by WorldTribune Staff, May 11, 2017
Saudi Arabia said it plans to build a massive entertainment city featuring cultural and sporting venues as well as a safari park and a Six Flags theme park.
The 334-square kilometer (129-square miles) city will be about the same size as Las Vegas.
According to a statement released by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, construction will begin in 2018 and the city will open in 2022. The main investor in the entertainment project will be the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
“This city will become, by God’s will, a prominent cultural landmark and an important center for meeting the future generation’s recreational, cultural and social needs in the kingdom,” Prince Mohammed said.
Saudis have long called for a loosening of restrictions, particularly after seeing neighboring Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar create leisure sectors of their own.
Still, analysts say, developing such a large entertainment sector will be difficult in the Islamic kingdom, where women are required to wear loose-fitting robes, public spaces are gender-segregated and cinemas and alcohol are banned.
“We want to turn Saudi Arabia into a softer, more pleasant place to live, soften life for citizens,” Khalid al-Falih, the Saudi oil minister, said earlier this year.
The entertainment city is being built as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform program, which aims to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil.
Last year, Six Flags chief executive Jim Reid-Anderson said the company aimed to build three parks in Saudi Arabia, with each costing between $300-$500 million.