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Work underway on cube at centre of New Murabba giga-project

Adult, Female, Person Saudi Press Agency
New Murabba Development Company's display at the Mipim real estate fair in Cannes
  • $50bn plan to build city district
  • Crown prince announced project
  • Site is 19 sq km in northwest Riyadh

The company building New Murabba, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest giga-projects, said this week that construction was underway on the development’s centrepiece: a cubic structure being marketed as “large enough to hold 20 Empire State Buildings”. 

The New Murabba Development Company, which is owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, is charged with creating a new district in the capital Riyadh.

The project was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in February 2023 as the latest of the huge developments in Saudi Arabia’s transformation strategy. 

New Murabba is thought to be one of the most expensive giga-projects and has been valued by real estate consultancy Knight Frank at $50 billion. Only the Diriyah redevelopment ($63 billion) and the futuristic city Neom ($500 billion) have higher valuations.

The Saudi government said last December that some of the giga-projects could be delayed past the 2030 deadline, as flagging oil prices leave the country facing three years of budget deficits.

This has led to speculation about which projects could be affected. At the Mipim real estate conference in Cannes last week, New Murabba officials sought to allay concerns and issued a call to investors. 

“New Murabba offers numerous investment opportunities for global investors looking to engage with emerging markets,” CEO Michael Dyke said in a statement released on March 18, after the Cannes conference. 

Cranes can now be seen at the site for the new district, which covers 19 sq km in northwest Riyadh.

Last October the developer awarded the first contract for excavation work to prepare the ground for the giant cube, which is called the Mukaab.

The 400m x 400m x 400m structure will be a retail and cultural destination that uses holographic technology to create visitor attractions. 

“New Murabba has already made significant progress in laying the groundwork for Mukaab,” the March 18 statement said. 

“Almost 4 million sq m of material” has been excavated, it added.

The developer states on its website that the Mukaab is inspired by traditional architecture from the Najd region in central Saudi Arabia. However, it has drawn some criticism on social media for its perceived resemblance to the cube-shaped Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, to which Muslims around the world turn in prayer. 

New Murabba describes the Mukaab as “a marvel of imagination, technology, and design”.

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