The King Abdullah Economic City, (KAEC, pronounced 'cake') is one of four new cities slated for Saudi Arabia, upon which the late monarch pinned his hopes for the future of the Kingdom, beyond the oil reserves. Situated 1.5 hours north of the west coast hub, Jeddah, KAEC is positioned to benefit from its port potential, tourism from Mecca and Medina and as a new enterprising hub for the new generation of Saudis. 

Set upon 70 square miles, the new city will eventually be a metropolis that is larger than Washington DC and at a cost of £67 billion, most of which comes from private funding, the King Abdullah Economic City has grand plans. 

With 65% of the Kingdom's population under 30, many of whom have studied overseas in the US or UK, it is inevitable the when this young, skilled workforce return to Saudi, they will want a modern city to match the environments they became used to whilst studying overseas. And with more women than men graduating with degrees, this modern city has a lot to deliver in terms of accommodating the future of the country, and encouraging practical enterprise. These, after all, are the new social demands that are likely to revolutionise the country and help to nurture a sustainable economy that is not so reliant of natural oil reserves. 

Revealed: Saudi Arabia's new mega city in the desert

Part of this plan is to build a new leading port for the area: "We aim to create one of the world's largest ports," says Rayan Bukhari, a young manager at the King Abdullah port. "We're not competing with Jeddah's Islamic port – but we are going to take business away from Jebel Ali in Dubai. That's because of our quicker, more automated offloading and customs procedure." 

The city also hopes to entice many religious tourists who flock to the area, to enjoy the appeal of the city, with new rail links cutting journey time from Jeddah to a speedy 30 minutes and new rail station designed by the mighty Norman Foster.

The mega city plan has not been without its set backs. The privately funded forward thinking city with grand enterprising plans, has sometimes been at odds with the planning and permissions procedures of the country, and some government loans have been paid out to aid the development. After four big plan adjustments head of strategic planning, Tareq Salaita, admits that at this stage "We may well need to have another rethink."

Stay tuned to Buro 24/7 Middle East for ore news on KAEC as it happens...