Saudi Arabia Plans To Build A Futuristic Downtown In Riyadh — Complete With A Cube-Shaped Skyscraper

Published February 28, 2023
Updated March 2, 2023

The Saudi Arabian government hopes the innovative downtown area will attract tourists and diversify the country's oil-based economy.

The Mukaab

YouTubeThe cube-shaped Mukaab will reportedly be large enough to fit 20 Empire State Buildings inside.

The future is here, and the latest megaproject out of Saudi Arabia makes that clear. The country’s capital, Riyadh, will soon hold the “world’s largest modern downtown” — complete with a giant, cube-shaped skyscraper.

The upcoming downtown area, called New Murabba, will include several futuristic features, including a 1,312-foot-high skyscraper filled with holographic projections. Architects and planners estimate that construction will be completed by 2030.

Seeking to diversify the country’s heavily oil-reliant economy, wealth funds and investors hope to attract tourists through modernization efforts. The New Murabba project is one of several “megaprojects” currently underway in Saudi Arabia, aiming to do just that.

According to VICE, the Saudi government is also looking to build this new area in order to bolster its chances of hosting the World Expo in 2030. Other futuristic projects are currently in the works in Saudi Arabia as well.

In 2021, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans for a $500-billion futuristic city called NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. According to CNN, plans for the city included robot maids, flying taxis, and artificial moons.

And just last year, he announced yet another project: a 105-mile-long “linear city” called The Line.

Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s announcement of the futuristic New Murabba comes as no surprise from a country determined to become the next tourist hotspot.

Spiral Tower

YouTubeA spiral-shaped tower will be located inside the skyscraper with residential units, hotel rooms, and retail and commercial spaces.

According to Arabian Business, New Murabba will cover a 12-square-mile area, about half the size of Manhattan.

The shining jewel of the entire project is the Mukaab, a cube-shaped skyscraper measuring 1,312 feet (400 meters) high, 1,312 feet long, and 1,312 feet wide — reportedly big enough to fit 20 Empire State Buildings inside.

The Mukaab alone will hold retail, commercial, and cultural spaces in addition to 104,000 residential units and 9,000 hotel rooms.

Inside the Mukaab, architects seek to create an “immersive destination” full of holograms and other technologies that transport viewers to digital worlds, including Mars, the deep ocean, and mythical rainforests. On its exterior, the massive cube will display geometric motifs to pay homage to Islamic artistic tradition and the ruling family.

Despite an emphasis on entertainment, the project has other important purposes. The area will be able to accommodate hundreds of thousands of residents and bring an estimated 300,000 jobs to the capital.

According to statements from the New Murabba Development Company, the town will include “green areas and walking and cycling paths that will enhance the quality of life by promoting healthy, active lifestyles and community activities.”

While this statement sounds appealing, many have expressed concern over the project. According to The Byte, the sheer size of the Mukaab and New Murabba sows doubt that it will be fully sustainable. Additionally, critics argue that the short timeline for the construction likely means that unethical hiring practices and human rights violations are bound to occur.

There has also been a lack of transparency about how the Saudi government and investors plan to fund the project. According to CNN, the Public Investment Fund refused to state where the money was coming from — only that “it will announce further information in due course.”

“The finances of all of this are not entirely secured. They have tried to get a lot of foreign direct investments to realize this project,” said Andreas Krieg, a research fellow at the King’s College London Institute of Middle Eastern Studies.

For now, the world can entertain itself with mockups of sustainable cities of the future in the hopes that one day they might become a reality.

After reading about New Murabba and the Mukaab, look at pictures of what people of the past thought the future would look like. Then, learn about the camels that were kicked out of a Saudi Arabian beauty contest because of Botox injections.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Morgan, Amber. "Saudi Arabia Plans To Build A Futuristic Downtown In Riyadh — Complete With A Cube-Shaped Skyscraper.", February 28, 2023, Accessed May 21, 2024.