In November 2019, I went for a quick family visit to my native eastern Saudi city of Qatif.
The original two-week visit was extended to three months, perhaps the longest period I have stayed home in more than 13 years.
During the visit, I had the opportunity to sit with my family and feel the hints of change and development that happen continuously and daily in the Kingdom. Far from being limited to the economic level, this change has had diverse and different social, cultural, behavioral, and religious impacts, though these may differ from one place to another depending on how each municipality responds to and engages with the reform process and how much it understands its concepts.
Qatif, Dammam, Khobar, Dhahran, and Riyadh are the cities I frequented during my last stay. Despite my familiarity with these cities, where I grew up and received my education, they seemed to me to be more dynamic, racing with time, shaking off the weight of bureaucracy, radicalism, outdated traditions, idleness, and hesitation that have long rested on their shoulders.
This Saudi renaissance, driven by Vision 2030, is based on “change through development and upholding the rule of law.” It is creating real projects that directly and tangibly benefit people and solve their issues. Just a few years ago, all of this was nothing more than a pie in the sky.
Let us take the coastal city of Qatif as an example. Infrastructure works are underway in the city; roads linking the sprawling municipality are under construction; and efforts are being exerted toward improving municipal services, afforestation, and corniche promenades, which are one of the main breathing spaces for the city’s residents, not to mention the remarkable interest in healthcare with the inauguration of the Prince Mohammed bin Fahd Hospital in Qatif recently.
After an intensive and costly effort to pay damages to citizens following demolitions and constructions, a national company was tasked with the development of the Center of al-Awamiyah project, which will benefit residents and turn the city from a deserted area into a tourism destination and a hub for cultural and art events.
Like all Saudi municipalities, Qatif could surely benefit from several other entertainment, environmental, healthcare, and industrial projects and services. However, the constant modernization and dynamism taking place in the Kingdom are not mere propaganda and whitewashing. They are at the core of Vision 2030, which believes in the need for “a better quality of life” that benefits Saudi citizens and residents, further enhances and diversifies the economy, drives innovation and efficiency, and reduces criminality, corruption, and the squandering of resources.
The Qatif municipality is a simple example of the positive change that Vision 2030 has made and will keep making in years to come.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper Al-Riyadh.