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

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.

Henning Larsen

Source: Henning Larsen

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.

Henning Larsen

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

Henning Larsen

One of the plazas will include a mosque.

Henning Larsen

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.

Henning Larsen

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

Henning Larsen

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

Henning Larsen

Source: Bloomberg

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

Henning Larsen

Source: Reuters

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).

Henning Larsen

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

Henning Larsen

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.

Henning Larsen
A conference center in KABD is now complete.

Source: Reuters

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.

Getty Images

'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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