Saudi Arabia's 10 biggest announcements in 2022

The kingdom's Vision 2030 reform programme, which covers everything from green technology to education reform and green energy, is racing ahead

The design plan for Trojena, which will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games. AFP
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Saudi Arabia announced a number of new projects and initiatives this year, from breaking ground on what will essentially be an entire city in a single, sustainably powered building, to hosting prestigious sporting events, as part of a drive to revamp its economy, infrastructure and services.

All of these developments, from the biggest, multibillion dollar mega projects such as Neom city to grassroots reforms for women's rights and education, fall under the banner of the kingdom's Vision 2030, one of the world's most ambitious economic reform projects.

Here are 10 of the kingdom's most significant announcements of 2022:

The Line at Neom

The Line, being built in north-west Tabuk province as part of the futuristic $500 billion Neom development, will be a 170km-long, 500m-tall city designed to house nine million citizens.

The project comprises interconnected societies sustained by green energy with a superfast rail line running along its length, and pods — mini transport vehicles on rails — available for shorter journeys.

The city is designed to coexist with nature, with everything powered by wind, solar and hydrogen. Its carbon footprint will be minimal relative to its population, and its mirrored facade will allow it to blend in with the surrounding environment.

“We are building 120 Burj Khalifas' worth of real estate in the first phase,” Giles Pendleton, executive director of development at The Line in Neom, tells The National.

“The idea of layering city functions vertically, giving people the possibility of moving seamlessly in three dimensions to access them, is a concept referred to as Zero Gravity Urbanism,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said during the launch.

Trojena for mountain tourism

In March, Crown Prince Mohammed announced the creation of Trojena, also in Neom, as a new global destination for mountain tourism that will be completed in 2026.

Trojena will be the venue when Saudi Arabia becomes the first nation in western Asia to host the Asian Winter Games in 2029, in which more than 32 countries are expected to take part.

“Trojena will be an important addition to tourism in the region, a unique example of how Saudi Arabia is creating destinations based on its geographical and environmental diversity.

“This forward-looking vision will ensure that mountain tourism will be another revenue stream,” he said.

The year-round destination will have the country's first ski village, nature reserves, luxury hotels, wellness resorts, retail stores and restaurants, in addition to sports activities, including a ski slope, watersports and mountain biking.

Saudi space initiatives

In September, Saudi Arabia announced a new human spaceflight programme with plans to send the first Saudi woman into space.

Two months earlier, the kingdom became a signatory of the Artemis Accords — a US-led international agreement on using space exploration for peaceful purposes.

Two Saudis, a man and a woman, are scheduled to fly to the International Space Station in May on a private trip organised by Axiom Space. If this materialises, the Saudi woman would also become the first Arab female in space.

Sindalah island resort

Crown Prince Mohammed has described Sindalah as “Neom’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea”.

Scheduled to open in 2024, the island resort will be spread over approximately 840,000 square metres, with one of the main aims of the development being to conserve natural beauty — one of Neom's central themes.

Sindalah island in Saudi Arabia. Photo: Neom

“It will be a destination where travellers can experience the true beauty of Neom and Saudi Arabia, above and below the water, making Sindalah the future of luxury travel,” the Crown Prince said.

Hosting the 2027 Asian Cup

Three-time champions Saudi Arabia will host the 2027 Asian Cup after becoming the sole bidder for the football tournament after India.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress will formally declare the host country in the Bahraini capital of Manama in February next year.

Saudi Arabia caused one of the biggest upsets in the World Cup in Qatar when they beat Argentina 2-1 in their opening match, although the team were not able to advance past the group stage.

Nusuk platform for Hajj and Umrah

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched Nusuk, an electronic platform to provide services to local and international pilgrims.

The Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Tawfiq Al Rabiah, announced the official launch of the national platform for Hajj and Umrah, which currently offers more than 121 services to assist the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in November revealed that more than three million visas have been issued to those wishing to perform Umrah — from 176 countries — since the beginning of the Umrah season that started on July 30.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia announced that a male guardian, or mahram, was no longer required to accompany a female pilgrim who wishes to travel to the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia to host Mena Climate Week in 2023

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has announced that the kingdom will host Mena Climate Week in 2023. Saudi Arabia is working on setting up the Knowledge Centre for the Carbon Economy, due to open at the beginning of next year.

“Next year, we will be finalising the plans for developing 10 more renewable energy projects and connecting an additional 840 megawatts of solar PV power to our grid.”

He said a new carbon offsetting initiative would “incentivise efforts and investments in emission reduction in all sectors in the kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia will contribute $2.5 billion to a green initiative in the Middle East over the next 10 years, Prince Mohammed announced during the Cop27 summit.

Saudi Aramco discovers two natural gasfields

Saudi Aramco discovered two natural gasfields, Awtad and AlDahna, in the country's Eastern Province, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“The importance of these discoveries lies in strengthening the kingdom's natural gas reserves, which contributes to supporting the kingdom's strategies and achieving the goals of the liquid fuel displacement programme,” Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said.

Awtad was discovered south-west of the Ghawar field, 142km south-west of the city of Hofuf, while AlDahna was found 230km south-west of Dhahran.

Saudi Arabia aims to become a natural gas exporter by 2030.

Saudi Arabia launches its first electric vehicle brand

Saudi Arabia launched its first electric vehicle brand “Ceer”, which aims to contribute to the kingdom’s car manufacturing sector.

Ceer will attract more than $150 million in foreign direct investment and create up to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs, authorities said.

Ceer vehicles are expected to be available by 2025 and the company is projected to directly contribute $8 billion to Saudi Arabia’s economy by 2034.

Saudi Arabia plans to more than triple the size of its rail network

This year, the kingdom announced that it would more than triple the size of its rail network, with 8,000km of new track added to 3,650km of existing rail track.

“New rail will criss-cross the kingdom and add to the network we already have,” Investment Minister Khalid Al Falih said. He said the Gulf nation was working on a new investment law that would address both domestic and foreign investors.

Updated: December 22, 2022, 7:37 AM