‘The Line’ in the Sand


Helayna C (Year 10)

Edited by Grace C (Year 10)


When you think of the future, what do you see? Spacecrafts? Time machines? Holograms and flying cars? Over the years humans have taken these fantastical ideas and poured them into movies like Allegiant, Inception, Total Recall, and Back to the Future as a way to make the impossible seem possible. While these movies are just figments of our imaginations it’s not until you step back and see the mind-boggling advancements humans have made that these concepts don’t seem so fictional after all. 

On Monday, July 25th, 2022, Saudi Arabia announced their newest architectural project. An urban utopia, with concepts that make the high-tech futuristic movies look like child’s play. This mammoth linear metropolis will be fully equipped with working drones and facial recognition tech and comes with the promise of no cars or streets. The zero-carbon emission city, complete with a sustainable temperature-regulated microclimate, will be stretched across 170 kilometres of the desert in the Tabuk Province in northwest Saudi Arabia. This mega-city, known as ‘The Line’ or ‘the NEOM Project’, is envisioned with two massive wall-like structures enclosing a 200-meter-wide open area. It is to become the 12th tallest building in the world with the walls being 500 meters high which, to put it into perspective, is 4 harbour bridges stacked on top of each other, all hidden with an outer mirrored façade.  

This ambitious project aims to accommodate 9 million residents and is estimated to cost $717 billion for the only 34 square kilometre condensed city. This is unheard of when compared to the capacities of a traditional city. Citizens will have all daily necessities within a 5-minute walk of their homes and will have access to a high-speed rail that can get them from one side of the city to the other in just 20-minutes. 

Saudi Arabia has had to address the environmental and economic crisis of high dependence on hydrocarbon, high energy prices, and severe gas shortages which has led to a dependence on energy derived from oil. Part of the goal of this postmodern utopia is to steer away from an oil-dependent economy, embracing the incorporation of an environmentally sustainable lifecycle by increasing energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy production. These developments aim to solve many environmental concerns and their oil problem for the foreseeable future. Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, “We cannot ignore the liveability and environmental crisis facing our world’s cities, and NEOM is at the forefront of delivering new and imaginative solutions to address these issues,” However, I question how much this would help the environment when the proposal is to create an artificially regulated microclimate. Wouldn’t a manmade microclimate potentially create other environmental problems? Are we solving one problem, but creating another?  

Although for ‘The Line’ to go ahead it would have to cut across the Huwaitat tribe, which has 20,000 members. They have lived there since before the founding of the Saudi state but have now been ordered to evacuate from the only home they have ever known for the sake of this mega city. So, the question I ask you is, do you think this is fair? 

Humankind’s growing ambition makes me wonder what the future may look like. Is Saudi Arabia giving us false hope or a feasible way toward the future? Will projects like this change us and how we interact with the world around us? Is the world moving too fast or are we ready for what’s to come?