Saudi had a series of big announcements in 2017 that both surprised and excited the world.
5 November 2017| Last updated on 5 November 2017
Saudi Arabia has for a long time been known as a mostly inaccessible country with strict rules and severe penalties if you break them. In general, the Kingdom has had a bad reputation but things are starting to change.
Saudi officials have started realising that they need to start creating alternative income streams and wean themselves off of their oil dependency. With this in mind, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is busy shaking things up and surprising the world on an almost monthly basis with a new announcement of things that are changing in the Kingdom.
It is difficult to keep track of all the announcements, so here is what you can expect to see in the Kingdom in 2018:
Cinemas will be returning to Saudi Arabia
Banned since the 70’s, Crown Prince Mohammed said that he wants to offer Saudi citizens an opportunity to enjoy the cultural and entertainment scene in the Kingdom. He wants citizens to rather spend their money on local entertainment than travelling abroad to visit music and other live events.
SEE ALSO: Cinema’s Are Returning To Saudi Arabia
A world class opera house will open
We are still waiting to hear where and when the opera house will be opening, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz promised to shake up the cultural scene. Part of this initiative is to open a world class opera house in the Kingdom.
Women will be able to drive in the Kingdom
This announcement caused quite the buzz around the world with Saudi being the last country in the world where women weren’t allowed to drive. Women from all around the world celebrated with Saudi women that they will finally be able to drive in the Kingdom as of June 2018. There are still a lot of gray areas that needs to be clarified, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Riyadh will be hosting the Race of Champions motorsport event at the beginning of the year
This is the first time that an international motorsport event is being hosted in Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom is also the first country in the Middle East to host the Race of Champions.
Women will be allowed in a sport stadium for the second time in Saudi history
This year the world had a go at Saudi for it making headlines that women were allowed in a sport stadium for the first time in Saudi history. It seems this wasn’t a one-time event: according to the official website, the Race of Champions motorsport event will be a family event with activities for everyone.
Jeddah will be hosting the World Boxing Supreme Series Cruiserweight final
The event will take place in May and it is still unclear whether this will be a family event or not. Considering Saudi’s conservative side, we speculate that this might be for men only.
Saudi Arabia tourist visas will be available
Saudi has finally decided to open their borders and allow the world into their country. It will initially only be available for tour groups through authorised operators. Numerous people across the world aren’t holding their breath as Saudi’s strict rules on dress code and gender segregation are scaring them away. Others are extremely excited about the new territory that they will soon be able to explore.
All of these announcements are part of Saudi’s Vision 2030 initiative to create alternative income streams into the Kingdom. Vision 2030 entails much more than these announcements though.
The initiative has numerous bigger projects in place that are going to take a bit longer to be implemented, or constructed.
This is what else you can expect to see in Saudi Arabia in the next couple of years:
Jeddah Tower - The tallest building in the world
Previously known as Kingdom tower, this isn’t part of the Vision 2030 project but residents are excited about it and it is expected to become a big tourist attraction in the Kingdom. Once finished the building will be the tallest building in the world stretching a 1000 metres into the sky with 252 floors. The building is expected to be finished by 2019.
Luxury Red Sea Resort
A “semi-autonomous” luxurious resort is being developed on the coast of the Red Sea. It is said that the resort will be a visa-free travel destination that won’t be functioning under the strict Sharia laws. Speculations run that women won’t have to wear a hijab and alcohol will be available within the resort. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2020.
The Makkah region is getting a “new city”
The north-eastern part of Taif is going to be developed into “New Taif” to become a summer destination for tourists and residents alike. This new part of Taif will consist of a culture and heritage tourist center, university, airport, technology and industry parks and a residential suburb. The airport is expected to be up and running by 2020.
An entertainment city almost the size of Las Vegas in Riyadh
This entertainment city will offer cultural, entertainment and sporting activities and is said to “rival Walt Disney." The crown prince is hoping that the entertainment city will become a prominent cultural landmark feature. In addition to the cultural side, the city will also feature a safari park and a Six Flags theme park. The first stage is expected to be finished by 2022.
More recently announced of the long term projects for Saudi Arabia, mega-city Neom is an industrial zone that will span across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. It is expected to be completely powered by wind and solar energy. The high-tech vision for the development is to have repetitive tasks either outsourced or completed by robots. Same as the Red Sea development, Neom won’t follow the strict Sharia laws. The first phase is expected to be completed by 2025.
Those who have been says the country itself is gorgeous with a number of archaeological, UNESCO and natural attractions. That by itself is enough to attract tourists to Saudi. Of course, all these new developments will also help with growing their tourism industry. A lot of things are changing in the country at a very rapid pace. Some are arguing that it is about time these changes are happening, while others say that it is too much, too soon.
A number of Saudi beliefs and traditions are being challenged with these changes but Crown Prince Mohammed has a great vision for the Kingdom. We are excited for the change that is coming to Saudi Arabia.
All eyes are on them as they are transforming the Kingdom from a very conservative country to a more modern country while still retaining their culture and beliefs.