In October 2017, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced plans to build the ultimate branded city: NEOM, a non-existent desert city, which already has an eye-catching logo and a compelling promise.[i] But could such a barren land develop a soul? Or does NEOM already have a genius loci? If so, how can it be discovered and what would it say about the city’s future? This essay aims to answer those questions.
NEOM is a coined word, meaning new future. It derives from the Greek neo, meaning new, and the Arabic mostaqbal, meaning future.[ii] That’s an apt name, which captures the city’s promise: A new future on earth like nothing on earth.
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