Prince Mohammed bin Salman is desperate to shake Saudi Arabia’s addiction to oil. Its price has still not recovered from an American fracking boom seven years ago, and decades of excess have left the world’s largest exporter now needing £55 a barrel to balance the books — more than Iraq, Libya, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE.
Looking to reinvent his kingdom, MBS is building a new city, NEOM. Sold as a rival to neighbouring Dubai, which has long been the capital of business and tourism in the Middle East, the city will cost £360 billion, will be the size of Belgium and is expected to be completed by 2030. Or at least that's the idea.
From the very beginning, the project has been surrounded by controversy over who is working on it, how it will be built, and whether it is even physically possible.