Rising from the sands of the Middle East is a construction boom the likes of which has never been seen before. Evidence of this can be found in the fact that more than 25 per cent of the world's construction cranes are now located in the Middle East, and more than US$1trillion is currently being invested in Middle Eastern construction projects. According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, about 20 per cent of this total is made up of construction projects under way in Saudi Arabia. Planned as a 'modern, world-class metropolis', the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), under construction on the coast of the Red Sea, 100km north of Jeddah, will account for about US$26.6billion of this investment, and will be another jewel in the crown of the Saudi Kingdom. The city will cover over 168 sqkm and will be divided into six distinctive parts: the seaport, industrial zone, central business district, resort district, an educational zone and residential communities. The main aim of the city is to integrate into the kingdom's continuing drive to expand the economy, create employment opportunities for youngsters, be a catalyst for foreign investment inflow and ultimately boost commerce and industry. Emaar the Economic City (EEC), a consortium headed by global real estate major Emaar Properties and numerous high profile investors from Saudi Arabia, has already made substantial progress on work for the project. EEC chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar said: '[The city] is more than a property development - it will usher in a new era in the economic growth of Saudi Arabia. 'Apart from building a whole new city and laying out the entire infrastructure support, the direct contribution of KAEC to the economy is its employment potential of 500,000 jobs.' The industrial zone of the city has been designed solely with the needs of manufacturers in mind, and will be one of the largest industrial parks in the region. Nidal Jamjoom, EEC chief executive, said: 'As one of the key sectors of diversification, industries have brought about a considerable shift in the kingdom's economy by generating employment for millions of Saudis. '[The city's] industrial zone is a perfect fit for the kingdom's industrial growth.' In line with efforts to boost tourism in the region, the resort zone will offer up to 120 new hotels with 25,000 rooms, an 18-hole golf course, equestrian and yacht clubs, and water sports centres that will take advantage of the city's stunning location on the Red Sea. The central business district will offer more than 3.8million square metres of office and commercial space. The financial district will be the region's largest financial centre. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia) recently announced the start of construction of three other economic cities: the Knowledge Economic City; the Jazan Economic City and the Prince Abdulaziz Bin Mousaed Economic City. The authority states that 'through the economic cities initiative, [Sagia] aspires to rapidly develop vibrant, prosperous cities with an unparalleled business-friendly environment that leverages Saudi Arabia's core economic advantages: abundance of low cost energy and its strategic location'. The four cities are set to affirm Saudi Arabia's position in the Middle East and make it a regional powerhouse of knowledge, industry and tourism.