Six giga-projects that epitomize Saudi Arabia’s $7 trillion development plan

Six giga-projects that epitomize Saudi Arabia’s $7 trillion development plan
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Updated 14 October 2021

Six giga-projects that epitomize Saudi Arabia’s $7 trillion development plan

Six giga-projects that epitomize Saudi Arabia’s $7 trillion development plan
  • As part of Vision 2030, the Kingdom is redefining its global image and diversifying its economy away from oil
  • Liberalization, economic reforms and foreign investment are seen as key to the strategy’s success 

DUBAI / CAIRO / JEDDAH: Six ambitious landmark projects being developed in the Kingdom aim to help transform the economy while showing the world and all Saudis the nation’s geographic wealth, cultural heritage and hospitality, economic ambitions and aspirations for environmental conservation.

These projects are needed now more than ever to drive foreign investments and increase spending in the economy, as the Kingdom is expecting $7 trillion in investment and government spending to materialize by the end of the decade.

But continued liberalization and economic reforms will be needed to ensure their success, as will continuing foreign investment, according to a finance CEO and an economic consultant and former economics minister.

Nasser Saidi, former economics minister of Lebanon, now Dubai-based economics consultant, said: “These projects need to be seen in the context of the broader objective of undertaking a structural transformation of the Saudi economy.

Nadhmi Al-Nasr is the CEO of the NEOM project. (Supplied)

“Faster and deeper economic diversification is imperative for sustainable job creation for its youthful population, and to address the challenge of the global energy transition away from fossil fuels, Saudi’s main source of income and exports.

“By investing in new sectors (be it tourism, the digital economy or renewables) and in regional economic development on its western seaboard, Saudi Arabia is moving away from over-reliance on oil and redefining the image of the country.

“This is why gigaprojects continued (and related contracts were signed), even during the pandemic, while fiscal tightening was underway.

“Foreign investors can take some comfort from Saudi’s promising high-growth potential (for example in the previously untapped tourism, media and leisure sectors) and associated returns on investment.

“But these are all long-term, long-gestation projects. That is why liberalization measures (full foreign ownership, facilitating long-term residence, reforming labor markets, allowing competition, protecting property rights, insolvency and bankruptcy laws) are important to attract FDI.

“Foreign investors can also take comfort from the fact that the gigaprojects are political standard bearers; they must be seen to be successful and they will continue to be funded from PIF, SCB reserves, tapping debt markets, etc. Notably, they will be much easier to do currently when oil prices are high at $80-plus.”

Tarek Fadlallah, CEO of Nomura Asset Management in the Middle East, told Arab News: “Tourism-related projects have been given a boost by the fact that Saudis have been staying at home. I saw it myself on a recent visit to Riyadh. The whole restaurant and leisure sector has been transformed by the pandemic.

“Projects like AlUla and Qiddiya are more advanced than some others. Foreign companies and funds have actually invested in them and brought them nearer fruition.

“The gigaprojects strategy is hugely ambitious, but if they pull it off it will be a vital contribution to the success of Vision 2030. It will continue to need foreign investment to help make it work.”

The six projects are:

The Red Sea Development Company

Aiming to be a world leader in regenerative tourism, the Red Sea Project is a luxury sustainable tourism project on a 28,000 square km site on the western coast of the Kingdom.

The Red Sea Development Company, established in 2018, is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund and will lead development of the project.

An artist's impression of the Red Sea Development Company's spectacular Desert Rock mountain resort. (Supplied/Red Sea Project)

Directly employing 35,000 people, the project showcases the landscape and rich cultural heritage of the Red Sea Coast. Occupying an archipelago of more than 90 islands — some of them untouched — featuring dormant volcanoes, deserts and a wide variety of wildlife and mountainous scenery, it will emphasize environmental preservation while relying exclusively on renewable energy sources, with a ban on single-use plastics and zero waste-to-landfill.

The masterplan has been the result of collaboration between WATG and Buro Happold and includes design concepts from the world’s leading architecture firms. Work on infrastructure has already begun with 80km of new roads completed, and 10,000 workers are based at a construction village.


Aspiring to be an entertainment, sports and arts hub, Qiddiya is one of the new gigaprojects within the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. The project is built on five main pillars: Sports and wellness, nature and environment, parks and attractions, motion and mobility, and arts and culture.

Qiddiya Investment Company is another closed, joint-stock company established in 2018 and owned wholly by the PIF. Its objective is to boost the Kingdom’s status as a leading tourist destination.

A “record-breaking” Six Flags theme park will contain 28 rides and attractions in six themed lands. A key attraction will be the Kingdom’s first water theme park. Featuring 23 rides and attractions, it is expected to be the largest in the region. Qiddiya will also feature luxury-tented retreats, animal encounters and outdoor adventure and exploration.

An artist’s impression of Qiddiya, just one of a host of Saudi gigaprojects launched as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 development plan. (Supplied)

A speed park will include an FIA grade 1 racetrack dedicated to motorsports fans as well as a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, one of the greatest golfers of all time, open to both elite and amateur golfers.

The Riyadh-based project is also establishing several arts and cultural centers, including an arts complex, festival grounds, a multiplex cinema and a performing arts center.

Aseer Development Project

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began a tourism strategy on Sept. 28 to develop the southwestern Aseer region with SR50 billion ($13 billion) to attract more than 10 million visitors by 2030.

Tourist attractions on Aseer’s mountain peaks will turn the province into a year-round destination, exploiting the tourism potential of its geographical and natural diversity, culture and heritage.

In addition, it will provide new job opportunities, boost life quality and upgrade essential services and infrastructure in the region.

PIF plans a $3 billion investment to build 2,700 hotel rooms, 1,300 residential units, and 30 commercial and entertainment attractions in Aseer by 2030.

Diriyah Gate Development Authority

On July 15, essential infrastructure construction of the world’s largest culture and heritage city began along Riyadh’s Western Ring Road as part of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s development.

The authority has been tasked by the Saudi government to redevelop the “birthplace of the Kingdom” into a world-class destination, and said it will be completing and delivering its first phase assets by early 2022.

The $50 billion gigaproject will feature some of the world’s most luxurious restaurants and hotels, with all structures built in traditional Najdi architectural style.

The first phase of the project’s masterplan will focus on a landscaped park, Wadi Hanifah, and Bujairi Terrace, featuring 18 new restaurants, several of which will be Michelin-starred, while others will offer local Saudi delicacies.


A gigaproject, located in northwest Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea coast, NEOM is seeking contractors and investors.

In mid-September, about 150 design and construction companies visited the project for four days to explore potential partnerships and opportunities.

The project features construction villages with labor communities of up to 30,000 workers, as well as offices, warehouses and construction service establishments.

Coral reefs teem with sea life off the coast of Saudi Arabia's Yabou Island in the Red Sea. (Supplied/Neom)

In late July, the NEOM Company and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology launched a joint project to build the world’s largest coral garden at Shushah Island in NEOM.

The initiative is a perfect example of Saudi Arabia’s promise to protect 95 percent of the natural environment within NEOM. The Shushah Island Coral Reefscape, which spans 100 acres, will demonstrate coral reef restoration conservation in a changing climate. The project is expected to be completed in 2025.


AMAALA is an ultra-luxury project at Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea beach, focusing on wellness, healthy living and meditation.

The project will offer guests facilities and services that provide a luxury experience in areas such as arts, culture, fashion, wellness and sport services.

AMAALA announced on July 27 a partnership with the Saudi Art Council for this year’s 21,39 Jeddah Arts to celebrate creative and artistic talent from the region and beyond.

The majestic peaks of Al-Lawz mountain, Neom's highest peak. (Supplied/NEOM)

The exhibition will include a portion of AMAALA’s vision to promote the creative ecosystem of Saudi Arabia through art residencies, platforms and incubators.

On June 22, AMAALA received top honors at the Transform Awards 2021 with its partners, Landor & Fitch, winning the prestigious Grand Prix prize, which showcased the project’s visual and creative strategy rebranding.

In addition, on March 22 AMAALA announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Contractors Authority, enabling AMAALA to share its potential projects with members of the SCA, and then receive information about interested bidders.

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority
Updated 28 October 2021

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Anas Al-Oqalaa was recently named vice governor of legal and enforcement at the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority.

Al-Oqalaa is a tenacious legal professional with a wealth of expertise acquired through providing legal counsel and management as part of regulatory compliance strategies.

He is also considered a legal expert in drafting legislation specializing in direct and indirect taxes, and capital markets laws. Through tenure, he has acquired an excellent working knowledge of commercial, tax and capital markets laws, and regulations.

Al-Oqalaa has 17 years’ experience in the industry, and has proven leadership skills in building and managing teams for more than 10 years. He possesses a reputation as a leader in his area of specialization.

As an experienced lawyer and legal professional who has worked in the public and private sectors, Al-Oqalaa built robust knowledge in different areas including real estate, economic and financial laws, and regulations.

Al-Oqalaa served in different roles at the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority including deputy governor for legal affairs from October 2018 to October 2021 and general manager of the legal and compliance department from November 2017 to October 2018.

Before that, he served as the general counsel at the National Housing Co. from April 2017 to November 2017, and the general legal counsel and board secretary at the Middle East Financial Investment Co. from September 2015 to April 2017.

He also held different positions at the Capital Market Authority including head of the listed companies violations department from January 2014 to August 2015, head of investment funds and offering violations department from December 2013 to July 2014, and legal counsel from November 2006 to December 2013.

Before that, he worked as a lawyer in local law firms. Al-Oqalaa also leads and is a member of several committees and programs.

He received a master’s degree in corporate and commercial law from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University.

Al-Oqalaa also holds several certificates in areas related to law, leadership, investment and accounting.

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library
Updated 28 October 2021

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

RIYADH: Ambassador of Peru José Luis Salinas Montes praised the great scientific and cultural patrimony of Riyadh’s King Fahd National Library in a recent visit.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Peruvian Embassy said: “On Oct. 25, Peru’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia delivered to the secretary-general of the King Fahd National Library a set of works representing our culture and discussed the possibilities of cultural cooperation with that institution.
“Our Saudi friends will now be able to learn a little more about Peru and its literary, artistic and intellectual heritage. Culture is the best way to bring peoples closer together and strengthen bonds of friendship,” it added.
The library’s Secretary-General Dr. Mansour A. Al-Zamil, who recently received the Peruvian ambassador and his accompanying delegation, said that the King Fahd National Library is an important destination for ambassadors to learn about the history and culture of Saudi Arabia.
Throughout the tour, the ambassador learned about the library’s goals and cultural and scientific activities. He also visited the exhibition of national documents and paintings by Saudi artists, as well as the public halls, studies department, reference services, and Kingdom Information Center.
At the end of the visit, gifts were exchanged, with Al-Zamil presenting the ambassador with a commemorative shield and some publications.

Saudi energy minister and Nigerian petroleum minister discuss global oil market

Saudi energy minister and Nigerian petroleum minister discuss global oil market
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi energy minister and Nigerian petroleum minister discuss global oil market

Saudi energy minister and Nigerian petroleum minister discuss global oil market
  • Meanwhile, Nigeria's president left Madinah heading to Jeddah

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman held talks with Nigerian Minister State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva in the capital, Riyadh, on Wednesday.
During the meeting, they discussed the global oil market, and strengthening joint cooperation among the OPEC countries to maintain market stability.
Meanwhile, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari left Madinah on Wednesday heading to Jeddah, after he visited and performed prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari leaves Madinah for Jeddah after visiting the Prophet’s Mosque on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (SPA)


Saudi Arabia elected chair of FAO’s commission on regional fisheries

Saudi Arabia elected chair of FAO’s commission on regional fisheries
Updated 20 min 32 sec ago

Saudi Arabia elected chair of FAO’s commission on regional fisheries

Saudi Arabia elected chair of FAO’s commission on regional fisheries

RIYADH: The Regional Commission for Fisheries of the Food and Agriculture Organization has elected Saudi Arabia as chair of the eleventh session, for three years, by unanimous vote.

The Kingdom is represented in the RECOFI by Dr. Ali Al-Sheikhi, CEO of the National Fisheries Development Program. He also serves as director general of the General Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, and as president-elect of RECOFI.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said that the Kingdom’s election came due to its prominent role — regionally and globally — in the fishing industry and its efforts to protect the environment, and preserve the sustainability of natural and marine resources.

It said that RECOFI aims to encourage the development, conservation, management, best use of living marine resources and the sustainable development of the aquaculture sector within its work area. It also reviews economic and social aspects of the fishing industry and recommends measures to develop natural resources.

In recent years, the efforts of the Kingdom in fishery conservation have resulted in an increase in the volume of seafood production, amounting to about 85,000 tons in fisheries and 100,000 tons in aquaculture.

Saudi, Albanian officials discuss enhancing ties

Saudi, Albanian officials discuss enhancing ties
Updated 51 min 9 sec ago

Saudi, Albanian officials discuss enhancing ties

Saudi, Albanian officials discuss enhancing ties
  • Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs and Albania’a Grand Mufti signed a cooperation agreement in the field of Islamic affairs
  • He also visited a Sharia secondary school in Tirana

TIRANA: The Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh met the speaker of the parliament of Albania, Lindita Nikolla, in Tirana on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Nikolla stressed the strength and the depth of the relations that bind her country with the Kingdom.
She praised the great development and openness to the world that the Kingdom enjoys thanks to the efforts of its leadership.
Nikolla hoped for further cooperation between the two countries in various fields, expressing her wish to visit Saudi Arabia soon.
She also commended the cooperation between the Islamic Sheikhdom of Albania and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance in all areas of common concern.
Al-Asheikh stressed the Kingdom’s keenness to build and strengthen ties of friendship and cooperation with Albania in relation to Islamic affairs.
He conveyed the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and their sincere wishes to the government and the Albanian people for greater progress and peaceful living.
He said that “the Kingdom, under its leadership, aspires to build bridges of communication and enhance means of cooperation to achieve mutual interest of both countries.
“The Kingdom’s message is clear and simple: To show that Islam is the religion of tolerance, beauty and moderation.”
During his visit, Al-Asheikh also signed and executive program for cooperation in the field of Islamic affairs with the Grand Mufti of Albania and chairman od the Muslim Community, Bujar Spahiu.
The program includes holding three scientific courses in qualifying preachers, imams, and muezzins in Albania, to introduce Islam, explain its virtues and tolerance, fight extremism, and state its position on contemporary issues.
Spahiu also awarded Al-Asheikh for his efforts in spreading moderation during the signing ceremony.
He also visited a Sharia secondary school in Tirana, toured it’s facilities and listened to a brief explanation of it’s history and the services it provides for Albanian children.
He also met with teachers and a number of students, and stressed the importance of understanding Islam and its approach based on moderation in all affairs.
On Tuesday, Albanian President Ilir Meta met the visiting Saudi minister.
During the meeting, the president praised the Kingdom’s role in supporting Albania in the most difficult situations. He also praised the great Islamic values that the Kingdom calls for and the cooperation with his country to promote them.