Fri, Jun 23|
CLE Lecture Hall
NEOM: Line City in the Saudi Desert (Sponsored By Hugh and Connie Fitzpatrick)
Time & Location
Jun 23, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
CLE Lecture Hall, 348 S 5th St, Highlands, NC 28741, USA
About the Event
Would you like to live in a 170-km long city? How about in the desert, where summer highs exceed 130 degrees? Does it sound crazy? Not to Saudi Arabia's future king, Muhammad bin Salman, who is trying to transform his regressive kingdom into a modernist utopia. Part of "Saudi Arabia 2030," a plan to diversity the country's oil-based economy in the next 25 years, the city will be built in a long line along the Red Sea Coast. Its name, which is a combination of the Greek word for "new" and the Arabic word for "future," aims to house 9 million people, who will be able to get all the services they need by walking no more than five minutes. The Line, as its known, will have an airport, a major port, and agricultural land on both sides, growing specially designed genetically modified crops that can withstand the extreme desert climate. This talk will describe the plans for this ambitious project in detail, but from a historical perspective. From Brasilia to Phoenix, grandiose urban construction projects have always had a dark side, and NEOM offers no exception. The area's indigenous tribal inhabitants have been forcibly evicted from their homes, and in some cases killed, to make room for construction. Announcement of the project has been accompanied by brutal human rights crackdowns. The city's targets have been called unrealistic, while no answer seems forthcoming on the question of who will actually live in NEOM. As a utopian project it offers a unique template into the anxieties of an impoverished, authoritarian, and deeply tribal society trying to somersault into the 21st century at the behest of one authoritarian ruler.