The Line, Saudi Arabia's 170KM Long Futuristic Mirrored City

Utopia or Dystopia? Saudi Arabia’s new mirrored city looks like a huge dystopian wall in the desert

Utopia or Dystopia? Saudi Arabia’s new mirrored city looks like a huge dystopian wall in the desert.

Artist's rendering showing the megacity of Neom
Artist's rendering showing the megacity of Neom. (Source: NEOM)

Saudi Arabia has unveiled the designs for its ambitious urban project “The Line”. It's being billed as a futuristic megacity, built within two mirror-encased skyscrapers extending across a swathe of desert. The mirrored city will be 170-kilometre-long, these parallel structures will form the heart of the Red Sea megacity known as NEOM. Additionally, The Line is a proposed 200-meter-wide building acting as a vertical city, designed to sit 500 meters above sea level. It will span 34 square kilometers and will home 9 million people.

Saudi Prince’s Ambitions

The Saudi Arabian prince Mohammed bin Salman plans to develop a huge city in the desert named Neom, which will incorporate pretty much every futuristic technology you can think of, from the merely ambitious like “vertical farms, and cloud seeding” to the sci-fi fantastical robot cage fights and even a fake moon.

NEOM Project

NEOM in a nutshell was once touted as a regional "Silicon Valley", a biotech and digital hub spread over 26,500 square kilometers, however the project has mutated so much from its early concept that it has become unclear which direction it will take. This city is part of the NEOM project. According to the announcement from Saudi Prince, the proposed futuristic city will be located in the northwest of the Gulf country.

Source of Energy

There has not been much said about on this topic, but according to people behind the design of the city, the Line will run entirely on renewable energy, with no roads, cars, or emissions. High-speed rail will connect sections of the city, and you would be travel from one end to the other in merely 20 minutes.

The Financing of the City

Prince Muhammad Bin Salman said that city's first phase is set to cost 1.2 trillion riyals, half of which will come from the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. For the other half, Saudi Arabia will tap sovereign wealth funds in the fourth quarter of this year. The megacity project will also be funded through private-sector investment and an IPO that will take place some time in 2024. Another 300 billion riyals will be allocated for investment funds for NEOM, which’ll invest in companies that will be set up there.

A render showing Neom megacity
A render showing Neom megacity. (Source: NEOM)

The Great Controversy behind this Project

The whole thing has been strongly criticized, with reports revealing problems from vast over-spending to oppressive treatment of local tribes and being evicted from their homes on the site. While the prince has promised a civilizational revolution that puts humans first, the project will displace thousands of people already living on the site.

One tribe member from the community made videos protesting the evictions, he was later shot dead by Saudi security forces. According to human rights campaigners, two towns have been cleared and about 20,000 residents of the Al-Huwaitat Indigenous tribe have been forced out to make way for its construction.

Furthermore, the plans for NEON have been through the years which fuels further uncertainty if the project is feasible and if it will ever be completed.