by: Mohammed SH. Hassan (Author & Publisher, Toronto) 

From 1984 to 1996, I was a student at Stockholm University, Department of Business Administration. I have always been interested in learning about the huge developmental Mega projects in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s. I remember the Yanbu Project, The Al-Jubail Project, Aramco, the Saudi Telephone Project, and many other Megaprojects. That curiosity led me to write my thesis for the fulfillment of my Bachelor’s Degree at Stockholm University in 1988. That was the beginning of Saudi Arabia’s golden era of economic boom. The theme that I chose was , “The market opportunities of Saudi Arabia”. 

To my knowledge, it was one of the very few academic works that discussed Saudi Arabia’s economic achievement archived by the concerned institutions at that time. My interest was boosted when I wrote the thesis since I have had access to many publications such as books, periodicals, different magazines, and articles about Saudi Arabia. That encouraged me to write my Master’s Dissertation about the same subject at the same university in 1996. Since then, I have been curiously studying the huge developments in the Saudi market. Since Saudi Arabia is the home of the two holy mosques and the birthplace of Islam, it is worth mentioning the prayer (Du’a) made by Prophet Abraham, who erected/established the foundation of the Ka’ba many centuries ago in human History. At that time, Mecca was an impoverished and small town but a hub for trade. The verses of the Qur’an that Prophet Abraham asked his Lord says: “Our Lord! I have settled some of my offspring in a barren valley, near Your Sacred House, our Lord, so that they may establish prayer. So make the hearts of ˹believing˺ people incline towards them and provide them with fruits, so perhaps they will be thankful” (Qur’an: Ibrahim (Abraham): 37). 

Mecca is the Prophet Muhammad’s birthplace — the direction for prayers (qibla) where Muslims pray five times a day — and Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad’s peace upon him is buried. Before the extraction of oil and the launch of the hydrocarbon economy in March 1938, Saudi Arabia’s revenue mainly came from the Pilgrimage – Hajj. Yet, it is one of the five ritual pillars of Islam, which must be performed by every Muslim. It is required to visit the House of Allah –Hajj at least once in one’s lifetime if one is healthy enough and financially able to do so. Even though it is a source of reward, it is also a prime source of income for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi statistics, the country earns an average income of $10-15 billion dollars from the Hajj and another $4-5 billion from the millions of visitors making Umrah throughout the year. 

The Saudi Arabia Hajj and Umrah tourism market was expected to reach a market revenue of US$ 150.0 Bn in 2022 and is likely to pass US$ 350.0 Bn by 2032, according to Future Market Insights (FMI). According to the Mecca Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 

25-30% of private sector revenue in the holy cities comes from the two pilgrimages. Pilgrimage income also accounts for the second-largest share of government revenue after hydrocarbon sales. The logistics, sanitary, and security challenges are enormous. The government invests billions of dollars to cover the public service needed by Pilgrims. The Hajj lasts at least five days during Dhu Al-Hijja, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar, and each year between two and three million pilgrims (Hajji) make the journey every year, and the number increases every year. The 2030 vision based on well-planned projects for economic diversification drawn up under the leadership and supervision of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman predicts that by 2030, some 30 million people will be making the Umra and Hajj annually. It describes religious tourism as a sustainable option for the country in the future at a time when it seems the volatility of oil is unpredictable. Therefore, most countries in the world would need to establish their diversification of mega projects. 

Almost $1 trillion worth of development projects have started or been announced since the unveiling of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision agenda, and that’s just a third of the planned investment. Saudi Arabia’s bold 2030 Vision of economic transformation agenda has so far unleashed almost $1 trillion worth of infrastructure and real estate projects across the country. The giga-projects are designed to stimulate the economy, and their benefits are expected to expand significantly beyond the real estate and infrastructure sectors. Such a project was intended to boost and diversify the economy, whose sources are away from oil and hydrocarbon economies. They support the Kingdom’s economic transformation efforts and promote investments in several sectors while achieving high returns over the medium and long term. Let us discuss some of the Giga and Megaprojects in this context.

Project #1: Diriyah Mega -Project 

Saudi’s Diriyah, located just 20 minutes northwest of Riyadh’s city center, is transforming remarkably into a world-class lifestyle destination. It will encompass cultural, heritage, hospitality, retail, and educational facilities, becoming a significant global gathering place. At the core of this development lies the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, an iconic mud-brick city that served as the home of the First House of the Al-Saud family and the capital of the First Saudi State. Preserved and restored, it will stand as a testament to the origins of modern Saudi Arabia and its profound spiritual values. The project is under the supervision of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority and supported by the Public Investment Fund. 

The Red Sea Mega Project#2

The Red Sea, which is located along the west coast of Saudi Arabia, is a pioneering luxury regenerative tourism destination. It is a 28,000-square-kilometer paradise home to an archipelago of over 90 untouched Islands, stunning beaches, and a range of natural wonders, including dormant volcanoes, desert dunes, and mountain canyons. The Red Sea is also home to the world’s fourth-biggest barrier reef, where marine life and coral thrive like nowhere else. In 2023, it will open its doors to its first guests, inviting them to experience all this unique destination offers. On completion in 2030, the destination will offer 8,000 rooms in 50 hotels and 1,000 residential properties. 


As part of Riyadh’s four Megaprojects, Green Riyadh is a significant initiative in Line with Vision 2030’s goal of positioning Riyadh among the world’s top 100 most livable cities. 7.5 million trees will be planted across Riyadh city in 3,330 neighborhood gardens, 43 parks, 9,000 mosques, 6,000 schools, 64 universities, 390 healthcare facilities, and 1,670 public facilities. Trees will also line 16,400 kilometers of streets and roads, 2,000 car parking sites, 1,100 kilometers of green belts, including utility lines (pylons, oil pipelines, etc.), 175,000 plots of empty land, and 272 kilometers of valleys. Indeed, that is when the vast project was completed. 

Project #4 QIDDIYA 

Qiddiya will be the capital of entertainment, sports, and arts, offering innovative and immersive experiences on an unprecedented scale. Aligned with Vision 2030’s goals, Qiddiya focuses on five thematic cornerstones: parks and attractions, sports and wellness, motion and mobility, arts and culture, and purely clean nature based on environmental protection. The master plan, respecting the site’s natural landscape, consists of the Resort Core, Qiddiya Village, Motion Zone, Eco Zone, and Golf Community. As a core tenet of Vision 2030, Qiddiya has a dual economic and social purpose: to contribute to the advancement of Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification whilst opening the Kingdom to the world. 


It is a mandate to transform the housing sector in the Kingdom and achieve the country’s Vision 2030 goal of 70% home ownership. ROSHN has invested heavily in offering Saudi residents a new way of living. Launched in 2020, ROSHN is dedicated to supporting the ambitious goal of 70% homeownership by 2030 and is doing so by making positive contributions to the nation’s real estate and infrastructure sectors. A giga-project under the Public Investment Fund, ROSHN, will fill this critical gap in improving the citizens’ quality of Lifestyle. ROSHN’s pioneering communities combine modern living conditions with inspiration from the unique History and heritage of Saudi cities. The new homes will set new standards for excellence.


NEOM invested 500 billion dollars from the Public Investment Fund to implement a vision for the future by using innovation in business, livability, and sustainability. The development in northwest Saudi Arabia comprises key projects such as The Line, Oxagon, Trojena, and Sindalah, each presenting a unique concept. With more than 2,800 staff – from 86 countries – already living and working onsite, NEOM is divided into 14 sectors. NEOM development expects to welcome its first residents in 2024, with more than 1 million to follow. The net-zero Megacity will also cater to visitors with up to 80,000 hotel rooms slated for more than 3 million square meters of world-class office space. 

The project is phased, with Oxagon getting its first residents in 2024 and Trojena becoming a place to live and work in 2026. The first modules of the Line will also be activated in 2026, and by 2030, almost one million people will be expected to be residents in NEOM, hoping to rise to nine million by 2045. We can mention other significances of Megaprojects designated for Very Important Persons (VIPs). Among them is the Al- Ula Project, which is a place with human and natural heritage over 200,000 years of unexplored human History. It is expected to be a global tourist attraction. 

The King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) is another mega project, a fully integrated industrial ecosystem in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. SPARK offers an international standard infrastructure for global investors in oil and gas, refining, petrochemicals, energy and water production, and water treatment. 

When completed, the city will diversify the Kingdom’s revenue streams and promote the adoption of clean energy technologies. The site will include a dedicated logistics zone and dry port, which will help facilitate the efficient movement of goods in and out of the park. The Sakaka Solar Power Plant Project in Al Jawf is another milestone mega project. It is the first renewable energy project under the Ministry of Energy. The plant uses solar energy to generate electricity through photovoltaic technology (PV). 

The plant spans six km², housing 1.2 million solar panels. The Kingdom’s favorable geography and climate make renewable energy economically attractive, supporting Vision 2030 goals. The project set a new world record for low costs in the solar photovoltaic sector, which amounted to $0.023 per kWh. The government’s aggressive target of attracting 100 million annual visitors to the country by 2030 means adequate and first-class gateways need to be created. 

To deal with the planned influx of tourists and business travelers from around the world, the Kingdom is also spending huge amounts of money on major supporting infrastructure, including a new airport in Riyadh at a cost of almost $150 billion and a vast new passenger rail network. The Knight Frank analysis points to almost $300 billion worth of infrastructure projects, with the Makkah public transport system, Riyadh, and Jeddah metros accounting for over $140 billion of the outlay. 

There are many other Mega and Giga projects either currently under construction or in the pipeline, Such as Amaala- a unique and ultra-luxurious destination project, Jeddah Economic City-a mixed Megaproject, and Al-Faisaliyah Economic City, which will be an important strategic point of trade and commerce and a substantial regional base for successive foreign investments. Saudi Arabia’s mining sector continues to expand and provides a growing opportunity for international companies. The government plans to make mining the third pillar of the economy, alongside oil and downstream petrochemical production. The Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources (MEIMR) seeks to increase mining’s contribution to GDP from $3 billion (over the last five years) to $64 billion by 2030 and generate more than 25,000 new jobs in the industry. 

In Conclusion, it is observable and imaginable that Saudi Arabia’s prosperity will soon be a hundred times richer than it is today. Shortly, the Kingdom’s heyday, brightness, and economic booming will appear. Saudi Arabia is more influential than ever before. How much influence unfolds beyond the 2030 Vision remains to be seen? Indeed, the Du’a of Prophet Abraham has been answered as Allah informed us when saying: “And ˹remember˺ when Abraham said, “My Lord, make this city ˹of Mecca˺ secure and provide fruits to its people— those among them who believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He answered, “As for those who disbelieve, I will let them enjoy themselves for a little while, and then I will condemn them to the torment of the Fire. What an evil destination!” (Qur’an: Al- Baqarah (The Cow): 126). 

Written by: Mohammed SH. Hassan (Author & Publisher, Toronto)

References: Masters Dissertation- by the Author Mohammed SH. Hassan (The market opportunities in Saudi Arabia 1996, Stockholm University )

Mixed articles from the internet, Article by: Mohammed Larbi Bouguerra The Knight Frank analysis Saudi Statistics & Government publications Courtesy: Getty 

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