FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a summit between Arab league and European Union member states, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 24, 2019. REUTERS
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it would spend 86 billion riyals ($23 billion) to boost the quality of life in the capital Riyadh, increasing green space and recreational areas and installing 1,000 works of art across the city.
The four projects unveiled are part of efforts to open up Saudis' cloistered lifestyles, encourage physical activity and make life more fun in the kingdom, alongside reforms to diversify the economy away from oil.
State media showed King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman touring a diorama of the plans, which include a park four times the size of Central Park and 135 kilometres (84 miles) of cycling track.
The king also ordered that one of the capital’s main roads be renamed after his son.
Work on the four new projects will start in the second half of the year and come on line gradually between 2023 and 2030.
They will create 70,000 jobs and offer investment opportunities worth 50 billion riyals to local and foreign investors, state news agency SPA said.
One initiative aims to increase six-fold the percentage of green areas in Riyadh, notorious for its multi-lane highways and concrete block buildings, by planting 7.5 million trees.
Seven museums, an open art fair, pedestrian bridges and community gardens are also called for.
Such features were unimaginable in Riyadh just a few years ago when religious police patrolled the streets enforcing strict social codes like gender segregation and bans on public music.
But life in the capital has become more relaxed in recent years after the crown prince clipped the wings of the religious police, ended a ban on cinemas and began organising public concerts.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online