The Next Arabian Renaissance is Here

Riyadh Expo 2030 Announced

I’m a westerner and I spent seven years of the previous decade in the United Arab Emirates. The news of Riyadh winning the bid to host World Expo 2030 came as no surprise at all. The volume and speed of societal progress recently has been barely comprehensible in the Kingdom and its neighbouring Arabian states. I’ve been privileged enough to see it firsthand.

When I arrived in Dubai in 2011, it was the time of the Arab Spring. The world was treated to visuals of the unthinkable; Arab youth saying no to legacy governance. But of all the pictures I saw, one stood out. It was a ring of young Muslim men in Cairo protecting a group of praying Christians. It was a profound epiphany because I stopped thinking of Muslims with the common suspicion indoctrinated into, well, just about everyone who is non-Muslim. All I saw was humanity, respecting the concept of humanity. And from then on, I stopped doing things like judging Dubai only by its skyline. I even allowed the deep, soul peace of a walk through Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque to wash through me. I started to pay attention, and rid myself of the infestation of ignorance which is the active poison of the rest of the world’s judgement.

Connecting with Tomorrow

Sitting with friends in a restaurant on the roof of a hotel in Dubai’s Media City in 2012, I witnessed a breathtaking fireworks display at the exact moment they announced the city had won the Expo 2020 hosting rights. The ensuing show Dubai put on nine years later, at the worst time for human congregation in a century, was spectacular. The future of sustainability, education and community upliftment through the lenses of technology, connectivity and humanity were presented on an inspiring and optimistic thematic platform.

Riyadh 2030 is a natural successor to promote the themes unveiled in Dubai, plus new themes which need urgent addressing, for some compelling reasons. The Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund will have started yielding returns on their much-heralded giga-projects. NEOM, for example, will be five years into its functioning operation. It will be exporting sustainable models in construction, urban planning, transportation, water management, flora and fauna regeneration, waste management, manufacturing and logistics. What you see below is the incredible Oxagon, a floating city under construction in NEOM.

The blossoming statecraft of diplomacy we’re witnessing now in Saudi Arabia will probably result in a measure of stability in the Levant region, with Palestine given its sovereignty back.

And then there is Saudi’s Vision 2030. There are nearly 150 different iterations of Vision 2030. All of which are guiding communities to a realizable and accountable future. But the Kingdom’s version is by far the most comprehensive regarding the economic rise of its own people. Education, healthcare and opportunity are on the frontline in this declaration.

The Past, Present and Future

Around 1200 years ago, the Muslim-ruled, Arab populated Al-Andalus (that’s Andalusia to you, Bob), on the Iberian Peninsula, provided history with a golden age of education, innovation and tolerance. It was a beacon that coruscated through a terrible period in European history after the last Roman Empire collapsed.

Around 150 years ago, Arabic literature and artistic expression exploded into world consciousness in a movement known as the Nahda. This was perhaps their first renaissance, after Al-Andalus.

Right now a significant new era is coming for the region in technology, sustainability and, inshallah, geopolitical stability and tolerance.  And the whole world will be promoting a better future at Riyadh 2030.

I think those are enough ingredients to call it the next renaissance, don’t you?