Saudi delegation visits mainland cities, Hong Kong to tout megalopolis Neom and ‘The Line’ city, seek collaboration

Saudi delegation visits mainland cities, Hong Kong to tout megalopolis Neom and ‘The Line’ city, seek collaboration

Saudi delegation visits mainland cities, Hong Kong to tout megalopolis Neom and ‘The Line’ city, seek collaboration

A delegation from Saudi Arabia has begun a seven-day visit to major Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen to promote and seek potential partners for its ambitious urban project, Neom.

The trip will feature closed-door forums where notable figures such as Beijing’s mayor and the CEO and chief financial officer of Neom – a planned sustainable desert megapolis near the Red Sea coast – will discuss potential collaboration between Chinese municipal governments and the urban project, according to an agenda viewed by the Post.

The visit will also feature an exhibition, “Discover Neom: a New Future by Design”, where Neom’s executive director Tarek Qaddumi will introduce guests to the main projects within the new urban area. These include Sindalah, a sustainable resort by the Red Sea that will be completed by the end of this year, and The Line, a 170km-long, 200-metre-wide city that aims to house 9 million residents.

“Sindalah is an example of sustainable development where there is a lot of effort taken to safeguard the coastline,” Qaddumi told guests on Monday in Beijing. “This is particularly important because we have the largest coral nursery in the world, and the corals in the Red Sea can withstand temperatures 2 degrees [Celsius] higher than other species [in the world], so this will be a good example to study as we look at temperature rises across the world.”

An artist’s conception of The Line, a 170km-long city envisioned by Saudi Arabia. Illustration: Neom via AFP

Calling The Line the “anchor” and “centre” of Neom, Qaddumi said the project will tackle the pressing issue of “exponential growth of population” around the world and the movement of populations from rural to urban areas.

“That rapid growth [in population] is expected to take up land mass equivalent to the size of Germany, France, and Italy combined by 2050, so the solution, which is The Line, provides living space that can host a population of 9 million,” he said.

“London has an urban population of 9 million on 1,600 sq km. The Line does it with 34 – 2 per cent the footprint of London.”

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All 9 million residents in the car-free city, accounting for around a quarter of the Kingdom’s current population, will have easy access to nature, Qaddumi said.

“Everybody in New York City wants to live in Manhattan around Central Park, a park inside the city,” he said. “This is a city inside a park.”

Launched in 2017 by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Neom is part of the oil-rich nation’s attempt to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and diversify its economy.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman launches The Line on January 10, 2021. Photo: Handout

Located in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern Tabuk province, Neom will cover 26,500 sq km and will be fully powered by renewable energy, according to the website of the Public Investment Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which finances the project. The total capital required to build Neom has not yet been officially disclosed.

During Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s February 2023 visit to Saudi Arabia, the delegation visited an exhibition of the mega project at which the city’s leader said Hong Kong could play a “pivotal role in channelling the funding” to the initiative.
Saudi Arabia has recently scaled back its estimates for The Line’s progress and occupancy, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday. The linear city was to have a population of 1.5 million people by 2030, but now is expected to have just 300,000 residents by that time, with only 2.4km of its length completed, the report said.

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