By Royce Wee
I have passed my first 100 days in Saudi Arabia.
Here are the top 10 things I have learned about the country, and in particular, NEOM:
1. Saudi Arabia is a big, geographically and culturally rich and diverse, country united by a common faith and a strong monarchy
2. It has very favorable demographics. It has a population of around 30 to 33 million today, and more than half are under the age of 30. The population is estimated to go slightly over 50 million by just 2030
3. It is opening up to the world, modernizing and developing. Fast. Tourism has started in a big way. People of 90 nationalities are working in NEOM alone. New engines of growth are developing, including technology, sports, gaming, and advanced manufacturing, to complement its traditional oil wealth
4. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and hospitable. They are also full of hope and optimism for the future of the country. I can sense a palpable sense of energy, ambition, and dynamism in the air
5. The food is superb. The local dishes are sumptuous, and the local coffee and tea are rich and flavourful. These are complemented by international cuisine from all corners of the world
6. many hidden gems are waiting to be discovered, including in nature and for sports and outdoor activities. These include valleys, diving in pristine waters, dunes, world heritage sites, and even skiing!
7. Women’s rights are not only spoken about but actively practiced. Many of my colleagues are ladies, and they fully participate in the professional and social lives on offer. Women are free to dress as they wish, with the same expectations of decency and respectability as men
8. NEOM is centrally and strategically placed, within a short flight from not only Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Dammam, Doha, and Dubai, but also Istanbul, Cairo, Paris, Munich, and London
9. NEOM is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a brand new city fit for the future, with high standards of living that reconciles developmental needs with sustainability, learning from but not encumbered by legacy thinking, practices, and technologies
10. The country as a whole is largely safe, stable, and secure, focusing on peaceful development and fast drawing in investments from around the world. Yet, borrowing from the ACS mantra, the best is to be
Come visit and see for yourself.