In 2017, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced Neom, a $1T desert utopia as a way to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil and diversify its economy, per Insider.
More details were recently unveiled, but privacy and human rights experts are concerned — not to mention skeptics who doubt it will ever fully manifest.
What is Neom?
Located on 10.2k square miles of desert, Neom will operate outside of Saudi Arabia’s conservative government, with its own taxes, labor laws, and judicial system.
It will consist of 10 regions, four of which we know about:
Sindalah: An island dotted with hotels and yacht marinas, scheduled to open in 2024. Tourists can dive to the reefs and wreckage of the Red Sea.
The Line: A continuous, ~130-mile-long building that will house 9m people in a car-free smart city.
Oxagon: A floating industrial complex (yes, it’s an octagon) for manufacturing and research.
Trojena: An outdoor skiing destination that will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games.
Other futuristic perks include use of the Volocopter air taxi, which Neom claims to have invested $175m in.
But there’s major controversy
Experts worry about the environmental impact of a ski resort in the middle of the desert, while privacy experts are suspicious of the smart city’s surveillance and data collection capabilities.
Key employees have left over an allegedly hostile work environment. CEO Nadhmi al-Nasr — not doing himself many favors — once said he drives employees like slaves and “when they drop down dead, I celebrate.”
Worst of all? The UN has denounced Neom for the forced eviction of members of the Howeitat tribe. One member was killed by Saudi forces, three were sentenced to prison, and three are scheduled to be executed.
This grim news may leave Neom wanting for guests — if it ever happens at all.
Bright side? Maybe Telosa, ex-Walmart exec Marc Lore’s desert utopia, will pan out?