr would succeed him as the new Director of Neom from 1 August 2018.[24]

Public relationsEdit

According to a US Justice Department filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Saudi mega-city developing firm NEOM Company hired American public relations and marketing consultancy, Edelman for assistance with public relations on the “smart-city” project. As per the three-month contract with the Chicago-based Edelman, Neom pays Edelman $75,000 per month through February, for international work done on behalf of the developing firm. Under the contract, the PR firm stated the provision of communications support in various sectors including, strategic counsel, stakeholder identification and engagement, media relations and content development. Neom and Edelman refused to comment on the deal. In the course of two years since 2019, Edelman counts as the fourth PR firm hired by Neom following BCW, Ruder Finn, and Teneo. Based on reports by human rights organisations, Saudi residents have pushed against the development of Neom, which would require the resettlement of 20,000 residents, including the Bedouin tribe members. A tribesman was also allegedly shot dead on refusing to give up his land, raising humanitarian concerns.[27][28][29]

In July 2020, a sponsorship with the League of Legends European Championship gathered significant backlash from the professional League of Legends community, including gamers and the league's own staff. The backlash was centered around human rights abuses from the Saudi government, particularly its record on LGBT rights.[30] As a result of the backlash, the sponsorship was cancelled within several hours of the announcement.[31]

 
Aerial view in 2012 of the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Some of the illustrations for the Neom project were taken from the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, leaving commentators to note that "using an actual shot of Singapore to depict an upcoming construction project in Saudi Arabia is an odd choice".[32][33]

In March 2021, Neom signed a four year global sponsorship agreement with the Asian Football Confederation.[34]

PartsEdit

The LineEdit

In January 2021, the project unveiled plans for The Line, a 170-kilometre (110 mi) long linear city within the Neom area that is supposed to have 1 million citizens without conventional cars.[35]

Neom BayEdit

The development work of the project’s first phase, Neom Bay, was planned to start in the first quarter of 2019 and be completed by 2020.[36][needs update] The developments were to include constructing the airport at Sharma which would operate regular commercial flights between Riyadh and Neom.[37] The plan of Neom Bay's developments also involves building the first residential area in Neom as part of phase 1.[38]

Neom Bay AirportEdit

In June 2019, it was announced that the Neom Bay Airport would start to receive commercial flights after the first phase of the airport was completed with runway length of 3,757 m (12,326 ft).[39][40][41][needs update] The airport that is planned to be located at Neom Bay has been registered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the code NUM.[40]

Neom Industrial City (Oxagon)Edit

Neom Industrial City (NIC) is located around 25 kilometres (16 mi) north of the town of Duba, and covers roughly 200–250 square kilometres (77–97 sq mi) of land, of which approximately 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi) forms the NIC. The project will focus on modern manufacturing and industrial research, and development centered on the expansion of the Duba port.[42] In November 2021, the project was renamed to Oxagon and described as a floating industrial complex shaped like a regular octagon; it will be the largest in the world when completed, and would serve as a port for shipping routes through the Red Sea.[43] Mohammed bin Salman billed the project as representing a radical new model for future manufacturing centers, based on Neom's strategies of redefining the way humanity lives and works in the future.[43][44][45]

AgricultureEdit

Neom plans[46] for 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of the surrounding land to become agricultural fields, and to rely heavily on genetically engineered crops.[47]

Neom International AirportEdit

The overall Development Area covers an area of 20.2 sq. km. 6,600 m long by 3,061 m wide. The work is under progress.[citation needed]

TrojenaEdit

On 3 March 2022, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched the Trojena project, which will be the first major outdoor skiing destination in the Arabian Peninsula. It will be located in Saudi Arabia's highest mountain range, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) from the Gulf of Aqaba coast, with elevations ranging from 1,500–2,600 metres (4,900–8,500 ft). The site is considerably cooler than the rest of Neom's territory.[48][49][50][51][52]

ControversiesEdit

In late 2018, after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said that "No one will invest [in the project] for years."[53] Advisers to Neom, including Daniel L. Doctoroff[54] and architect Norman Foster, were reported to have distanced themselves from the project and the "toxic" Saudi crown prince.[55] Also, the scope of the projects based on the crown prince's vision incorporates some technologies that do not even exist yet, like flying cars, robot maids, dinosaur robots, and a giant artificial moon.[56] It is estimated that 20,000 people will be forced to relocate to accommodate the planned city.[57]

Attempts to evict Howeitat tribeEdit

On 13 April 2020, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti posted videos online announcing that Saudi security forces were trying to evict him and other members of the Howeitat tribe from their historic homeland to make way for the development of Neom.[58] Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, a human rights activist in London from the same tribe, circulated the videos.[58] In the videos, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti said he would defy the eviction orders, though he expected Saudi authorities would plant weapons in his house to incriminate him. He was later killed by Saudi security forces, who claimed he had opened fire on them.[58] This version of events was disputed by Alya Alhwaiti, who said that he did not own firearms.[58] His funeral was held near the village of al-Khoraibah and was well attended, despite the presence of Saudi security forces.[58]

Eight cousins of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti have been arrested for protesting against the eviction order, but Alya Alhwaiti said that she and human rights activists in the west hoped to challenge the arrests. The tribe are not opposed to the development of Neom, but do not want to be evicted from their traditional homeland. Alya Alhwaiti received death threats from people she says are supporters of Mohammed bin Salman.[58] The threats were reported to British police.[58]

In June 2020, Mohammed bin Salman hired a US public relations and lobbying firm to counter the criticism and controversies around the Neom city project. The country signed a contract worth $1.7 million with the PR company Ruder Finn.[59]

In November 2020, British lawyers representing the Bedouin tribe displaced in the development of Neom urged Dominic Raab to boycott the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia. The attorneys cited that Britain has a moral imperative to take a stand in defense of the tribe and confront Saudi Arabia over its human rights issues.[60]

Abusive work cultureEdit

The CEO of the NEOM project, Nadhmi A. Al-Nasr was reported by former employees of promoting a management culture that ‘belittled expatriates, made unrealistic demands, and neglected discrimination at the workplace, according to the 31 May 2022 publication by The Wall Street Journal. The resignation letter of a former chief executive, Andrew Wirth accused Mr. Nasr’s leadership of being “consistently inclusive of disparagement and inappropriately dismissive and demeaning outbursts”. Mr. Nasr was appointed by Prince Mohammed with the responsibility to lead NEOM, who was accused in his tenure of berating and scaring his employees, as confirmed by present and former staff members. Two gigaprojects under the Saudi Vision 2030 were merged in 2022, while the remaining three projects lost their expatriate chief executives and turned over the senior management.[61]

When reached out for comment, the Saudi government refused to make any, while Neom declined to make Mr. Nasr available for answers or interview requests. However, a written statement was issued by Neom in its defense of Mr. Nasr and the management culture at the megaproject. The statement claimed that Neom represented “a scale and ambition the world has never seen before” and that on the contrary continued to retain and attract more talent, adding that “employees are passionate about what they do and deeply committed to living up to, and delivering on, the Neom vision.” Whereas, people who have worked on the project with Mr. Nasr claimed that the CEO had been committed to delivering the $500 billion worth of the project at all costs. A former director of innovation at Neom’s education team, Anthony Harris also accused the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of a faulty workplace culture since “Nadhmi takes his cue from his boss and everyone else at Neom takes their cue from Nadhmi.” In a recording heard by The WSJ Mr. Nasr once said at a meeting, “I drive everybody like a slave, when they drop down dead, I celebrate. That’s how I do my projects.” He even threatened to replace employees stuck in other countries during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, which included the former director of branding and marketing too. Mr. Nasr reportedly impressed Prince Mohammed with his work in the past at the Aramco and by developing a university on the Red Sea, which was applauded in 2009 by a Dubai-based magazine as “an international achievement”.[62]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

  Media related to Neom at Wikimedia Commons