From the streets of Wazeeriyah, Jeddah
Saudi Arabia has always been the black sheep of the Middle East in the eyes of the West. From the times of the Oil embargo, the western powers allied with the country mostly to secure their energy supply and profiteer from conflicts in the Middle East. But the conservative country is now going through a modernisation drive spearheaded by the nation’s beloved crown prince MBS in order to secure the future of the youth and hence, the country.
In this blog post, I shall explain the country’s modus operandi, the problems I’ve faced and the potential I see around here. Let’s start with the facts- the country is big! It is the 12th largest country in the world. But around 90% of the country is covered in deserts and plateaus. The geography may not be green but it is gorgeous. Imagine the Grand Canyons but a country filled with them. Most of these areas are left untouched- from the majestic dunes of Rub-al-Khali desert to the snow-capped mountains of the North.
The country’s massive modernisation programme is centered around its Vision 2030 which features ultra-modern sustainable cities such as Neom and tourism programs showcasing historic gems from Abrahamic times and beyond. I truly am intrigued and even excited to see eco-cities such as the new Indonesian capital in Kalimantan, UAE’s Masdar and Saudi’s Neom reach new heights but that’s a topic for another day!
Saudi Arabia really is a country of refuge for many ethnicities and minorities, from Yemenis to Rohingyan Muslims. Although inequality shows the moment one sets foot in the country, the government is doing all it can to provide its citizens a basic income closer to the Western standard. I believe that the youth-focused economic strategy will be key in molding a population that works its way through the post-oil economy. A wise stranger once told me that the year 2030 in its vision 2030 is apt as it requires a decade of reforms to make the Saudi youth’s productivity wheels turning. In many ways, the youth here are appreciative of the crown prince’s efforts and hence, he is their beloved leader.
The city of Jeddah reminds me of my days in Cairo with the old boxed air conditioners and spacious urban living spaces. The vast empty spaces show the potential of this country with the right investment platforms and peaceful diplomatic missions. The country’s youth is eagerly awaiting its jump to the 21st century, so am I.