|Announced||24 October 2017|
|Founded by||Mohammad bin Salman|
|Seat||House of Saud|
|• Director||Nadhmi Al-Nasr|
|• Total||26,500 km2 (10,200 sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+03 (Arabian Standard Time)|
Neom (styled NEOM; Arabic: نيوم Neom, Hejazi pronunciation: [nɪˈjo̞ːm]) is a planned cross-border city in the Tabuk Province of northwestern Saudi Arabia. It is planned to incorporate smart city technologies and also function as a tourist destination. The site is north of the Red Sea, east of Egypt across the Strait of Tiran, and south of Israel and Jordan. It will cover a total area of 26,500 km2 (10,200 sq mi) and will extend 460 km along the coast of the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia aims to complete the first section of Neom by 2025. The project has an estimated cost of $500 billion. On January 29, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced that it had set up a closed joint-stock company named Neom with $500 billion. The aim of this company, which is wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund, is to develop the economic zone of Neom. The project is planned to be totally powered by renewable energy sources. Nadhmi Al-Nasr is the CEO of the Neom Joint-stock company.
Inauguration of the project
The city was announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 24, 2017. He said it will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with its own tax and labor laws and an "autonomous judicial system." Egypt announced in 2018 that it is contributing some land to the Neom project.
The initiative emerged from Saudi Vision 2030, a plan that seeks to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors. Plans call for robots to perform functions such as security, logistics, home delivery, and caregiving and for the city to be powered solely with wind and solar power. Because the city will be designed and constructed from scratch, other innovations in infrastructure and mobility have been suggested. Planning and construction will be initiated with $500 billion from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and international investors. The first phase of the project is scheduled for completion by 2025.
In July 2020, the US’s Air Products & Chemicals Inc announced that it will build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia. The US$5 billion project will be jointly owned by Air Products, Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power and Neom.
The name "Neom" was constructed from two words. The first three letters form the Ancient Greek prefix νέο Neo- meaning “new”. The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of Arabic: مستقبل, romanized: Mustaqbal, (Hejazi pronunciation: [mʊsˈtagbal]), the Arabic word for “future.”
The Neom project is located in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia in the northwest of the kingdom, extended along with Aqaba Gulf and 468 km of coastline with beaches and coral reefs, as well as mountains up to 2,500 m high, with a total area of around 26,500 sq. km.
Some of the illustrations for the Neom project were taken from the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, leaving commentators to note: "using an actual shot of Singapore to depict an upcoming construction project in Saudi Arabia is an odd choice."
Klaus Kleinfeld was announced as the inaugural director for the Neom project upon its launch by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman on 24 October 2017. In 2018, Kleinfeld signed Gladstone Place Partners LLC for "Communications Services" for the Neom project, for a fee of $199,500 plus expenses of $45,000.
According to a US Justice Department filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Saudi mega-city developing firm NEOM Company hired American public relations and marketing consultancy, Edelman for assistance with public relations on the “smart-city” project. As per the three-month contract with the Chicago-based Edelman, Neom pays Edelman $75,000 per month through February, for international work done on behalf of the developing firm. Under the contract, the PR firm stated the provision of communications support in various sectors including, strategic counsel, stakeholder identification and engagement, media relations and content development. Neom and Edelman refused to comment on the deal. In the course of two years since 2019, Edelman counts as the fourth PR firm hired by Neom following BCW, Ruder Finn, and Teneo. Based on reports by human rights organisations, Saudi residents have pushed against the developments of Neom, which would require the resettlement of 20,000 residents, including the Bedouin tribe members. A tribesman was also allegedly shot dead on refusing to give up his land, raising humanitarian concerns.
In July 2020, a sponsorship with the League of Legends European Championship gathered significant backlash from the professional League of Legends community, including athletes and the league's own staff. The backlash was centered around human rights abuses from the Saudi government, particularly its record on LGBT rights. As a result of the backlash, the sponsorship was cancelled within several hours of the announcement.
The development work of the project’s first phase, Neom Bay, was planned to start in the first quarter of 2019 and be completed by 2020. The developments were to include constructing the airport at Sharma which would operate regular commercial flights between Riyadh and Neom. The plan of Neom Bay's developments also involves building the first residential area in Neom as part of phase 1.
Neom Bay Airport
In June 2019, it was announced that the Neom Bay Airport would start to receive commercial flights after the first phase of the airport was completed with runway's length of 3,757 metres (12,326 ft). The airport that is planned to be located at Neom Bay has been registered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the code NUM.
Neom Industrial City (NIC)
Neom Industrial City (NIC) is located around 25 kilometres (16 mi) north of the town of Duba, and covers roughly 200–250 square kilometres (77–97 sq mi) of land, of which approximately 40 square kilometres (15 sq mi) forms the NIC. The project will focus on modern manufacturing and industrial research, and development centered on the expansion of the Duba port.
In late 2018, after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said that "No one will invest [in the project] for years." Advisers to Neom, including Daniel L. Doctoroff and architect Norman Foster, were reported to have distanced themselves from the project and the "toxic" Saudi crown prince. Also, the scope of the projects based on the crown prince's vision incorporates some technologies that do not even exist yet, like flying cars, robot maids, dinosaur robots, and a giant artificial moon. It is estimated that 20,000 people will be forced to relocate to accommodate the planned city.
Attempts to evict Howeitat tribe
On 13 April 2020, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti posted videos online announcing that Saudi security forces were trying to evict him and other members of the Howeitat tribe from their historic homeland to make way for the development of Neom. Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, a Saudi human rights activist from the same tribe circulated the videos. In the videos Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti said he would defy the eviction orders though he expected Saudi authorities would plant weapons in his house to incriminate him. He was later killed by Saudi security forces, who claimed he had opened fire on them. This version of events was disputed by Alya Alhwaiti who said that he did not own firearms. His funeral was held near the village of al-Khoraibah and was well attended despite the presence of Saudi security forces.
Eight cousins of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti have been arrested for protesting against the eviction order but Alya Alhwaiti said that she and human rights activists in the west hoped to challenge the arrests. The tribe are not opposed to the development of Neom but do not want to be evicted from their traditional homeland. Alya Alhwaiti received death threats from people she says are supporters of Mohammed bin Salman. The threats were reported to British police.
In June 2020, Mohammed bin Salman hired a US public relations and lobbying firm to counter the criticism and controversies around the Neom city project. The country signed a contract worth $1.7 million with the PR company Ruder Finn.
In November 2020, British lawyers representing the Bedouin tribe displaced in the development of Neom, urged Dominic Raab to boycott the G20 Summit in Saudi Arabia. The attorneys cited that Britain has a moral imperative to take a stand in defense of the tribe and confront Saudi Arabia over its human rights issues.
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- PROFILE: Who is Nadhmi al-Nasri, the new CEO of Saudi Arabia’s NEOM?, alarabiya.net.
- "نيوم".. تفاصيل أضخم مشروع سعودي ممتد بين 3 دول سكاي نيوز عربية , نشر في 24 أكتوبر 2017 ودخل في 24 أكتوبر 2017.
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Media related to Neom at Wikimedia Commons