Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King `Abdullah, Sunday, laid the foundation stone for the third mega economic city in the Kingdom - the SR25 billion ($6.66 billion) Knowledge Economic City in Madinah.
The new city will create more than 20,000 new jobs, the Saudi Press Agency said.
The king also announced that Prince Muhammad bin `Abdil-`Aziz Airport in Madinah had been converted into an international airport.
The new Knowledge City will comprise the Taiba Technological and Economic Information Center, an interactive museum on the Prophet’s life, a centre for studies of Islamic civilization, and another centre for medical studies, biosciences and integrated medical services.
The main investors in the project include the King Abdullah Foundation, Savola Group, Real Estate Projects Management and Development Company and Taiba Investment & Real Estate Development Company. Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is the main developer of the project.
King Abdullah issued the license to the group of investors to carry out the project that also includes housing for 200,000 as well as commercial centres, said a report in Arab News.
The new city follows the launching of the SR30 billion Prince `Abdul-`Aziz ibn Musaed Economic City in Hail last week and the SR100 billion King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh, near Jeddah, launched in December last year.
Commenting on the king’s decision to upgrade the status of Madinah airport, Crown Prince Sultan, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense and Aviation, said it would help citizens and pilgrims to enjoy improved travel facilities. It would also reduce the pressure on Jeddah’s King `Abdul-`Aziz International Airport which is the main gateway for pilgrims coming from abroad.
Prince Sultan has already permitted some foreign airlines to bring pilgrims directly to Madinah during the Haj. Last year, the airport received about 800 Haj flights carrying more than 250,000 pilgrims. Meanwhile, the king launched a number of welfare projects worth SR9 billion yesterday and on Saturday. He laid the foundation stone for expansion projects at the Prophet’s Mosque to create room for 270,000 additional worshippers. The projects included expansion of the eastern courtyard of the mosque and the setting up of 182 large umbrellas to provide shade around the building.
King Abdullah opened the first phase of the Taiba University campus project and laid the foundation for the second phase which includes the establishment of a 400-bed university hospital and five colleges for dentistry, pharmacology, applied sciences, computer engineering, and science.