Saudi Arabia’s Neom Reveals New Underground Metaverse Aquellum

Saudi Arabia's Neom Reveals New Underground Metaverse Aquellum

Neom, the $500 billion futuristic urban metropolis currently under construction in northwest Saudi Arabia, has revealed Aquellum, its latest luxury destination off the Gulf of Aqaba coast.

The project is embedded within a 450-meter-high mountain range, exposing an experiential and underground ‘digitalized community,’ absorbed in the metaverse, Neom announced recently.

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Aquellum: Upside-down skyscraper

To reach Aquellum, visitors board a specially designed floating marina—a type of dock for small boats or pleasure yachts—which takes them through a narrow underground canal before reaching an immersive community hidden within the mountains.

Once inside, people will be immersed in what the developers called a “100-meter-high vertical experience” with a courtyard space that “stretches from the water to the sky.”

Aquellum will include hotels, apartments, retail areas, museums, cinemas, entertainment spots, and innovative hubs, according to a statement announcing the new project.

Saudi Arabia's Neom Reveals New Underground Metaverse Aquellum
Aquellum will feature a 100-meter-high vertical experience. Image credits: Neom

Neom, which is pursuing a first-of-its-kind futuristic, advanced technology mega-city powered by renewable energy, claimed that its subterranean metaverse “offers an incredible sensory journey.”

The company said Aquellum represents a “futuristic ecosystem that is harmoniously integrated into the natural surroundings…a testament to the fusion of cutting-edge design and construction techniques.”

Tobias Wallisser, an architect for Aquellum, described the project as an “ultra-luxury upside-down skyscraper. The facade’s facing inward instead of outward. Things are inside out and upside down.”

Meanwhile, a dynamic boulevard winds through the courtyard, connecting diverse social spaces, hospitality, immersive arts, events, shopping, and dining.

A signature space, dubbed ‘The Generator’, houses research labs for so-called “disruptors, innovators, and creative thinkers,” Neom said. An omnidirectional internal transit system aims to facilitate easy access to upper floors, transporting residents and visitors to their homes and hotels and rising to rooftop gardens with coastal views.

An actual metaverse

While other metaverses exist mostly in a virtual world, Aquellum combines digital and real bricks and mortar. A Neom executive once said the firm is building “the first metaverse that actually is a metaverse,” Wired reported.

The comments came after Neom’s Tech & Digital arm announced XVRS, a “cognitive digital twin metaverse,” in February 2022. The platform enables users to be present at Neom both physically and virtually at once, either as an avatar or hologram, and incorporates a marketplace for crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Neom Tech & Digital Company CEO Joseph Bradley said XVRS could, for example, allow an artist to post an NFT in a virtual space, which would also appear on the wall of an apartment in real life.

“The whole purpose of Neom is to be this collaborative, inclusive, human-centric place for people to interact,” Bradley said then. “It’s not really [about] megacities anymore—it’s metacities.”

Saudi Arabia's Neom Reveals New Underground Metaverse Aquellum
Aquellum’s above water courtyard

Saudi Arabia has been developing the Neom metropolis since 2020, a project that, at completion, will be free of cars and running as a net-zero carbon entity. Robots are expected to help its planned nine million residents with everyday tasks.

The city, the brainchild of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is being constructed at a cost of $500 billion and will cover 263,000 hectares. Much of Neom has been reserved for nature and aims to achieve sustainable tourism that minimizes ecological damage.

Apart from Aquellum, Neom has also announced in recent years and months several projects that include the exclusive ‘tourism escape’ Siranna, ecotourism destination Leyja, art and entertainment destination Utamo, and Norlana, an ultra-modern active lifestyle community.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.