New Drone Footage Shows Saudi Arabia's Desert Megacity 'The Line' Under Construction

Saudi Arabia has started to break ground on one of the pipe dream projects within its $500 billion NEOM development.
New Drone Footage Shows Saudi Arabia's Desert Megacity 'The Line' Under Construction
Screengrab: YouTube/Dezeen

Newly-released drone footage suggests Saudi Arabia is building something in the desert that might be its long-promised "The Line" megacity, despite widespread assumptions that the entire project was a utopian fantasy at best.


Saudi Arabian drone photography company Ot Sky took the footage and it was published by Dezeen, an architecture magazine which previously interviewed NEOM's executive director for 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 revolutionize our current way of life," Qaddumi told Dezeen at the time.

The video shows trucks and other heavy machinery working in the desert, and numerous excavators seem to be clearing a big ass line through the earth. Motherboard reached out to Ot Sky on WhatsApp and the company confirmed they took the video.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t exactly have a great track record of building out large transit-centric projects on time.  It is worth noting that it only has two: the first built to service Mecca in 2010 and the second in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital and home to 7.6 million people, which construction started on in 2014 but has faced significant delays (first in 2019, then 2021, and now 2023). That massive public transit project may have cost $27 billion, but that’s pennies compared to the $500 billion that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hopes to spend not just on The Line but NEOM, an overarching umbrella of futuristic megacity projects. After all, it won’t be cheap building a city full of robot dinosaurs, an artificial moon, and genetic mutations to increase your strength and IQ—or paying consultants to spin these pipedreams as realistic.


If the project sounds silly, that’s because it is. Linear cities are a long-discredited idea, with most fading into obscurity or merely becoming suburbs in some sprawling metropolis. The Line may be different in how much more spectacularly bigger (and dumber) it promises it will be: 105 miles long, 100 percent run on renewable energy, with all sorts of goods and services amended by the terms "AI" and "AI-powered." There will be giant mirrored walls that run in parallel along the entire length, and it'll be 500 meters tall, 200 meters wide, and full of lush vegetation.

This all sounds nice, but even in the pages of Dezeen—one of the few places to get an exclusive interview with NEOM executives—experts have dismissed the project’s goals as unrealistic and the proposed city as 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,” Philip Oldfield, head of the built environment school at the University of New South Wales Sydney told Deezen. “But I think the sustainability and liveability arguments here are naive."

None of this has or will deter Saudi Arabian officials, who have already sentenced to death three Indigenous men who refused to leave their homes after their land was seized for the NEOM project. 

Whether people will stop pretending this project is anything more than a waste of resources or a dangerous gambit that might cost lives, however, is another question.