Field report: Riyadh

5 May 2023


Register for the guest programme 

Contracts worth over $2.7bn have been awarded in Riyadh Province so far this year. 

MEED field researchers visited Riyadh in mid-April to monitor the progress on construction projects including Diriyah Gate, King Salman International Park and Riyadh Sports Boulevard.

The team also called in on two of Saudi Entertainment Ventures' (Seven's) entertainment complexes and several National Housing Company housing schemes, among other projects.


At the Diriyah Gate project, construction works are progressing on the digital arts centre Diriyah Art Futures and Heritage Five Star hotel in Samhan district.

MEED researchers were able to get visuals of Diriyah Gate's now-completed restaurant complex, Bujairi Terrace.

Opened in December 2022, Bujairi Terrace comprises 21 restaurants over a 15,000 square-metre area

Elsewhere, construction works have started on the Ministry of Culture's headquarters building at Diriyah, while the site preparatory works are under way at the Northern Cultural District P3 car park, where the ground-breaking ceremony took place recently.

Local/Chinese team begins underground main spine tunnel roundabout base slab works

Structural works are under way at Saudi Electricity Company's Diriyah 380/132/13.8kV substation and the super basement project, which WeBuild is delivering.

Diriyah Development Company's three-floor super basement car park will serve the mixed-use Diriyah Square district, which will include leisure and entertainment, hotels, retail, grade A offices, the King Salman Grand mosque and residential units designed in the traditional Najdi architectural style


Structural works are progressing well at the Royal Art Complex, the single biggest project in execution by value at King Salman International Park so far. Modern Building Leaders won the contract, worth $1.3bn, to build the project in 2022.

In addition to the Royal Art Complex, the 1,300-hectare masterplanned King Salman Park project includes a national theatre, museums, galleries, a golf course, and spaces for commercial, hospitality and residential components

Construction on the main tunnels and bridges project continues, with the bridge structure now in place. A joint venture (JV) of Consolidated Contractors Company and El-Seif Engineering Contracting Company is executing the project, which is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2024.

King Salman Park was launched by King Salman in March 2019, alongside the Green Riyadh, Riyadh Art and Riyadh Sports Boulevard projects


The construction works are ongoing at almost all of the packages for Riyadh Sports Boulevard.

The projects currently in execution at the Riyadh Sports Boulevard include King Abdul-Aziz underpass package 8 and Abu Bakr underpass package 9Zone 1AZone 1BZone 2AZone 5AZone 6: Package A, B, C, D, E and Cycling Bridge.

Riyadh Sports Boulevard – Package 5 Arts District. There are eight districts in total, with districts for entertainment, athletics and sports also planned


The structural works are under way at Seven's Al-Hamra entertainment complex (Exit 10), for which Al-Futtaim Engineering has been appointed as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) contractor.

Exit 10 is at the most advanced stage of construction out of the 21 planned entertainment complexes in 14 cities across the kingdom.

Meanwhile, early works proceed apace at Seven's Al-Nahdah entertainment complex (Exit 15) project. Consolidated Contractors Company is delivering the project.

Seven is owned by the Public Investment Fund and was formed in December 2017 as part of Riyadh’s push to localise Saudi spending on entertainment under the mandate of Vision 2030

Elsewhere in Riyadh, the client is delivering the housing units for Roshn's Sedra District community homes phase 1A, package 1. Indian contractor Shapoorji Pallonji is carrying out the construction works, which are in the finishing stages.

Located northeast of the Saudi capital, Sedra will consist of over 2,100 residential units, along with public parks, entertainment areas, retail, coffee shops and restaurants, community centres, schools, sports facilities and health care facilities

National Housing Company (NHC) is well on track with building its housing schemes in Riyadh. The infrastructure works are currently under way at the Dahiyat al-Fursan phase 1 project in the north of Riyadh. The work is being carried out by Al-Omaier Trading & Contracting.

Likewise, construction works are at advanced stages at NHC’s Al-Mashraqiya housing complex as well as for several of the packages at the Murcia complex, most notably Narges View, Rabieh Housing, Saraya al-Gwan, Asalah al-Gwan, Rawa Housing and the Al-Muhannadiya complex.

National Housing Company's Al-Mashraqiya housing complex, where construction is at an advanced stage

The foundation works are in progress at Shomoul Holdings’ The Avenues Riyadh project. 

The project is one of the largest commercial malls in the Middle East and includes multiple districts such as Prestige, Grand Avenue, The Souk, The Mall, Electra, Oasis, Grand Plaza, The Forum and The Walk. Nesma & Partners won the project's main construction contract, worth $1.76bn, in 2021.

There is no construction activity at the Mall of Saudi project site. MEED exclusively reported this week that the Dubai-based developer Majid al-Futtaim (MAF) had put the plans for its estimated SR6bn ($1.6bn) project in Riyadh on hold.

By Yasir Iqbal, research manager | MEED Projects | MEED Insight
MEED Editorial
Related Articles
  • Airbus, Sumitomo and partners plan Oman saf plant

    24 June 2024

    Several companies, led by Netherlands-headquartered aircraft manufacturer Airbus, have signed a joint service agreement towards developing a project that integrates sustainable aviation fuel (saf) and e-gasoline production in Oman.

    Airbus' partners include state-backed OQ Alternative Energy, Italy's Automobili Lamborghini, UAE-based Dutco Group Cleantech and the Middle East subsidiary of Japan's Sumitomo Corporation.

    The planned greenfield plant is classified as an integrated Power-to-X project, which commonly refers to converting renewable energy into various derivative products.

    The saf greenfield project adds "a new layer to Airbus' strategy in new energies, besides being already a pre-financial investment decision (FID) project equity investor in Australia and the US", according to Julien Lehalle, Airbus director for Investments, Project Origination & Strategic Partnerships. 

    In addition to an excellent potential for hybrid wind and solar power generation, green hydrogen and e-fuels production, Oman has two airlines Oman Air and SalamAir, cited Lahalle.

    The sultanate also has several airports managed by Oman Airports Management Company, energy infrastructure and industrial ports to reach export markets in Europe and Asia Pacific, the executive added.

    Saf pursuit

    MEED reported in March that a consortium, comprising Oman's Civil Aviation Authority, OQ Group and Netherlands-based saf specialist SkyNRG, is undertaking a preliminary study that looks at the potential of developing a sustainable aviation fuel (saf) production facility and an overall saf roadmap in Oman.

    The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

    The consortium aims to identify the opportunities for saf production within Oman, including the expected demand and its commercial applications.

    According to an industry source, the feasibility study includes a feedback assessment and supply chain optimisation, and seeks to identify key regulatory and commercial measures to facilitate saf production in Oman.

    The three partners signed the memorandum of cooperation for the project in Muscat in October 2023.

    Alternative fuels like saf are among the top four energy transition technologies that offer varying potential in decarbonising maritime and aviation, two of the world's hard-to-abate sectors, according to a new GlobalData report.

    The other three technologies include electrification, carbon capture and storage(CCS) or carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen.

    Aviation and maritime represents two of the most difficult to abate sectors due to their demand for cost-competitive and energy-dense fuels. 

    Related readAwards buoy Oman's green hydrogen strategy
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Riyadh to appoint water PPP advisers

    24 June 2024

    State-backed offtaker Saudi Water Partnership Company (SWPC) has received bids from consultancy companies for contracts to provide advisory services for its next batch of independent water projects (IWPs) and independent sewage treatment plant (ISTP) projects.

    SWPC has yet to announce the bid results although it is expected to appoint advisers shortly, according to an industry source.

    SWPC announced the start of the prequalification process for companies keen to participate in developing five desalination IWP and seven ISTP projects in the kingdom in May.

    SWPC invited developers and companies to express an interest in bidding for the projects by 4 July.

    The client said companies should submit separate expressions of interest for the IWP and ISTP projects. 

    The programme "will provide local and International developers the opportunity to obtain pre-qualification approval and receive the request for proposal documents for its future projects ... without the need to submit a separate qualification application for each project".

    The five IWP schemes have a total combined capacity of 1.7 million cubic metres a day (cmd). The seven ISTP projects have a total combined capacity of 700,000 cm/d.

    The tenders for these projects are expected to launch between 2024 and 2026.

    The kingdom's water sector has been undergoing a restructuring programme with the capacity procurement process linked to the National Water Strategy being undertaken by three other clients including the Saline Water Conversion Company, which has been renamed Saudi Water Authority; Water Transmission & Technologies Company (WTTCO) and National Water Company.

    Related readSaudi water projects boom amid uncertainty
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Data centres meet upbeat growth

    21 June 2024

    This package also includes: Region plays high-stakes AI game

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is turbo-charging data centre demand in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.

    This is in addition to the demand for accelerating digital capacity to accommodate Mena states’ energy and economic diversification agendas, not to mention data sovereignty regulations and widespread electronic commerce and social media use among the population.

    Khazna Data Centres foresaw this trend. The UAE-headquartered company set in motion an expansion strategy four years ago when it and another data centre provider, Injazat, became part of AI firm G42 after its original owner, Mubadala Investment Company, acquired a minority stake in the AI firm.

    In 2021, G42 and UAE telecom group Etisalat agreed to merge their data centres, quadrupling Khazna’s portfolio. The same year, G42 announced a plan to build data centres in Indonesia with an IT load capacity of up to 1,000MW.

    In late November last year, Khazna signed a shareholders agreement for its first data centre in Egypt as part of its commitment to invest more than $250m in the North African state. 

    The two countries announced a plan to build data centres across Egypt with a potential combined operational capacity of 1,000MW shortly after.

    This May, Khazna and the Abu Dhabi Investment Office launched the procurement process for a data centre facility in Mafraq in Abu Dhabi, which will have an initial capacity of 15MW.

    Vibrant market

    Khazna is not the only company looking to expand its presence in this sector. US-headquartered Amazon Web Services (AWS) plans to invest $5bn in the UAE over 15 years and $3.5bn in Saudi Arabia. This follows its initial foray into the region through a data centre in Bahrain, which was completed in 2019.

    For its part, Google began operating its cloud region in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, in November 2023 and plans to build a new cloud infrastructure in Kuwait. Both Microsoft and Oracle have also pledged multibillion-dollar, multi-year investments in Saudi Arabia.

    For international players, the need to be physically present in jurisdictions such as Saudi Arabia, due to data sovereignty policies, and the generally low cost of electricity are driving decisions to set up in the region.

    According to US-headquartered consultancy Turner & Townsend, Saudi Arabia has 22 active colocation facilities and over 40 data centres under construction as of February 2024.

    This comes less than three years after the Saudi government announced a plan to build a network of large-scale data centres that will require investments of up to $18bn by 2030. 

    This figure excludes the 300MW capacity that a local firm, DataVolt, aims to develop using a public-private partnership (PPP) model. Announced only this year, DataVolt’s projects are expected to require $5bn of investments.

    Another Saudi company, Quantum Switch Tamasuk, plans to design and operate data centre projects with a cumulative total capacity of 300MW for the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology by 2026.

    Building momentum

    The focus on AI by the government sector, sovereign wealth funds and the largest state-backed companies, such as Saudi Aramco, in addition to the digital strategies launched by countries including Oman and Egypt, guarantees a growing pipeline of data centre projects.

    AI is providing the momentum that previous generations of technologies, such as blockchain, cloud services and the Internet of Things, failed to deliver individually.

    The growing number of subsea cable landing sites in the region also puts some GCC states in a strong position to host large-scale data centres. For example, in May last year, the world’s longest submarine communications cable system, 2 Africa, reached its first two landing sites in Jeddah and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia.

    US-headquartered Equinix, which has built several data centre facilities in the UAE and Oman, envisages its first facility in Oman as a key interconnectivity point offering “ultra-low latencies” for traffic flows between Asia, Europe and Africa.

    These developments present interesting and challenging opportunities for the specialised engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and mechanical, engineering and plumbing (MEP) contractors that build data centres on behalf of their clients.

    This is especially true given that the average cost per megawatt of data centre infrastructure, following a steady decline in the years leading to the Covid-19 pandemic, has taken the opposite course. 

    The cost is now rising within the $10m-$12m/MW band for data centres with a typical tier 3 configuration. 

    Saudi Arabia, for instance, has entered Turner & Townsend’s 2023 data centre cost index with an average cost of $10 a watt, “attracting investor interest as digital connectivity and investment continue to rise in support of the national building programme and gigaprojects”.

    Region plays high-stakes AI game
    Jennifer Aguinaldo
  • Syria’s reconstruction agenda stalls

    21 June 2024

    John Bambridge
    Analysis editor

    In the past year, the economic prognosis of Syria has deteriorated as the initial political step in the reacceptance of Damascus into the Arab League has failed to translate into substantial gains, with reconstruction efforts stalling and the economy floundering amid a lack of investor interest.

    The situation in Syria has been further complicated by the outbreak of the war in Gaza and the accompanying conflict in the Israel-Lebanon-Syria border region. Since the conflict began, Israel has intensified its bombing of targets in Syria in pursuit of the local branch of Hezbollah or other Iran-backed ‘axis of resistance’ groups in the country. This activity came to a head on 1 April, when Israel bombed the Iranian embassy in Damascus as it hosted a meeting of Iranian military personnel – a diplomatic violation that led to Tehran launching an unprecedented retaliatory strike on Israel.

    The upshot for Syria from this rising maelstrom of regional violence has been to downgrade it again from a high-risk but opportune investment landscape back to an unacceptably risky conflict zone. For the Gulf states that have re-embraced Syria, a further sticking point is Damascus’ reluctance to crack down on the shadow economy that has sprung up around the export of the amphetamine-like drug Captagon across the region. 

    This illicit trade is now a multibillion-dollar industry that by some accounts makes up much of Syria’s diminished GDP. It has also come at the cost of normal trade, which has been caught up in the customs crackdown on Syrian goods. 

    The trickle of aid coming from regional partners is meanwhile simply inadequate to do much to revive the country’s withered agricultural and industrial sectors, and is unlikely to entice Damascus to disassemble its lucrative narco-state.

    Western governments and institutions are loathe to get involved with the Assad government on any level, as this would involve facing up to the strategic failure of their support for regime change in the country. The US, which doggedly maintains a military presence on Syrian soil, is deepening its sanctions on Damascus.

    More generally, Syria’s territorial fragmentation and insecurity sit as barriers to the government’s resumption of a legitimate, tax-based revenue model. The end result is a lack of funds, support and stability for any reconstruction agenda.

    The situation leaves Syria needing a more dramatic reversal in its geopolitical fortunes than re-entry into the Arab League alone can provide.

    MEED's July 2024 special report on Syria includes:

    > GOVERNMENT: Gaza conflict reignites violence across Syria

    > ECONOMY: Regional diplomacy fails Syrian economy
    John Bambridge
  • ESG to become AI differentiator says GlobalData

    21 June 2024

    Developments linking semiconductors, artificial intelligence (AI) and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) principles can trigger significant shifts in the rapidly evolving market landscape, according to a new GlobalData report.   

    AI is evolving rapidly from software, hardware, and regulation perspectives, making both information technology (IT) and financial commitments highly risky, it warned.

    AI algorithms are still evolving rapidly, which limits options for hardware acceleration to either use case or workload-specific chips developed by the dominant big technology companies, or more generic solutions using off-the-shelf graphics processing units (GPUs).

    The report further predicts that the big technology firms' advantage "will eventually vanish" when commercial AI chips emerge, which may be less than five years away.

    The report notes: "Hardware processing improvements are not keeping up with the increase in AI model sizes. So, barring a semiconductor breakthrough, demand for raw compute capacity in data centres is bound to dramatically increase, increasing AI’s contribution to carbon emissions."

    As the carbon footprint impact of large language models (LLMs) becomes more transparent, the report urges organisations to consider this factor when selecting an AI delivery model and the real-time orchestration of AI-enabled services.

    "Scope 3 emissions guidance will be needed, and AI vendors must step up disclosures. An LLM’s carbon footprint and its transparency will become a competitive differentiator," the report added.

    The GlobalData report says the increasing environmental cost of AI can lead to a shift away from increasingly larger models and the optimisation of AI chips for raw processing performance.

    It adds: "Future developments will focus on smaller models, including small language models (SLM), somehow reducing the scale advantage of LLM vendors providing extremely large models, and focusing on performance to power.

    "As a result, open-source LLMs would become a more compelling option, as a model’s sheer size and training would not be a barrier to entry any longer, democratising access to competitive AI technology." 

    Chart is sourced from GlobalData

    Related reads:
    Jennifer Aguinaldo