Space pods and flying dragons: How Saudi Arabia wants to transform its capital


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Abu Dhabi, UAE

It looks like a city out of a science fiction movie: space pods, flying dragons and floating rocks. But it is Islam’s birthplace, Saudi Arabia, that wants to turn its capital into one of the “most livable cities on Earth.”

The kingdom is building a new downtown in the capital Riyadh, its sovereign wealth fund announced on Friday. Under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), “New Marmalade“The (new square) project means expanding the capital by about 19 square kilometers (4,695 acres) to accommodate thousands of residents.

At the center of the project is the “Maqab”, a 400-metre (1,312-ft) high, 400-metre wide and 400-metre-tall cube large enough to fit 20 Empire State Buildings. According to the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the MBS-led $620-billion wealth fund, it offers “an immersive experience” with the landscape changing from outer space to green scenes. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2030.

Holographic technology To offer consumers “a new reality” as they shop and dine. The building also includes recreational facilities as well as hotel and residential units.

Saudi Arabia, that is The subject of bad press Due to the violation of human rights for decades, has started an ambitious project Diversify the economy Away from oil and shed his image as a conservative, closed state.

“Back in the day, you would have a negative discussion about Saudi Arabia associated with human rights abuses,” said Andreas Krieg, a research fellow at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College London. “But now they are trying to push a new narrative of being a country of growth and a country that can build the cities of the future.”

But some analysts say Saudi Arabia has serious regional competition Neighboring Dubai And Doha, the capital of QatarBoth of which have tried to establish themselves as regional tourism and investment hubs for decades.

“It’s always a tough place to be second in the race when you want to be the leader,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Washington Institute’s Gulf and Energy Policy Program. He added that it was particularly difficult for Saudi Arabia. is because “they have spent decades attracting foreign, non-Muslim tourists.”

But some people have questioned whether this project will also be completed. Saudi Arabia has previously announced similar big projects, on which work is progressing slowly.

In 2021, MBS announced his $500 billion Futuristic Neom city In the country’s northwest, with promises of robot maids, flying taxis and a giant artificial moon. And last year, he unveiled a giant linear city, TThat lineIt aims to stretch over 106 miles and house 9 million people.

According to Saudi media, the kingdom already has an $800 billion plan to double the size of the capital over the next decade, as well as turn it into a cultural and economic hub for the region.

“The more absurd and futuristic these projects are, the more I can’t help but imagine how much more dystopian everything around them will be,” Dana Ahmed wroteA Gulf researcher at Amnesty International, on Twitter.

Saudi officials have insisted that work on the projects is progressing as planned.

It is unclear how much New Marmalade will cost, or how PIF plans to finance it.

Asked about the cost and financial plans, PIF told CNN that details have not yet been disclosed and that it will announce more information in due course.

Some analysts are skeptical, saying the state may not be able to raise enough funds to meet its ambitions.

“The finances of all this are not completely secure. They have tried to get a lot of foreign direct investment (FDI) to realize this project,” Krieg said, adding that the investment did not come the way Riyadh had hoped.

Saudi Arabia hopes to increase FDI to 388 billion riyals ($103 billion) annually by 2030. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) 2022 World Investment, the state’s current FDI by 2021 is $19 billion. Report.

Whether the state will be able to finance the project also depends on the price of oil, Henderson said.

With the price per barrel currently in the low $80s, the state may need oil prices to cross the $100 mark to finance national megaprojects, he said.

While some derided the new city and expressed doubts about its viability, others pointed to its cubic skyscraper’s uncanny resemblance to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca.

The Kaaba, which derives its name from the same root as the name of the new Muqaab building, is the structure that billions of Muslims visit to pray five times a day, and millions of people make the pilgrimage every year.

“Building a new Kaaba dedicated solely to capitalism is a bit on the nose,” Murtaza Hussain tweeteda journalist

Two weeks after the Turkey-Syria earthquake, the death toll continues to rise as Turkey suspends search and rescue operations in all but two affected provinces.

The country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said the death toll in Turkey had risen to 41,156 as of Monday.

Turkey has ended the search operation in all areas except Kahramanmaras and Hatay provinces, it announced on Sunday.

The combined death toll in Turkey and Syria now stands at 47,088.

Here’s the latest:

  • Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFA) said the body of Ghanaian soccer star Christian Atsu arrived in Accra, Ghana on Sunday evening after flying from Turkey. Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia and a large military procession met the casket on arrival in Accra.
  • At least 80% of the buildings in the Turkish-controlled province are to be rebuilt, the province’s mayor said on Sunday.
  • According to Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Okte, more than 105,000 buildings have been identified as either severely damaged or about to collapse.
  • Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said that the US will bring another 100 million dollars to help earthquake victims.

Israel’s Netanyahu accuses Iran of attacking tanker in Persian Gulf region

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Iran of attacking a tanker in the Persian Gulf region, apparently referring to the Israeli-owned Campo Square, which suffered light damage on February 10. , its management company said.

  • background: On the night of February 10, ship management company Elletson said in a statement that the Campo Square “collided with an airborne object in the Arabian Sea approximately 300 nautical miles off the coasts of India and Oman”, causing minor damage. to the vessel. The ship “is owned by a Liberian company affiliated with the British company Zodiac Maritime Ltd,” Zodiac Maritime told CNN on Sunday. The company’s chairman, Eyal Ofer, is Israeli.
  • Why this is important: This is the second time in less than three months that an Israeli-affiliated tanker has been attacked off the coast of Oman. On November 15, the Pacific Zircon was shot down by what the United States said was an Iranian-made drone.

Iran International TV pulled the studio out of the UK after alleged threats from the Tehran government

An independent Iranian TV station, Iran International, has moved its broadcast studio from London to Washington DC on the advice of London police following a “significant increase in state-sponsored threats from Iran”, the station announced on Saturday. The head of the UK’s counter-terrorism policing said on Saturday that police were continuing to respond to unnamed Iranian threats against UK-based individuals and a Persian-language media company.

  • background: Iran International TV gained prominence after anti-government protests erupted across Iran in September, after which Tehran banned the Internet and tightly controlled information in the country. Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of funding the channel, which its owners have denied.
  • Why this is important: Iran has sanctioned Iran International’s parent company, Volant Media, for “supporting terrorism”. The channel was previously warned by UK authorities in November that its reporters were at increasing risk. According to the statement, a man was arrested near the London station on February 11 and charged with a terrorism offence.

Saudi Arabia says that Arab countries need a new approach to Syria

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at the Munich Security Forum on Saturday that there is a consensus in the Arab world that isolating Syria is not working and that at least humanitarian issues should be resolved. It requires dialogue with Damascus. Return of refugees, Reuters reports.

  • background: Riyadh, which cut ties with the Syrian regime over its brutal crackdown on protests there, has sent aid planes to government-held territory in Syria as part of earthquake relief efforts. It was the first Saudi flight to a regime airport in more than a decade.
  • Why this is important: The minister’s comments mark a shift from the early years of Syria’s 12-year civil war when several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, supported rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shunned by the West, Assad is coming to terms with support from Arab states that have normalized relations with him in recent years.

A popular Tunisian actor has invited controversy after declaring on television that he hates the hijab, worn by many Muslim women.

Mohammed Kauka Hand gesture Atesia shows herself on TV taking off an imaginary hijab, saying it denies women their humanity. “It devalues ​​women, and that’s why I hate the hijab,” she said.

Other guests on the television show responded that head covering is a personal choice. Many others took to social media to condemn the actor, accusing him of inciting women who wear the hijab. A clip of her comments posted by the channel on Facebook received more than 13,000 comments, many of which protested her position.

Former Tunisian health minister Abdellatif El Meki addressed the actor on his Facebook page, writing: “You have the right not to be convinced by the hijab or anything else, but you don’t have the right to say what you said.” Because at the very least it lacks acceptance of differences, and can be perceived as inciting.

Kuka later left Mosaic FM To say that he respects a woman’s right to choose and that he does not hate women who wear the hijab. Asked why he said he would break the hijab, Kauka said it was “a joke”. He refused to apologize.

The hijab is a sensitive topic in Tunisia. The regime in the Muslim-majority country strictly banned wearing the veil before the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring. The new government, led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, lifted the restrictions.

The North African nation, however, remains one of the most secular Arab nations.

Young runners take part in the Saqqara Pyramid Race at the Saqqara Necropolis in Egypt, about 30km (19 miles) south of Cairo, on February 17, 2023.

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