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Hope Turns to Doubt, Then Gunfire, as Saudi Megacity Emerges

  • Pushback to MBS’s signature project shows domestic challenges
  • Crown prince is rapidly transforming the conservative kingdom
Abandoned buildings in Khurayba. The area didn’t get electricity until the 1980s.
Abandoned buildings in Khurayba. The area didn’t get electricity until the 1980s.Photographer: Vivian Nereim/Bloomberg
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When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled plans for Neom, a futuristic megacity on the Red Sea coast, residents rejoiced. Jobs and investment would surely accompany the $500 billion development at the center of the young leader’s plan to transform his conservative kingdom.

But as Neom pushed forward with plans to resettle thousands of people to make way for the project, optimism gave way to uncertainty, then resistance. Some members of the Huwaitat tribe that lives in the area refused to leave. Months of tensions culminated in a deadly shootout last week with security forces, sparking worries over the potential for unrest in a remote region where gun ownership is common.