Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build an immersive 400 cubic metre shopping centre at the upcoming Mukaab development in Riyadh.
Part of the wider New Murabba project, the development will house 980,000 square metres of retail space.
Non-resident fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Yasser Elsheshtawy, told Arab News: “There is a tendency among Western and Arab observers to dismiss such projects out of hand, describing them as acts of folly, and the outcome of people with too much money.
“But if we look at it objectively, it is much more than that. Having been involved with one of the teams that were invited to compete for the project, I can attest that there is serious thinking involved in such schemes.”
Its designers claim the world’s largest downtown area will ‘offer a unique living, working [and] entertainment experience within a 15-minute walking radius and will have its own internal transport system’.
This move aligns with the Saudi government’s efforts to diversify its economy and lessen its dependency on oil. It is estimated that the project would contribute SAR 180 billion to non-oil GDP.
The landmark shopping centre of the project will be focused on ‘promoting healthy, active lifestyles and community activities’.
The project is expected to showcase holographic imagery and sci-fi decoration to reflect the Saudi Vision 2030.
The New Murabba project is expected to be completed by 2030.
“For one, it will provide a unique and unprecedented experience utilising the latest technological advances in virtual reality,” added Mr Elsheshtawy.
“Visitors entering the Mukaab will encounter projections of varying landscapes, which will also be seen from the apartments comprising a spiral tower in the middle of the cube. Furthermore, it will provide Riyadh with a unique icon that will make the city instantly recognisable among other world cities.”