A few weeks ago, a map was circulating the internet of a high-speed rail system that would connect Los Angeles to New York to Miami to Chicago to Houston. Prospective passengers were drooling and trying to figure out when this dream would become a reality. As it turns out, the image was made as a thought experiment to test the imaginative capabilities of a nation.
Predicting the future is a notoriously risky endeavour. My intention here is simply to challenge people to envision one potential future for Jordan (and the entire Middle East) that maybe could come true.
Greenpeace has released a study called Jordan’s Future Energy that states “Economic modeling results show that a target of 100% renewable energy by 2050 can be attained and can lead to total accumulated savings of approximately $80 billion (or $12 billion in present value terms), while providing 30,000 new jobs.” They seem to think that the only remaining question is, “what are we going to do with all of the excess money that we now have?”
King Abdullah II told Jeffery Goldberg of the Atlantic recently that ““The monarchy is going to change. When my son comes of age and becomes king, the system will be stabilized and … it will be a western democracy with a constitutional monarchy.” For Jordanians, this is great news, as thousands have been protesting for their political and human rights for years. Not to say that in 2050 King Abdullah II won’t be a thriving 88-year-old, but by then his son will most likely have acceded to the throne of the first Middle Eastern country to run 100% on renewable energy.
2050 will be a year of project completions for the Hashemite state. The Abdali project, initially aiming for completion in 2013, after facing a seemingly endless set of setbacks, will finally be open to the public. The Ammani skyline that today features a hills-meet-boxes feel will have more than three completed futuristic skyscrapers. (By futuristic I of course mean retro. The buildings were planned in the early 00’s after all.)
The City of Aqaba (now known as the emirate of Marsa Zayed following the 2025 Abu Dhabi-led takeover) is now host to a plethora of mega-projects like Saraya and the Ayla Oasis. Despite the success of these projects, the true shining star of the city is King Abdullah II’s own Star Trek Theme Park. Although a journalist once deemed it a “decadent tribute to western cultural hegemony”, that journalist was proven wrong. Very wrong.
In 2030, the city of Tafeeleh surprised everyone by consistently scoring #1 in the world on the PISA world education exam, followed closely by Finland and Sweden. Meanwhile, Petra welcomes its ten billionth visitor. Petroleum reserves are discovered in Wadi Rum, leading millions to ask, “what on earth would we do with that stuff?”
2050 is also a year of firsts, as the first Egyptian Prime Minister is elected in a landslide. She comes through on her campaign promises of change and renews hope for the region. On a strip of highway between Amman and Damascus, she puts the symbolic final peg in the trans-Arab high-speed rail system.