Building the future

From the UAE's ambitious plans that will see the nation become the best country in the world by 2071 to Saudi Arabia's mega projects that are shaping the kingdom's landscape, the region is progressing towards a brighter future


- Nasser Al Nowais, Chairman, Rotana

What will the world look like five, 10, 20 or even 50 years down the line? The future landscape is no more a concept that exists only in our individual imaginations. Urban planners and developers around the world are hard at work designing cities of the future to accommodate the changing needs of humanity and balance these needs with present-day environmental challenges.


In the Middle East alone, cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are continuing to modernise their offering to set new standards in sustainable living, while Saudi Arabia is building completely new cities that are rising from the desert. And everywhere you look, there are inspiring messages about building a brighter and better future, with several new developments taking shape, encouraging the world to follow suit.


A roadmap to the future

Paving the path forward, the United Arab Emirates is at the forefront of this revolution, with a bold vision that firmly places its focus on the future. And the newly-opened Museum of the Future is just one brilliant example. Going above and beyond its role as a museum – with exhibits that encourage visitors to do their part for the planet and humanity – the landmark serves as the ideal base to study the future. To this end, it hosts global visionaries to showcase their scientific advancements in everything from future technologies to smart cities. As such, the museum aims to become a platform to study the future and a living research centre, from which we can build a better tomorrow.


The museum's vision perfectly aligns with the UAE Centennial 2071 strategy, which maps out a plan for the next five decades to make the UAE the best country in the world. And the work to shape the nation's future has already begun, with a perfectly mapped out plan that outlines the UAE's growth until 2071 and beyond.


Beginning with Expo City Dubai – the smart city that has seen the Expo 2020 Dubai site transform into a green, tech-enabled city of the future – the intricate road map aims for sustainability and progress in various fields. This covers public health, education, infrastructure, tourism, science, environment and achievement in line with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.


To name a few, the Emirates Lunar Mission is aiming to develop and send a completely Emirati-made lunar rover to the moon by 2024, while 2028 will see the UAE launch its interplanetary mission, with the primary goal of exploring the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Space exploration remains a primary focus that will also see the country through to 2117 as the UAE aims to establish the first human settlement on Mars in the first decade of the 22nd century.

Back to home base, the country has invested its resources in developing a sustainable industrialisation strategy, transforming transportation to autonomous modes, combating water scarcity, implementing new AI integrations in society, driving innovation in managing waste, switching to clean energy sources and more. It all comes together to preserve and enhance our natural heritage and contribute to a better quality of life for all the creatures that inhabit this planet.


Ambitious plans

Only a handful of countries can claim to have as ambitious plans for the future as Saudi Arabia. With the number of giga projects that are set to come to fruition within the next decade, the kingdom's future landscape is rapidly changing.


On the northwest coast of the country, the world's most ambitious regenerative tourism project is taking shape. The Red Sea project encompasses an archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands and will offer visitors luxury experiences in the heart of an untouched natural landscape.


Further north, the kingdom is developing its Tabuk province to launch AMAALA – a new destination that will transform the nation's hospitality scene. But this is just the beginning, with a number of giga projects currently being developed across the country, including Aseer in Saudi Arabia’s southern mountainous region of Al Abha as well as Qiddiya, which will comprise theme parks and modern entertainment venues.


But perhaps the most ambitions of them all is NEOM – the US$500 billion smart city that is championing a unique vision for the future of humanity. What sets this development apart from other smart cities taking shape is its special focus on future technologies. As such, NEOM has dedicated several areas within the development as special zones that will highlight future-focussed sectors, including food, manufacturing, technology and sustainable living.

While the plans are gradually being unveiled, one key development that was recently announced was The Line. It is being designed as an urban city of the future that offers a unique experience in sustainable living in sync with nature. Indeed, cities such as these are the need of the hour as we can only build and shape our future if we preserve and conserve our natural environment today.

With the kingdom seeking to diversify its economy to embrace the post-oil horizon, the development of tourism infrastructure across the nation is one of the primary pillars of this strategy. To this end, equal attention is being paid to the region's rich past – and major plans are underway to further develop significant historic sights to contribute to the tourism landscape of the future.


The birthplace of the Saudi state, Diriyah Gate in the northwest of Riyadh will soon unveil its UNESCO World Heritage site; while Al Ahsa Oasis, the 6,000-year-old oasis and one of the kingdom's recent inductees to UNESCO's list is already welcoming visitors. Another significant site is the Rock Art in the Hail Region of Saudi Arabia, where the region's ancestors left traces of their civilisations through numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face.