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Saudi Arabia is building a $10 billion city on the sand -- here's what it will look like

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 5 days ago Leanna Garfield

The King Abdullah Financial District monorail © Provided by Business Insider Inc The King Abdullah Financial District monorail

For over 50 years, Saudi Arabia has depended on oil to power its economy. But in recent years, the kingdom has looked for new ways to diversify away from petroleum and create jobs.

The Saudi Arabian government has been working in recent years to transform hundreds of square miles of desert into new cities.

One of the developments under construction is the King Abdullah Financial District.

Below, take a look at the plans.

Saudi Arabia is building the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) north of Riyadh.

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Designed by architecture firm Henning Larsen, the 17.2 million-square-foot master plan calls for over 60 residential, office, and retail towers, several schools and parking garages, a medical clinic, civic buildings, and three hotels.

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It will be able to house 50,000 residents when complete.

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One of the plazas will include a mosque.

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To cope with the desert heat, the master plan calls for a network of elevated passenger bridges cooled by solar power. Dubbed skywalks, they will connect 30 buildings in the district.

Part of the KAFD will also include a monorail, according to the architects.

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Construction, which began in 2006, is over 70% complete. The government doesn't have a set timeline for its completion.

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The entire project is expected to cost over $10 billion. Around $8 billion has already been spent.

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The KAFD is envisioned as a business hub that will lure financial and law firms, banks, and the kingdom's stock exchange and capital-market authority (which is currently headquartered in Riyadh).

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The district's 'Crystal Towers,' which opened this summer, house offices and retail. A skywalk connects the two buildings.

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The Saudi government also said in 2016 that it will offer visa exemptions for foreigners working in the KAFD. Some of the kingdom's strict social codes, including one requiring women to wear dark robes, will be relaxed.

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But authorities have yet to confirm these regulations, making it harder to attract people. Some potential tenants and investors are less optimistic than the district's planners about its future success.

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'The potential is amazing. The inside is impressive,' one Dubai-based expat, who toured the site and preferred to remain anonymous, told Reuters. But he added, 'It will not be finished. Decision-making is very slow (on the project, and) people don't have cash.'

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