An oil rig hotel, the world's tallest skyscraper, and a zero-carbon emission city, anyone? We dare you not to be impressed.
Saudi Arabia may as well be turning into one big megaproject. Thanks to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to put the country on the tourism map, the kingdom is home to some of the region's most impressive developments.
Saudi Arabia is the James Cameron of megaprojects, as Middle East ambition meets blockbuster scale. If you want proof of how grand these plans are, these are not called megaprojects but gigaprojects. So we're not just looking at millionaire dollar developments, but billionaire dollar ones.
We're talking UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the world's longest skyscraper and cities rising from the sand. These are not just any cities, but sustainable, sci-fi-like ones – flying taxis, anyone?
Hop on board and bring your imagination along. Here are the most exciting Saudi Arabian megaprojects.
Dubbed a city within a city, Al Widyan is located north of Riyadh. Covering seven million square metres, it will be split into 12 districts. Aiming to be the cool cosmopolitan part of the capital, it will encompass entertainment, education and leisure facilities, plus 20,000 new homes. Best of all, more than half of the development will be home to a park – we're talking wadis and walkways.
Located between Neom and The Red Sea, Amaala promises to be an all-year-round family wellness destination that forms part of Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy. The destination is spread across three sites in Prince Mohammed bin Salmon Natural Reserve and spans a whopping 4,155 square kilometres. It is no surprise that it draws its inspiration from the nearby Red Sea. So, we’re excited to hear that it will boast a marine life institute, yacht club, 3,000 hotel rooms, residences and state-of-the-art recreational facilities. Amaala encompasses three sub-projects: Triple Bay, The Coastal Development and The Island.
Aseer Development Project
Announced in 2021, Aseer Development Project is one of the most recent Saudi Arabian megaprojects. Aseer is best known for its glorious mountains. Plus, it is home to historical sights including Rijal Almaa village, Jaresh archaeological site, and the Heritage House in Al Namas. Plus, in the summer, it hosts the Abha Summer Festival.
Aseer Development Project aims to put Aseer on the tourist map for local and international visitors. The project is named The Arabian Highland, in a nod to the area's mountainous landscape. The aim is to create tourist attractions at the peak of those mountains so that Aseer will become a must-visit destination all-year round.
Diriyah is famous for being the original capital of Saudi Arabia, as it is located 14 minutes north of Riyadh and was once the seat of power for the Al Saud family. During the 18th and 19th century, it became a politically important site and was home to the founder of the first Saudi state, Mohammed bin Saud.
Today, this Saudi Arabian megaproject combines the past and future. The area is being transformed into a buzzing tourist destination. Built to be sustainable, it aims to attract 100,000 residents and 25 million visitors annually. As a cultural hotspot, it will be home to shops, restaurants and hotels, which include Anantara Diriyah, Armani Hotel Diriyah and LXR Hotels & Resorts.
Diriyah is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Turaif, which gives visitors an insight into the kingdom's history. Plus, Diriyah Season takes place each year, bringing together world-class entertainment, sports and restaurants.
Jeddah Central Project
Ask any Saudi what the arty capital of the kingdom is, and chances are they'll say Jeddah. The city's culture is about to get an upgrade when Jeddah Central Project is completed. This $20 billion Saudi Arabian megaproject is bringing an opera house, sports stadium, museum and oceanarium to the city. Expected to be completed by 2027, it will include hotels, homes, beach resorts and a marina boasting restaurants, cafes and shops.
A hotel within walking distance of the Grand Mosque? Well, you're in luck as Jabal Omar is a major development in the heart of Mecca. The project aims to increase the capacity of visitors during Hajj, as it will include hotel and residential buildings that are close to the Grand Mosque.
When completed, an additional 100,000 people would be able to visit during Hajj. South-East Asian company Archipelago International is creating luxury hotels, which include Jabal Omar The Royal Alana Makkah, and Jabal Omar The Alana Makkah.
Jeddah Economic City
Watch out Burj Khalifa. Jeddah continues its expansion with Jeddah Economic City, a new development that will boast homes, hotels, offices and the world's tallest building. Located between Mecca and Madinah, this is one of the most impressive Saudi Arabian megaprojects, spanning 5.3 million square meters. Jeddah Economic City's crowning glory will be Jeddah Tower. When completed, the structure will be 1 kilometre high and the world's tallest building. Plus, it will contain the world's highest observation deck, apartments, shopping malls and gourmet restaurants.
While much has been written about Riyadh Metro, it's not just the capital getting a new transport system. Plans for Jeddah Metro were approved in 2013, and it is projected to cost $60 billion. Jeddah Metro is expected to be completed by 2025, and it currently has three lines under development. The metro will be crucial in linking King Abdulaziz International Airport to Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium. Plus, we are expecting it to look slick, as it is being designed by British architecture firm, Foster + Partners.
Jeddah Waterfront Project
The new Saudi Arabian megaproject is part of the Jeddah Historical Rejuvenation Project, which was launched in 2021 by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Jeddah’s Waterfront Project is currently projected to take two years. The plan is to reconnect Al Balad with the Red Sea. Upon completion, it aims to revitalise the historic Al Bunt Port and transform the Al Balad area into a tourist destination. In phase one of Jeddah’s Waterfront Project, the waterfront section that was once filled will be carved out. In phase two, Lake Al Arbaeen’s water will be treated and purified. Finally, phase three will see the creation of a marina for luxury yachts, green spaces, pedestrian overpasses and public utilities.
King Abdullah Financial District
King Abdullah Financial District, aka KAFD, is one of the Saudi Arabian megaprojects currently taking shape in Riyadh. The KAFD regeneration project will create homes, work and entertainment over a 1.6 million square meter space. When completed, it will be able to accommodate 50,000 residents. Plus, commuters will be happy, as KAFD metro station will be on their doorstep. With world-famous design firms on board, such as Omrania and Foster + Partners (again), we are expecting this to be an architectural wonder.
King Salman Park
If you thought New York's Central Park was massive, think again. Riyadh's King Salman Park will be four times the size, and stretch an impressive 13.4 square kilometres. Covering where the capital's airport once was, it aims to make the transport hub the lungs of the capital.
The lush oasis will be more than just a park. Sure, there'll be vertical gardens, wadis and walkways. There'll also be a butterfly conservatory, outdoor art exhibitions, an open-air theatre, cinemas, museums and sports facilities ranging from a golf course to equestrian centre. Plus, the area will include hotels, homes, restaurants and shops.
Konoz Box of Treasures
The Saudi capital is set to grow once more, with Abdullah Al-Othaim Investment Company revealing plans for an entertainment complex in Riyadh. The name “Konoz” translates to “box of treasures,” with a range of precious gemstones serving as a source of inspiration for the development’s visual and architectural elements across its various zones. The Konoz Box of Treasures development comprises a 20,000 sqm entertainment city and 50,000 sqm of modern commercial office spaces. The entertainment city is designed to enhance the city’s tourism and leisure offerings, while the office spaces will provide cutting-edge facilities to support Riyadh’s business community. The development will also feature retail and F&B outlets, a 250-room hotel, 120 serviced apartments and a residential complex.
Say hello to Jeddah’s new Chicago-sized waterfront destination. Marafy is a groundbreaking concept anchored around a show-stopping feature – an 11-km-long and 100-metre-wide canal. Each Marafy district will pay homage to the city’s architectural heritage while reinventing designs for the contemporary world. Each district will have its distinctive character, drawing inspiration from the historical designs of Jeddah and these districts will be seamlessly linked through an advanced transport system. Water taxis, bus lines, a dedicated Metro Red Line station, and a direct canal link to King Abdulaziz International Airport will ensure effortless movement throughout the city.
Saudi Arabian megaprojects don't get more sci-fi than Neom. The name itself is the combination of the Greek word new and the Arabic word for future. Neom will be the size of Belgium and sits north of the Red Sea coastline. The development sounds like one of the world's most futuristic cities, as it plans to have flying taxis, a fake moon and glow-in-the-dark beaches.
Other projects at Neom include Oxagan and The Line. Oxagon aims to be the world's largest floating industrial complex, while The Line aims to be a 170km-long residential complex with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions. If that wasn't impressive enough, The Line plans to build the world's longest skyscraper: Mirror Line. The structure will be a record-breaking 121 km-long, and comprise of two buildings up to 490 metres tall.
New Murabba Development Company
We love Saudi Arabia’s capital, but it’s about to get a little more exciting. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz has announced the latest in a long line of Saudi Arabian megaprojects, New Murabba Development Company. The $800 billion project aims to double the size and population of the capital, and transform downtown Riyadh. Upon completion, the new megaproject will make the city more of a cultural hotspot. The site will include a museum, technology and design university, multi-purpose immersive theatre and more than 80 cultural and entertainment venues.
Qiddiya will be the Disneyland of Saudi Arabia. Located in the southwest of the country, the family-friendly destination will be packed with entertainment aplenty. We're talking water parks and theme parks, which includes Six Flag Qiddiya with the world's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster. Sports activities include a golf course, aquatic centre, stadium and karting facilities. Art activities include a performing arts centre, multiplex cinema and festival grounds.
Riyadh Metro Project
London has the Tube, New York has the subway, and Riyadh is getting its very own Riyadh Metro. Plans for the Saudi Arabian megaprojects started in 2014, and once completed, it will transform the transport system in the city with trains and buses. Covering the capital, it is expected to open to passengers in 2023. When completed, this will be the second metro in Saudi Arabia, as the first was Mecca Metro.
So far, we know that Riyadh Metro will have six lines, and that the stations include Qasr Al Hokm, King Abdullah Financial District, and Western Station. Plus, most importantly, you won't have to miss a WhatsApp, as it will have WiFi.
Rua Al Madinah
The Rua Al Madinah megaproject encompasses an extensive master plan spanning over 1.5 million square metres of space, providing direct views of the Prophet’s Mosque. Its design also ensures a blend of aesthetics and functionality with 63 per cent dedicated to open areas and 37 per cent thoughtfully allocated to structures. To enhance accessibility, the project boasts several transportation solutions, including nine strategically placed bus stops catering to visitors’ convenience and underground parking to keep the surroundings pristine. So far we know that the project will feature 11 new hotels: Aloft Rua Al Madinah, Courtyard by Marriott Rua Al Madinah, Fairmont Rua Al Madinah, Four Points by Sheraton Rua Al Madinah, JW Marriott Rua Al Madinah, Le Méridien Rua Al Madinah, Madinah Marriott Hotel Rua Al Madinah, Novotel Rua Al Madinah, Swissôtel Rua Al Madinah and The Ritz-Carlton, Rua Al Madinah.
Sharaan Nature Reserve
Unlike many of the other Saudi Arabia megaprojects, Sharaan Nature Reserve is nature-focused. Covering a rocky 925 square kilometres landscape, the project hopes to re-establish plants and wildlife in the area. Thanks to the recent work, Arabian wolves and red foxes have already been spotted on the land.
Sharaan Nature Reserve will also be home to a luxury retreat, which is expected to be completed by 2023. Plus, French architect Jean Nouvel, who is behind Louvre Abu Dhabi, will create the world's first resort hidden within rocks, which is expected to be completed by 2030.
The North Pole
Saudi Arabia Holding Co. has announced The North Pole project, which is described as a city of the future. Located in the north of Riyadh, this Saudi Arabian megaproject aims to include the world’s tallest building. Rise Tower looks set to be a slim, sleek structure pointing straight into the sky. The height of the building has not yet been confirmed, but it hopes to beat Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, which stands more than 830 metres tall.
The North Pole sounds like something straight out of a science fiction film, as it will feature air taxis and vertical living. The urban living space will create homes as well as offices. The state-of-the-art transport system will include autonomous vehicles and high-speed underground transport. The site will also include bike lanes, pathways, pedestrian-friendly streets and access to nature. Plus, it will boast green credentials and be powered by solar energy as well as renewable sources.
The Red Sea Project
Say the words Red Sea, and you'll probably imagine it miraculously parting for Moses. The Red Sea Project is fittingly epic in scale, as it is one of the most ambitious regenerative tourism projects that the world has ever seen. Located in Tabuk province, it is situated between the cities of Umluj and Al Wakh.
The Saudi Arabian megaproject is expected to cover 28,000 kilometres of islands, beaches, deserts, mountains and even volcanos and be a leading destination for eco-luxury. The plan is to have no waste-to-landfill or single-use plastic, and be 100 per cent carbon neutral.
With The Red Sea International Airport in the works, the first phase is expected to open in 2023. Hotels are flocking to The Red Sea Project. Hyatt Hotels plans to grow its portfolio in the kingdom with Miraval The Red Sea, and Grand Hyatt The Red Sea. Plus, Faena Red Sea Resort will be located on Shura Island in the Red Sea.
As the project is forecast to increase Saudi's GDP by $5.86 billion per year and attract one million visitors a year, it may well be one of the biggest money makers for the kingdom.
Thrill seekers, this one's for you. An oil rig might not sound like your conventional holiday, but it will definitely be a break you'll remember. Located on Saudi Arabia's east coast, The Rig is just that – an oil rig.
The Rig will be the world's first oil rig tourism destination, which will include three hotels, adventure sports and an underwater restaurant. Spanning 150,000 square metres, it is the world's biggest offshore multipurpose structure. In order to get to the venue itself, guests will need to travel by ferry, yacht or helicopter. Don't worry, it has its own helipad.
Trojena will be one of the most impressive Saudi Arabian megaprojects. A destination that blends natural and developed landscapes and will also host the Asian Winter Games 2029. The new supercity will house six distinctive districts centred around tailored experiences that blend real with virtual architectural and engineering innovations. Located 50km from the Gulf of Aqaba, Trojena will offer year-round outdoor skiing and adventure sports.
Highlights include an artificial freshwater lake and ‘The Vault’, a folded village fusing technology, entertainment and hospitality. Ennismore Hotels is already on board, opening a 25hours and Morgans Original hotel in Trojena.