Saudi Arabia itself may just be turning into one big megaproject.
The Kingdom is determined to make a name for itself on the global tourism stage, as well as enhance the quality of life for its citizens. So, it’s building megaprojects that leave anyone that sees them in awe.
Imagine attending your favorite artist’s concert inside a mountain, or gazing up at a tower that reaches a staggering height of two kilometers. These are just a taste of what some of the Saudi Arabian projects under construction have in store for the world.
We picked three of these projects to tell you everything we know so far about them, from their accommodations to their stunning attractions.
As we saw before with NEOM, Saudi Arabia is more than willing to take up challenging megacity projects, and this megaproject we’re about to tell you about is no less challenging than NEOM.
Saudi Arabia is currently building a city called Marafy, in the north of Jeddah, which is one of the country’s major cities. Marafy has been designed with the vision of creating an urban oasis, and its main attraction will be an 11-kilometer man-made canal, the first of its kind in the Kingdom.
Once the canal is completed, it will be a grand waterfront similar to the one in London.
Now that you have an idea of what this megaproject is about, let’s take a look at how Marafy will look once it’s completed.
The new futuristic, smart city is expected to have 18,000 homes to house 130,000 people from all economic backgrounds around Saudi Arabia’s first ever man-made canal. The canal will be 100-meter wide and will be navigable by people. It will also be connected to Obhur Creek and will be surrounded by multiple unique waterside districts.
In addition to that, the Saudi government plans to bring marine life to this canal of water in the middle of the desert, to bring more life and vibrancy to the historic city of Jeddah, which has been attracting traders, travelers, and pilgrims for centuries.
Marafy’s waterside districts will be connected to each other and the rest of Jeddah by an inter-model transport system comprising water taxis, buses, and a subway. And to increase the city’s global connectivity, the waterside districts will also be connected to the King Abdulaziz International Airport.
Each district will have shaded promenades and plazas, with various restaurants, entertainment venues, parks and landscaping. They’ll also accommodate businesses planning to set up shop in Saudi Arabia and include many modern workspaces and office buildings, all of which will be built with sustainability in mind.
Marafy will also include multiple residential areas inspired by local architectural styles, and the Saudi government hopes that this would create new communities in Jeddah that will support its thriving economy.
The company behind this megaproject, ROSHN Group, is a leading real estate development company owned by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, and its CEO, David Grover, called Marafy a complete game-changer.
Even though the exact cost of the project is unknown, ROSHN expects it to boost Saudi Arabia’s real estate sector greatly, since it’s planned to have a lot of walkable places on its large 6.6 million square kilometers area, which is expected to encourage more people to move to Jeddah and raise the quality of life in the city.
Unfortunately, the completion date of the Marafy project has not been revealed yet.
Moving on to the second megaproject, which was recently unveiled as part of NEOM.
It’s called Utamo, and it’ll be the Kingdom’s newest destination for art and entertainment, in northwest Saudi Arabia. Utamo was built with the purpose of hosting performances from the globe’s biggest artists, and it’ll achieve that goal by providing an incredibly unique stage.
Cocooned inside a mountain located along the Gulf of Aqaba coastline, Utamo will create a unique backdrop for music events, exhibitions, and art activations that will transform traditional entertainment experiences.
An entertainment city being inside a mountain is surely a strange idea, but it will be extremely beautiful. If you ever decide to visit Utamo, you’ll arrive via an extended pathway of a garden promenade, featuring more than 50 species of flowers, shrubs, and herbs. After crossing the pathway, you’ll see the grand hall and its 64-meter-high entrance, which pays homage to art and design.
Inside, there will be a theater of the future where reality and the digital realm blend together, as sensory experiences will be created for entertainment using advanced audio-visual systems. In addition to its multipurpose arts space, Utamo will include VIP lounges and signature restaurants, making it one of the world’s most exclusive event spaces.
By now, you must be thinking about the environmental impact Utamo would have on the surrounding area, especially since it’ll be inside a mountain. But, there’s nothing to worry about, as Saudi Arabia will be using cutting-edge construction technologies to preserve the surrounding environment.
Utamo also doesn’t have a set completion date, but since it is part of NEOM, we could expect it to open sometime in 2025 after the first phase of NEOM is completed.
The North Pole
Now, let’s go to Riyadh for the third megaproject, which is called the North Pole.
When we hear “North Pole”, we think of snowy lands and icebergs sitting in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, but Saudi Arabia is determined to change our image of the name with the North Pole megaproject.
This project will be a new urban area extending over 306 square kilometers across northern Riyadh, and like Marafy, it’ll be a futuristic city, offering its citizens the services of air taxis, autonomous vehicles, and other advanced transport options such as high speed trains.
Its residential areas will be inspired by NEOM’s The Line, as they’ll include vertical living concepts, and it will also place a lot of emphasis on sustainability and modern living by implementing a lot of green spaces.
The project’s focus on sustainability won’t stop at green spaces. Imagine living in a place where solar energy powers your home and every other building, reducing the need to rely on traditional energy sources like fossil fuels; that is exactly what the North Pole will do.
But, the North Pole’s main highlight will be at its center, and it’s called the Rise Tower. Even though very little details are known about Rise Tower, we know that Saudi Arabia wants to make it the tallest tower in the world, surpassing Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
This will be no easy task, since Burj Khalifa is 828 meters tall, and it has had the title of the tallest tower in the world since it opened in 2010. But, what if I told you that it has been rumored that Rise Tower may reach an unprecedented height of two kilometers! This would make it taller than even two Burj Khalifas stacked up.
Why is Saudi Arabia building them?
The focus on building smart cities with green spaces, eco-friendly technologies, and efficient resource management, underscores the intentions of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, a government programme launched in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with three goals in mind – to diversify the economy, modernize the society and boost the country’s global profile.
Saudi Arabia can’t depend on its black gold forever, especially since it’s a resource we all know would eventually run out. If anything, the country is currently in a race against time, trying to come up with impressive megaprojects that will bring in tourism revenue.
But, can it succeed in this goal?
It’s not impossible. In fact, you could say that the Saudi government’s plans have already reaped benefits, as tourism continues to increase in Saudi Arabia, and according to the World Tourism Organization, the Kingdom ranked second globally in the growth rate of foreign tourists during the first seven months of 2023, at 58%, compared to the same period in 2019.
To conclude, all of Saudi Arabia’s megaprojects represent a bold leap towards a better future for Saudi Arabia, one that will see it transformed into a country that is modern, diverse and rich in culture.
These three projects, with their multiple attractions and the never seen before blend of arts, residency and entertainment, make it very possible for the country to achieve its goals. But for now, we’ll have to wait until these megaprojects are completed, to see just how much they contribute to the Saudi Arabian economy and tourism industry.
Please visit and read our disclaimer here.