On receiving the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed ben Salmane, the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, announced that Egypt was joining the Saudi project Neom.

In October 2017, Saudi Arabia announced its wish to build a high-tech mega city, to be called Neom, targeting luxury tourism. The region in which the city would be built would be governed by a specific legal regime geared for a Western lifestyle. This legal regime would be completely insulated from Wahhabism specifically and Islam generally.

The name of the project, “Neom” is derived from two words: the Greek word “neo” which means new and the Arabic word “mostaqbal” which means future.

The zone chosen for this project lies on the coast of the Red Sea, in the Saudi region of Tabuk, on the Jordan border and opposite the Egyptian coast. It covers an area of 26,000 km2, which is almost the size of Belgium.

This project has a provisional budget of around 50 billion dollars. The Project Manager is the German, Klaus Kleinfeld, former boss of the transnational Alcoa-Arconic and administrator of the Bilderberg Group.

The Egyptian President al-Sissi has decided to incorporate into the project part of South Sinai, including the town of Sharm el-Sheikj and part of the continental territory, including the Egyptian city of Hurghada. This involves setting up a system of extra-territoriality in this entire area, in the Saudi region of Tabuk. A common investment fund of 10 billion dollars (funded entirely by Saudi Arabia) has been established.

In April 2016, President al-Sissi transferred to Riyadh the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which enclose the Gulf of Aqaba between the Egyptian Sinai and Saudi Arabia. While al-Sissi had presented this gesture as a territorial “restitution”, under the 1840 London Convention, which is the only valid document, these islands form part of Egypt’s territory. This transfer allows Saudi Arabia to include them in project Neom and to transform the entire region.

Furthermore, this transfer of sovereignty over the two islands involved a de facto recognition by the Saudis of the Camp David Egyptian-Israeli agreements. [1] These agreements granted freedom of movement to the Israeli navy in the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Therefore it is highly likely that Israel is a stakeholder in Plan Neom.

In any event, Neom will no longer be a Saudi mega city but an Egyptian-Saudi archipelago, from which Israel will still be able to control maritime communications.

Anoosha Boralessa

[1The Israëli-Saudi-Egyptian agreement on the islands of Tiran and Sanafir”, Translation Pete Kimberley, Voltaire Network, 3 May, 2018.