Visitors watch a 3-D presentation during an exhibition on “Neom,” a new business and industrial city, in Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
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On a sandy peninsula in northwest Saudi Arabia, the only interruption to kilometers of desert was the wreck of a Catalina seaplane, abandoned by its American pilot in 1960 and now covered in Arabic graffiti. But it's here that Saudi Arabia's crown prince plans Neom, a city from scratch that will be bigger than Dubai and have more robots than humans. The sci-fi city with glimmering office towers and five-star hotels is supposed to represent Saudi efforts to transform a nation once swimming in oil money and now facing a severe financial squeeze.Other massive cities in the desert have been announced with much fanfare, then have floundered short of expectations, like the $10 billion office park on the outskirts of Riyadh sitting largely unoccupied and unfinished.The planned city, though, won't compete with Dubai, but rather complement it and other parts of the Gulf, according to Prince Mohammad.It will be partly located in an area known as Ras Sheikh al-Hameed, a peninsula of land jutting about 31 miles (50 kilometers) into waters of the Red Sea after turning west off of route 5, the Saudi coastal road."A foreigner, if they desire alcohol, can either go to Egypt or Jordan".Even by Saudi standards, the area where they are building the city is conservative.
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