There was a time when I thought I lost hope in the Arab revival. Listening to Prince Mohammed Bin Salman recently made me change my mind totally.
I started my life as a marketing communication man and was dreaming most of the time. Thank God, I had the positive energy and the determination to see most of my dreams come true. Prince Mohammed is not only a thinker but a thinker who has big dreams and visions.
One of the exciting things about this new $500bn industrial zone is that it is not just a means for expanding the Saudi economy, but this massive hive of industry will also extend into Jordan and Egypt, making it a centre for regional revival and growth. By focusing on biotechnology, renewable energy, advanced manufacturing techniques, entertainment and innovation, this 26,500 square km zone promises to be like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Mohammed Bin Salman realises that to move forward we have to completely eradicate the phenomenon of extremism. When he stated that the promotion of young people and moderate Islam were his primary aims, this will be music to the ears of progressives across the region. We can see Saudi Arabia coming to be a force for tolerance, progressive ideals and countering violence and radicalism – promising a very different region from the depressing picture we see all around us today.
As he articulated very clearly, our young people can act as a motor for progress and development, but if we neglect them and fail to provide opportunities, then they can easily be seduced by narratives of hatred and senseless violence: If young Saudis “work and go the right way, with all their force they will create another country, something completely different ... and if they go in the wrong direction it will be the destruction of this country”.
He obviously understands that life is to be lived and God brought us to this world to build our community, society, family and children. He explained the new vision of NEOM so carefully and well and surrounded himself with great team of executives from all over the world telling us two things: Ability and knowledge doesn’t belong to one group but it’s international. Therefore, realistically, he knew that if we want any project to happen, first, we must surround ourselves with the right people.
Many of the people I’ve talked with are sceptical of NEOM. I’m a strong believer that it already started and that nothing can stop it. Let’s face it; Saudi Arabia is just about the only nation in the world with the immense financial muscle to dream impossible dreams and turn them into a reality.
He’s giving an example of how a modern human being should be thinking building, building and building. Now that I look at Saudi Arabia through his eyes, it is a country made for the future. Every picture that comes out of Saudi Arabia is a picture of construction, growth and growth. And every picture that comes out of the extremists and fundamentalists from the neighbourhood of Saudi Arabia comes with tanks, bullets and blood. What a difference!
The Arab world has never been more divided, yet Mohammed Bin Salman’s project promises to very literally act as a unifying force, through the proposed bridge linking Egypt and Saudi Arabia – for the first time allowing the Arab world – North Africa and the Middle East – to become a single unified body after decades of being split in two by the state of Israel! Likewise, Jordan, whose economy has suffered massively from the burden of a million Syrian refugees stands to greatly benefit from this vision.
Perhaps we have to think back to the Abbasid era to recall a time when such a mighty segment of the Arab world acted together towards a single project and a single vision. After decades of humiliations and division; perhaps it is time for the world to see what we are really capable of when we stop fighting each other; abandon backward and extremist ideologies and embrace the future.
Yes, we are lucky and by God, now I want to live and be part of this great vision NEOM.