Recently released drone footage suggests that Saudi Arabia has indeed begun construction in the desert of the long-promised metropolis The Line, despite the claims of skeptics about the utopian fantasies associated with this project.

The Line

Saudi drone photography company Ot Sky published these shots in architecture magazine Dezeen, who previously interviewed NEOM’s executive director of urban planning, Tarek Qaddumi.

“Irrespective of its physical stature, it will end up demonstrating that the world has the human capacity, the technology and the commitment to revolutionise our current way of life,” Qaddumi said at the time in an interview to Dezeen.

The video shows trucks and other heavy equipment working in the desert, while numerous excavators appear to be laying a large line across the ground.

Saudi Arabia does not have much experience in completing large transport projects on time. It is worth noting that it has only two: the first was built to serve Mecca in 2010, and the second is subway in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, home to 7.6 million people. Its construction began in 2014, but has faced significant delays (first in 2019, then in 2021, and now in 2023).

This massive public transport project may have cost $27 billion, but that’s not so much compared to the $500 billion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hopes to spend not only on The Line, but also on NEOM, a company that will build futuristic megacities.

At the same time, experts called the goals of the project unrealistic, and the proposed city of The Line – unlivable.

“Utopian thinking is important; it helps us challenge the preconceptions in the built environment that have generated conventional outcomes which we know contribute to environmental degradation,” head of the built environment school at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney, told Deezen in an interview. “But I think the sustainability and liveability arguments here are naive.”

However, such criticism is unlikely to stop Saudi officials, who have already sentenced to death three men who refused to move out after their houses were demolished for the NEOM project.