In early 2021, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia announced a revolutionary urban project known as “The Line.” This linear city, part of the larger NEOM initiative, is planned to span 170 kilometers in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The concept of The Line includes two parallel skyscrapers, each 500 meters tall and separated by 200 meters, enclosing an open atrium. The design promises a futuristic urban experience with advanced technologies and sustainable living, aiming to house nine million people.

The Scale and Ambition of The Line

The Line’s twin skyscrapers, each comparable in height to some of the world’s tallest buildings like New York’s One World Trade Center, are designed to stretch across the desert for a length similar to the distance from New York City to Wilmington, Delaware. This unprecedented project aims to create a car-free environment where residents will be within a five-minute walk of all necessary amenities. Transportation within The Line will be facilitated by an underground high-speed train capable of covering the entire distance in just 20 minutes. The city is envisioned to run on green, renewable energy, incorporating innovative features like flying robot taxis, robotic household helpers, and an artificial moon.

Despite these grand visions, The Line has encountered numerous challenges, making it a contentious topic in urban development and sustainable living discussions.

The Reality of Construction

Since its unveiling, The Line has become one of the largest construction projects globally. However, the ambitious scope has led to significant financial, engineering, and logistical hurdles. Initially projected to cost $200 billion, the estimated price has skyrocketed to at least $2 trillion, approximately twice Saudi Arabia’s annual GDP.

The Saudi government initially promised that the first residents would move in by early 2024, with the first 16 kilometers completed by 2030. However, recent updates have drastically reduced these targets. By 2030, only 2.4 kilometers are expected to be finished, housing fewer than 300,000 residents. These setbacks have raised questions about the feasibility and sustainability of The Line.

The Prince Behind the Vision

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the driving force behind The Line, has a history of ambitious projects aimed at transforming Saudi Arabia. His Vision 2030 initiative seeks to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from oil dependency. MBS’s leadership style, marked by bold reforms and controversial actions, has significantly impacted Saudi Arabia’s domestic and international reputation.

Challenges and Criticisms

  1. Transportation and Design Flaws: The proposed high-speed train, essential for The Line’s functionality, faces significant engineering challenges. Traveling at 510 km/h, faster than any existing train, is required to cover the city’s length in 20 minutes. Furthermore, with 86 stations needed to keep residents within walking distance of a train station, the practical implementation of such a system is questionable.
  2. Environmental and Wildlife Concerns: The mirrored exterior of The Line poses severe risks to migrating birds and desert wildlife. Reflective surfaces can confuse birds, leading to fatal collisions. Additionally, the structure’s vast length and height could disrupt local ecosystems.
  3. Resource and Infrastructure Demands: Building The Line in a remote desert area requires extensive infrastructure development for construction workers, including housing and utilities. The demand for materials like steel and glass could drive up global prices, further escalating costs.
  4. Living Conditions: The Line’s design raises concerns about the quality of life for its residents. The enclosed atrium might struggle to provide adequate natural light, making it feel dark and claustrophobic. Distinct neighborhood designs are crucial to prevent a monotonous and oppressive environment.
  5. Surveillance and Privacy: The Line’s promise of ubiquitous AI and 24-hour surveillance raises significant privacy concerns. Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights abuses, including the persecution of dissenters, makes this aspect particularly troubling.
  6. Financial Viability: The escalating costs and delays have made it challenging to attract foreign investors. Saudi Arabia’s dependence on its sovereign wealth fund and oil revenues raises questions about the project’s long-term financial sustainability.

NEOM: The Broader Vision

The Line is part of the larger NEOM initiative, a $500 billion project aimed at creating a new urban model in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Other ambitious components of NEOM include:

  • OXAGON: An industrial city with a floating port.
  • Sindalah: A luxury island resort in the Red Sea.
  • Trojena: A mountain resort with a man-made lake and artificial snow for skiing.
  • Luxury Hotels and Skyscrapers: Various luxury developments along the coast.

These projects aim to attract tourists and diversify the Saudi economy, drawing inspiration from the United Arab Emirates’ success in tourism development.

Geopolitical Implications

NEOM’s location near the Suez Canal and close to Israel is strategically significant. Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with Israel and the potential bridge connecting NEOM with Egypt underscore the project’s geopolitical importance. However, regional tensions and internal displacement of local tribes pose challenges to its success.

Human Rights and Social Reforms

MBS has introduced social reforms, such as allowing women to drive and granting more rights to women and LGBTQ+ visitors. However, these changes are overshadowed by the kingdom’s ongoing human rights violations, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The displacement of the Huwaitat tribe for NEOM’s development further highlights these issues.

The Future of The Line

The Line represents a bold vision for the future of urban living, combining sustainability, advanced technology, and innovative design. However, its success depends on overcoming significant financial, engineering, and social challenges. The project’s ultimate viability remains uncertain, with many experts viewing it as an unrealistic and potentially disastrous endeavor.

FAQ Section

Q: What is The Line? A: The Line is a linear city project in Saudi Arabia, part of the larger NEOM initiative. It aims to create a futuristic urban environment with advanced technologies, sustainable living, and a car-free design.

Q: How long is The Line? A: The Line is planned to span 170 kilometers in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Q: What are the main features of The Line? A: The Line will consist of two parallel skyscrapers, each 500 meters tall, separated by 200 meters, and running for 170 kilometers. It will have no cars, with transportation provided by an underground high-speed train and flying robot taxis.

Q: What are the environmental concerns with The Line? A: The Line’s mirrored exterior poses risks to migrating birds and local wildlife. The project’s massive scale also raises concerns about water resources and environmental impact.

Q: How is The Line funded? A: The Saudi government is funding the initial phases of The Line, with hopes of attracting foreign investment. However, the project’s escalating costs and delays have made this challenging.

Q: What are the criticisms of The Line? A: Critics point to the project’s high costs, engineering challenges, environmental impact, and potential human rights abuses. Many experts doubt the feasibility and sustainability of such an ambitious endeavor.

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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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