The Massive Master Plan

The kingdom's scheme to build five new cities gives ambitious a new meaning

FRANCO PAGETTI / VII FOR TIME

The first office and residential towers rise in King Abdullah Economic City

Amr al-Dabbagh has no doubt that if he builds it, they will come. The governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is one of the forces behind King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), a $27 billion development rising out of the desert 62 miles (100 km) north of Jeddah, and he can already envision the arrival of its first residents. "It won't be long before it starts taking shape," he says.

There's a palpable sense of urgency at the construction site, where a line of high-rises--the first batch of offices and residences--is taking form along the aquamarine waters of the...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!