City of 2 million people to be built by 2020 in wave of major development projects to transform kingdom's economy

Saudi Arabia is planning to build an entire city the size of Washington DC in the Arabian desert.

King Abdullah Economic City, sited 100km north of Jeddah, aims to house 2 million people by 2020 and create over a million jobs. It will also include one of the world's largest ports.

Developer on the scheme is Emaar, The Economic City. Its chief executive, Fahd al-Rasheed, told the BBC: “This is on a scale unheard of before in the world.”

Economic City
Credit: Emaar The Economic City

The 388km2 new city is just one of six major construction schemes planned across the kingdom over the next 15 years, aiming to effect an economic and social transformation for when the oil runs out.

Saudi Arabia is still pumping out £510m of oil a day at present, but that cannot last forever. King Abdullah wants to diversify the economy into areas such as aluminium, steel, fertiliser and petrochemicals, countering the Gulf kingdom's growing unemployment.

Plans are also afoot to improve the education and skills levels of Saudi Arabians and reduce the kingdom's dependence on foreign workers.