For a country that has always depended on oil production for revenue, Saudi Arabia sure is diversifying its portfolio.
The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund announced a new tourism project called “The Rig,” a resort with extreme sports and more, located on — you guessed it — an oil rig in the Arabian Gulf.
There is even have a flashy video displaying some of the amenities, which include hotels, water sports, a roller coaster, transportation to and from the park via boats, yachts, helicopter, and more.
“The Rig” website says:
Adrenaline has a new name: THE RIG. an epic offshore destination, in the heart of the Arabian Gulf, this is no theme park – its an extreme park, an entirely new playground of adventure.
Take every sport that ever caught air, rode a wave or defied gravity. Spread them across a massive, multi-story offshore platforms.
Test your limits at bungee, board and base jumping. Top your best on wing and water. Then catch your breath – you’ve barely begun. Explore our state-of-the-sport platform, enriched with our world-famous Saudi hospitality.
Saudi Arabia says it will convert an already existing oil rig into the theme park. According to a news release, the entire area of the park covers 150,000 square meters. Saudi Arabia did not disclose the cost of the project but we can imagine it will be very hefty. The sovereign wealth fund portfolio is estimated to be $400 billion.
Saudi Arabia's push to appear as a prime tourist destination is often at odds with its conservative mores and approach to human rights. The kingdom is still very slowly loosening restrictions on women’s movement and freedoms, for example. In July 2021 Saudi Arabia scrapped a law that prevented single women from living alone without the consent of their male guardian. And the country still continues to carry out arbitrary detentions of human rights activists. While it released women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul earlier this year — she was detained since 2018 — she has been banned from speaking to the media or traveling.
Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has made the diversification of the economy a priority, and this appears to be one of the country's next big ventures in boosting tourism in the oil-rich and conservative kingdom.