Imagine being given a blank canvas upon which to redefine modern living: an empty quarter within which to build a 21st century destination driven by a desire for sustainability, powered by the wind and the sun, shaped by innovation and technology, and striving to be among the top places for living and work internationally.
The canvas exists. It lies on the Red Sea, in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia, straddling the borders of Egypt and Jordan. NEOM is a new destination being created at the intersection of Asia, Europe and Africa and along one of the world’s busiest economic arteries. It is strategically placed at the crossroads of the world with an area of 26,500 km2, and it is just an 8-hour flight from 70% of the global population. Its another effort from Saudi Arabia to go for an image makeover.
NEOM aims to be the future of livability as its foundation, unprecedented in scope and unconstrained by history. The name “NEOM” is derived from two words. The first three letters form the Ancient Greek prefix neo- meaning “new”. The fourth letter is from the abbreviation of Mostaqbal (Arabic: مستقبل), an Arabic word meaning “future”. And as the name suggests, it will be the land of the future where the best ideas, most promising start-ups, established companies, future industries and the best talents are joined to create solutions for the key challenges facing humanity.
NEOM is being built with principles of livability and innovation at its core. Industry will focus on NEOM’s 16 economic sectors, namely future of energy, future of water, future of mobility, future of biotech, future of food, future of manufacturing, future of media, future of entertainment, culture and fashion, future of technology and digital, future of tourism, future of sport, future of design and construction, future of services, future of health and well-being, future of education and future of livability as the foundation of all the sectors.
Recently, international athletes joined their Saudi counterparts during the weekend at an extreme sports extravaganza held to bring NEOM, the world’s most ambitious project, located in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia, into the global spotlight. Bouldering world champion Juliane Wurm and Saudi female rock-climbing star Yasmin Gahtani topped the bill to kick off a one-day event of rock-climbing, wingsuiting and BASE jumping conceived to showcase the pristine beauty of NEOM with its wilderness, deserts, mountains, valleys, islands, coast and unique coral reefs.
Development of the first phase of NEOM, which has a total area of 26,500 km2, will begin in weeks. NEOM Bay, which will be the first urban area in NEOM, will include a wide range of resorts and tourist attractions. NEOM is the flagship project of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said the choice of an extreme sports event to bring global attention to what has been described as “the world’s most ambitious project” was especially appropriate. “NEOM is futuristic, risky and daring and it’s more than a dream: it’s a plan to enhance how we work and live.” the CEO added.
“The reason we chose extreme adventure sports at the first event in NEOM is because it’s a beautiful environment,” explained Jason Harborow, Head of NEOM’s Future of Sport sector. “Sport is right at the center of what we want to achieve at NEOM, and that means sport for all: male, female, children and athletes with disabilities. NEOM will be for everybody.” Lead climber Yasmin Gahtani, Managing Director of the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation, said that she was thrilled to participate in an event which encapsulates NEOM’s ethos of finding, empowering and encouraging talented individuals.
“Being a woman, I’m very honored to be here and very happy to have NEOM’s support,” she said, adding that rock climbing in Saudi Arabia used to be seen very much as a male-dominated sport but her participation at this event will help to change that perception.
It was German-born climber Juliane Wurm’s first visit to Saudi Arabia. “There’s huge potential here,” she said. “I’m surprised and excited to see how this is going to evolve.”
Head Wingsuit Pilot Sam Hardy, British medalist at the World Wingsuit League, was equally thrilled. “I can surely see NEOM being the place for extreme sports whether it is climbing, skydiving or kite surfing. The landscape, the mountains, the sand areas and the ocean are like nothing I have seen before. That’s what makes NEOM special and unique.”
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