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NEOM, between a New Jerusalem and the Library of Alexandria

The Middle Eastern mega-city project called NEOM[1] that we have told you about in a previous issue is a real reason to hope. As mentioned last time, the Saudis would not proceed with this project if they truly had in mind an open conflict with Iran. This project is first and foremost a symbol of the desire for the future, modernity and normality of the Middle East. It is intended to show that the Arab world is capable of producing more than just intolerance, fanaticism and violence. This is an essential message to create the conditions for a return of peace to the region, but also to stop the stigmatisation and even the persecution of Muslim populations throughout the world, which is made permissible by the radicalisation of a very small proportion of them – particularly in India, Burma, Europe, Russia, China, Africa… The cradle of the Muslim world has a duty to conceive a new, modern Islam that contributes positively to global dynamics. NEOM is an ideal tool for this.

We remind you that it is a mega-city project to be fulfilled in 2025 (only 6 years’ time) for a $500 billion investment; a city relying on 3 countries – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt (and we anticipate that Israel will soon join the group) – which will be 33 times the size of New York! From the beginning, it will integrate the more advanced technologies in terms of urban management, energy, environment, health, connectivity etc. (it calls itself a ‘start-up of the size of a country’)[2]; a free city offering a model of cohabitation among all cultures of the world, reconnecting with the historic role of ‘cradle of civilizations’ of the region.

Between a New Jerusalem[3] – this utopia of a perfect/heavenly/ideal city found in the Apocalypse section of the Bible, that inspired a long line of artists and philosophers down the centuries – and the Library of Alexandria, that brought together all the science available in the world at the time[4], NEOM aims to create a future for the region which is (re)taking its place in the world in coherence with its deep DNA: spirituality, multi-confessionalism, science.

To conduct the project, Mohammed Ben Salman named the German, Klaus Kleinfeld[5], as a clear signal that the city is open to the world and not only to the region. The video presented on the site DiscoverNEOM is unequivocal on this aspect of openness. There is also a very strong tourist component in this project.

However, primarily, NEOM is bringing a future and hope back to a region that has been largely deprived of that since Nasser’s death[6]. And great crises are always crises of the future. Soon, it should be a phenomenal centre of attraction for disinherited regional populations: camp Palestinians, refugees of all kinds, Gazans, West Bank citizens of course, but also poor, unemployed Egyptians, rich, idle Saudis… and all the other unoccupied brains and hands around. A city thirty-three times the size of New York, NEOM can provide a future for hundreds of millions of people.

This project is in fact very close to what we anticipated in the GEAB last December[7]. At the time, we were awaiting Trump’s decision to install the US embassy in Jerusalem and trying to understand the strategy at work. This exercise led us to imagine a capital-vs-country exchange and a cession of a part of Negev by Israel to the Palestinians, with significant regional funding to create an attractive centre. The NEOM project is very similar to this, but subtler, with the reference to Palestine being completely erased, a feature which, in our opinion, increases its chances of success. In our December scenario, we also mentioned that recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel could go hand in hand with a recognition of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. And it is in this direction that Trump is moving by asking Israel to withdraw from the East Jerusalem[8].

If the Old Jerusalem becomes capital of both entities, the New Jerusalem could provide a model of coexistence that inspires it. But one inevitably gets lost in trying to list all the positive transformations that this project could generate if history gives it a chance.

More mundanely, the NEOM prototype is a business model that can be duplicated in all regions facing major urbanisation challenges. We mentioned the 800 million peasants who are candidates for a rural exodus in India in the coming years[9]. NEOM is precisely the type of project this great country needs to absorb these huge waves of internal migration. The same goes for Africa, where the planned industrialisation and urbanisation of the continent in the short term, combined with the presence of large virgin spaces, matches perfectly the implantation of NEOM-like mega-cities. Thus, the Middle East is positioning itself in an economic sphere of the future that will contribute to its emergence from dependence on oil revenue.

NEOM. Source: Steemit.

And since the dream we had last December seems to be coming true, let’s dare to dream again with a final anticipation! What if the dynamics of peace and Middle East reinvention created conditions such that, Saudi Arabia, together with other energy producers of the region and members of OPEC, laid the foundations of a future-building project by launching a Global Petroleum and Gas Community (GPGC) before 2020[10]?

After all, if Europeans managed to build a sustainable peace based on a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) at the end of the Second World War, couldn’t the world-wide war that will soon come to an end in the Middle East (in the least violent way possible, hopefully) conclude with the same sort of flashes of inspiration? (fragment – GEAB 125 / May 2018)


[1]     We invite you to discover NEOM through the project website. Source: DiscoverNEOM
[2]     In many ways, and in relative proportion, NEOM is reminiscent of the Louvain-la-Neuve university technopole project in Belgium, invented by Yves du Monceau in the 1960s in a brilliant anticipation of the inter-community crisis that hit the Catholic University from Leuven in the 67-68s. Source: RTBF, 28/07/2013
[3]     Source: Le Monde de Demain, 04/2016
[4]     Source: Wikipedia
[5]     Source: PRNewsWire, 24/10/2017
[6]     On 28/09/1970. Source: Wikipedia
[7]     Source: GEAB N°120, 15/12/2018
[8]     Source: Jerusalem Post, 04/05/2018
[9]     Source: GEAB N°124, 15/04/2018
[10]    Source: Bloomberg, 18/04/2018


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