Saudi Arabia Re-imagines Urban Life with Cognitive, Carbon-Free Cities

Green Hydrogen, Wind, Sunlight Set to Replace Oil as Source of Energy in NEOM, The Line
A blueprint of NEOM city in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the abundance of oil in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the new leadership in Riyadh is totally convinced that selling oil and using the revenues to run the country will not continue forever.

Increasing non-oil revenues, replacing fuel cars with electric ones and generating electricity from nuclear reactors or wind turbines are good tools for transformation. However, the Kingdom needs to create something futuristic and sustainable for generations to come, i.e., a new model for urban life that does not exist anywhere else. What is the secret word that would challenge the status quo?

It is “imagination”, the unbeatable power that is taking the Kingdom to the next level of development and evolution. NEOM & its first outpost, The Line, are the brainchildren of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince.


Can you imagine a city without streets, cars, or trains and in direct connection with nature?

This seems to be impossible. However, imagination goes beyond limits. NEOM and The Line are being created to challenge the impossible and pave the way for building the world’s most innovative cities in the middle of the deserts and mountains.

The Line is a 170-km-long mega-city in the form of a narrow stripe, stretching from the coast of the Red Sea to the mountains and the upper valleys of the north-west of Saudi Arabia. The mega city will consist of connected communities, called city modules.  It will a part of NEOM, the Kingdom’s most ambitious USD 500 billion mega project.

“We are talking about unconventional cities. They will be different from anything we know. Cognitive cities will be powered with renewable energy. All services, workplaces, shopping & entertainment facilities will be accessible within just 5 minutes on foot. We are building a dream... something unprecedented in the whole world.”, said Abdulla Ayman, a Saudi young communication specialist, who is very enthusiastic about the project, when speaking to Majalla.

He added:” I will be the first to relocate to NEOM. I’d love to experience a futuristic lifestyle. NEOM and The Line are a different ball game, where high-tech & constant innovation have the upper hand”.

A blueprint of The Line which is part of the NEOM project.


Let us imagine a fully automated city that supports the support the daily urban processes without human interference. This is called a “cognitive city”. What is it?

Cognitive cities represent the evolution of smart cities with a more advanced use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Smart cities are programmed to carry out specific missions and generate reports for human users to take the right decision. Cognitive cities give a bigger role to machine learning in the sense that those machines can learn from their past experiences, build on older data collected with the passage of time & eventually take decisions on behalf of humans, i.e., complete automation of life.

Both NEOM and its outpost The Line will be a complex of cognitive cities that are connected with each other and human beings digitally.

“Cognitive cities are designed to make people’s lives much easier than ever. They sense the exact needs of people & provide personalized solutions & options. For example, you have a meeting somewhere, your clock will wake you up based on the amount of traffic, a driverless, electric car will come to pick you up, and you get to your destination or multiple destinations based on your previous experiences”, said Mustafa Mohammed, a computer engineer, who has interests in state-of-the-art- technologies.


Can water be a source of energy?

Yes, in NEOM & The Line, water will be an extremely important source. Hydrogen will be extracted from water using electrolysis, which is the process of using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, the outcome of the splitting process, can be used separately. Hydrogen cell combines oxygen & hydrogen to generate electricity and water.

Last year, NEOM launched a USD 5 bn joint venture with an American company, Air Products, & a Saudi company, ACFWA Power, to produce green hydrogen in a bid to develop carbon-positive society that will be a beacon for sustainable living. The plant will be powered by wind & sunlight.

Water will be desalinated using a solar dome. This will ensure sustainable supplies of pure water without burning a single barrel of oil. Construction works are underway & the solar dome will be operative in a few years from now.

We have to admit that the power of imagination is behind the innovative megaprojects in the Kingdom. The good thing is that we do not have to wait long until the whole Kingdom reaps the fruits of its futuristic investments”, Concluded Mustafa Mohammed.