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Saudi Arabia's The Line City What Happens When Tech Buddy Culture Meets Middle East Dictatorship

A video showcasing the design of The Line, a planned new city in northwestern Saudi Arabia, could be the opening scene of a made-for-TV sci-fi movie seconds before zombies climb each other and overtake desperate defenders. . The design shows a city built between two straight walls, perfectly parallel to each other, reaching 500 meters above the ground and stretching for 170 kilometers. The outside of the walls is covered with a mirrored façade that reflects the surrounding desert. The Saudi government seems serious about pursuing an all-too-realistic project first announced last year.

The Line – The personal project of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), a women’s rights reformer who authorized the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 At the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul – which will probably house 9 million people when completed. The ends of the city quadrangle will be connected by rail lines running at over 500 km/h, far faster than the best high-speed rail system currently available.

Entire metropolises will apparently be car-free. This may be difficult to get used to for MBS, who reportedly requested 350 limousines during a recent visit to Greece. Public information about The Line seems primarily concerned with boosting his MBS ego (currently, as if Western leaders had never heard of Khashoggi’s name at all, his country’s newly rehabilitated while queuing for oil).

The project’s website is full of technical buzzwords and empty PR jargon. The Line’s description reads more like a final-year bachelor’s degree project than the actual plan that the oil dictatorship is poised to pour billions into building.


The city’s “automated services” will be run by “artificial intelligence,” asserts a section on the website titled “More time spent with loved ones.” For residents, it continues to boldly claim that “everything is available within a 5-minute walk.”

Another section claims Rhine residents enjoy a “perfect climate all year round”. It’s arguably easier to guarantee sunny days a year in Mecca than in Malmö, but even the liberal Middle Eastern dictator can’t control the weather. Again, cities marketed as offering “zero-gravity living” don’t seem to care much about trifles like “atmosphere” and “physics laws.”

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The Line is a central part of the Saudi government’s ambitious project to build the $500 billion city of Neom, which MBS once promised would be “human’s civilizational leap.” Most of Neom, including The Line, was due to open by 2020, with more sections of the city to be completed by 2025. economist When our correspondent visited the site this year, he found that only two buildings were completed (the visitor center and MBS’s palace – a clear demonstration of the dynamics behind the project). However, the line is technically he only has two buildings.

Rhine isn’t the first city to spring out of the Middle East desert. Today, one of the most developed cities in the world, Dubai was little more than dirt roads and sand 50 years ago. Egypt is building an as-yet-unnamed capital to ease pressure on her one of the world’s busiest cities, Cairo.

Still, there’s something particularly surreal about The Line’s apparent impracticality, giving it the feel of an idea greenlit by someone nobody says no. It will almost certainly never be built for the same reason it received more attention than it did. But for some reason the project lives on, all the additional details come to light, and the culture of tech bros meets liberal Middle Eastern dictatorship is one of the worst trends of our time. It proves the reason why it is an intersection.

[ See also: A flurry of alarm over Kosovo reveals underlying tensions ]