NEOM's economic model for the future provides for much more than just sustainable economic development. It will also create the best atmosphere for visionary innovators and investors to achieve their dreams. Collaboration between some of the world's finest minds will be enabled in a spirit of international friendship. The possibilities of urban design and living will be explored and the boundaries expanded. Opportunities will be endless.
Future residents will be offered a superior lifestyle and standard of living in the hope of attracting the world's best talent. These new residents will have the most modern infrastructure possible countered by vast parklands, and with the influx of creative and imaginative visionaries, the possibilities are enormous.
The global battle for talent is intense and not likely to slow down. A BBC report stated that China is offering long 5 to 10 year visas (at zero cost) to selected classes of high-end talent such as "technology leaders, entrepreneurs and scientists". Neom Zone will have to compete with other forward thinking countries in this challenging quest.
Beautiful architecture, progressive building codes and a modern urban planning environment will be created. A colossal garden will be created in the heart of NEOM. The myriad qualities of the environment will look to the future and be inspirational.
Automation will be applied wherever possible in the name of maximising efficiency and enhancing lifestyle. Advanced services in health will be provided. Sophisticated educational and recreational opportunities will be made available. Disruptive transport solutions will be implemented that function in three dimensions. Cultural institutions and lavish parks will be built.
Urban design will push the boundaries. Internet access will be free. High-speed digital networks will be created. Culture and entertainment will thrive. Safety & security will be of the highest priority and highest standard. The potential of civilization for our millennium will be on display in this sought-after location on the edge of the Red Sea.
WHAT WILL LIFE BE LIKE IN NEOM?
"NEOM is positioned to become an aspirational society that heralds the future of human civilization by offering its inhabitants an idyllic lifestyle set against a backdrop of a community founded on modern architecture, lush green spaces, quality of life, safety, and technology in the service of humanity paired with excellent economic opportunities."
(PDF – FAQS – Official NEOM Site)
Neom Zone will be a safe and stable society that supports diversity and multiculturalism. Healthcare, education, jobs, transport and accommodation will be as widely available as humanly possible in this master-planned community. According to a DiscoverNeom Fact Sheet, one of the six main pillars of NEOM is described like this:
"THE NEXT GENERATION OF HEALTHY LIVING AND TRANSPORT: NEOM will allow its residents to reach many locations via walking or biking and also have an unprecedented transportation infrastructure, built on future transportation technologies."
(PDF – Fact Sheet – Official NEOM Site)
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a true visionary, wise beyond his years. He has learned from the success of projects like Dubai, and understands what it will take to equal or surpass that achievement. He also has no doubt learned from the relative failures of other attempts at mega-projects around the world.
It appears that with its quasi autonomous status, NEOM will be more liberal than Saudi Arabia proper which is typically described as conservative by many in the West. And by exercising a hands off approach, the Prince and his team seem intent on creating a grand catalyst by providing the infrastructure, stability, fairness and openness that might encourage the finest talent to the Gulf from around the world. And encourage the return of some talented expatriates who had left for greener pastures.
" 'This place is not for conventional people or conventional companies, this will be a place for the dreamers for the world,' he [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] said… 'The strong political will and the desire of a nation. All the success factors are there to create something big in Saudi Arabia,' he added."
Saudis set $500 billion plan to develop zone linked with Jordan and Egypt
At first look, it seems that NEOM will be more liberal than the Kingdom proper, and this will be backed up by law. The King and Crown Prince are popular and respected, and it is likely the zone can be accepted (though perhaps not with full approval) in the same way that Hong Kong is currently accepted to a certain degree (or at least tolerated) by China. The official launch of NEOM establishes some momentum in this regard.
"A promotional video released on Tuesday [October 2017] features a lifestyle so far unavailable in Saudi cities. It showed women free to jog in leotards in public spaces, working alongside men and playing instruments in a musical ensemble. The one woman wearing a hijab had her head covered with a patterned pink scarf."
Saudi Arabia Just Announced Plans to Build a Mega City That Will Cost $500 Billion
The video can be viewed at DiscoverNeom.com
The Guardian has reported on the Crown Prince's determination to transform Saudi Arabian society, partly by returning to the more moderate interpretation of Islam that prevailed in the distant past.
"Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the country to 'moderate Islam' and asked for global support to transform the hardline kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors."
"Earlier Prince Mohammed had said: 'We are simply reverting to what we followed [in the past] – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions. 70% of the Saudis are younger than 30, honestly we won't waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.' "
I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince
Religious reform is an inseparable aspect of the grand NEOM project. Reform will be essential to attract the world's highest skilled workers and entrepreneurs. The new and diverse society to be built in the liberated and tolerant Neom Zone will not go unnoticed in the rest of the Kingdom – and beyond.
"It seems that the King and Crown Prince... have set out to do something about the anachronistic culture of the Islamic world and the twisted interpretation of the teachings that can spawn extremists."
"Most religious conflicts are not caused by the differences in the original teachings preached by founders of religions, but by the differences in culture and the interpretation made by believers of each religion."
Will Saudi Arabia's NEOM Mega-city Project Promote Religious Reform?
Previously banned since the 1980s under the powerful influence of religious hardliners, public cinemas were permitted to operate from December 2017. This move exemplifies the power and velocity of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 reform agenda. It also reflects the Kingdom's wish to see domestic spending on culture & entertainment double by the year 2030.
Facilitating nation wide networks of cinemas is also an essential cog in the grand NEOM plan to establish world-class movie and production studios. The post-oil economy is under way.
"The Ministry of Culture and Information for Saudi Arabia said in a statement Monday that, after a hiatus of 35 years, it will begin licensing cinemas immediately."
"The first movie theaters are set to open in March , with plans to have more than 2,000 screens up and running by 2030."
Saudi Arabia to reopen public cinemas for the first time in 35 years
Groups like AMC Entertainment Holdings and IMAX are already making plans for fast, strategic moves into Saudi Arabia, and a CNBC report says IMAX may have up to 20 cinemas operating by 2020.
Saudi Arabia had taken a lurch towards conservatism and fundamentalism around 1979 under the influence of a dramatic sequence of events – The Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the occupation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by extremists.
"Tied to the economic agenda is a very thorny political issue: the role of religious authority. Mohammed bin Salman is tackling religious extremism head on as the first Saudi public official to formally recognize the impact of the 1979 Iranian Revolution on Saudi domestic politics…"
Saudi Arabia's Neom: State-Led Growth Meets New Global Capitalism
In a 2017 interview with Thomas L. Friedman, the Crown Prince told him to report that the Kingdom is "restoring" Islam – not "reinterpreting" it. He stressed that in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, men and women could mix and people of Jewish or Christian faith were respected.
"Then one of his ministers got out his cellphone and shared with me pictures and YouTube videos of Saudi Arabia in the 1950s – women without heads covered, wearing skirts and walking with men in public, as well as concerts and cinemas. It was still a traditional and modest place, but not one where fun had been outlawed..."
Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at Last
Dubai has set a successful precedent in the region for promoting opportunities for women. It is after all in the collective interest of any nation to enable the rise of the best possible aspirant for any role. Conversely, any nation that denies opportunity to a quality pool of talent will inevitably fall behind. In a competitive world, it makes no sense to suppress good talent.
"Dubai is already known for pushing women into positions of authority in government – the Emirate named seven women to its ministerial cabinet in 2016, for instance, and there are dozens of prominent women entrepreneurs, including the founder of BitOasis [a bitcoin exchange]."
World capital of blockchain is now rising in the Middle East
A high level of equality, fairness and opportunity on offer to citizens in any society should correlate with greater collective prosperity and liveability. Neom Zone needs to be a globally attractive destination to meet its objectives. The right foundation must be laid if Saudi Arabia wants to succeed in building "one of the world's future economic and scientific capitals" with "human beings as a top priority" – to quote from PDFs available at Discover Neom.
"...Laws and legal practices that repress experimentation and novelty throughout society cannot cultivate a future that depends on innovation and adaptation. Economically vibrant and stable societies are grown in the loamy soil of diversity, ingenuity, and openness."
Saudi Arabia's TechUtopia Neom will have to reinvent the rules to succeed
Security is of the utmost priority in the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia is a member of The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) and Riyadh hosted the inaugural meeting of the IMCTC Ministers of Defense Council in 2017.
The IMCTC is a unified and integrated Islamic effort to counter terrorism and violent extremism by no less than 41 countries. The coalition believes that tolerance and moderation can be leveraged to combat the false beliefs of extremist ideologies.
An intelligence sharing platform is being developed to disseminate counterterrorism strategies and best practice.
"The Coalition will fight terrorism through four domains: Ideology, Communications, Counter-Terrorist Financing and the Military. These domains of action will be the focus of cooperation between the Coalition and international partners."
"Launch and sustain a journey to build a better tomorrow for generations to come, rooted in a consistent and global message that reaffirms the Islamic principles of tolerance and compassion, and counter the narrative of violent extremist ideology through presenting the true nature of Islam…"
The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) Website
The landscape is alluring. Neom Zone contains around 468 km of natural coastline, white sandy beaches on the Red Sea, coral reefs populated with colorful fish as well as islands like Tiran and Sanafir. There are also inspiring desert expanses and tall mountains, which can even receive snow in winter. Though hot at times of course, the climate has been described as often temperate with frequent, cool Red Sea winds providing a pleasant environment and temperatures on average significantly cooler than surrounding regions.