Saudis Are Talking To Amazon, Alibaba Over New City, Prince Says

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Saudi Arabia is in talks with some of the world’s largest companies to develop technologies that will boost life in the 500-billion-dollar city it plans to build in the Red Sea.

Neom, as the project is known, will open its doors by 2025, with limited operations scheduled for 2020, Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg News in an interview in Riyadh on Wednesday. Amazon.com, Alibaba Group and Airbus are already involved in the discussions, he said.

“We are talking to everyone,” said the 32-year-old prince, heir to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter. “We have the ‘who’s who’ of everyone involved in this.”

Prince Mohammed is trying to divert Saudi Arabia from dependence on oil, something that few major economies have achieved. And he keeps moving the poles – to make the most ambitious plans.

The social and economic changes outlined since 2015 already include the sale of a stake in the oil giant Aramco and the end of a long-term ban on women driving cars. This week, Prince Mohammed announced the city’s project and also said he will transform the religious bases of Saudi society and make his austere version of Islam more “moderate.”

The two objectives were superimposed on a promotional video for Neom released this week, which presented inconceivable scenes in the existing cities of Saudi Arabia. The virtual women of Neom are going to jog in tights in public spaces, work with men and play in a musical ensemble.

Artificial intelligence and the Internet of things will combine to offer a lifestyle that is not available anywhere else, Prince Mohammed said in the interview. “Your medical file will be connected to the supply of your home, with your car, linked to your family, linked to your other files,” he said. “And the system is developed in the way of providing better things.”

Prince Mohammed envisions a city driven by the application that is almost completely automated and that responds to the needs of its residents. “The first robot in Neom will be Neom himself,” he said.