Another Corporate Utopia

King Abdullah Economic City

2008, 10 mins., Saudi Arabia
Producer: Emaar Properties
Digital Advertisement Film (at

The Saudi Arabian megalopolis of the future will be built near Riyadh, its capital city. The instant megalopolis is named after the Saudi ruler, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and will be composed of at least six zones concentrating on commerce, tourism, and education. Although the Saudis’ wealth is primarily oil-based, of course, they have strong light industries (such as electronics and pharmaceuticals) as well, and it is these industries, besides containerized shipping and other globalized financial investments that will fund the plans of Emaar, already one of the largest real estate companies in the world, to create the new city.

Unlike Dubai’s projects, the Saudis have less to show on the ground and the videos reflect this: they are hype rather than reality, although few would doubt the Saudis’ ability–if not their finances–to develop most of these projects to completion. The CGI films are light on religion but stress Middle Easternness—the King is the guardian of the Prophet’s mosques, we see tableaus of meetings and hotels with men only (the rare exception being burka-clad university women sitting by themselves in the education zone), and we hear of “high end” residential zones.

The six zones reflect the typical pattern of purpose-built versions of megalopolis:
–container shipping port
–a light industry zone
–residential zones
–tourist areas
–a financial “island”
–an education zone.


King Abdullah Economic City, (at, CNN: Inside the Middle East, 7 mins. With comments by the CEO of EMAAR, Nidal Jenjoon.

King Abdullah City–World’s Largest Private Sector Investment), (at, 10 mins. Features the containerized shipping network as an introduction to the diversifying Saudi economic future.

Further Reading:

Mouawad, Jad. “The Construction Site Called Saudi Arabia.” New York Times, 20 Jan. 2008. Comprehensive review of the project, emphasizing its funding from the surge in oil prices in the early 21st century.

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