The construction of Jeddah Tower has captured imaginations worldwide, partly because of its audacious aim to surpass the Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building. However, despite the initial flurry of activity, the project seems to have ground to a halt. So, when will Jeddah Tower be complete, as many have speculated, or is the project doomed to remain unfinished?
A lonely skeleton
Initially announced in 2008, Jeddah Tower was touted to be an unprecedented marvel in modern architecture. The planned height of the tower was staggering—a 252-story structure that would dwarf its regional competitor, the Burj Khalifa, which has 163 floors. However, as of August 2023, Jeddah Tower has only halted at 63 floors, making it a mere quarter of its proposed final height.
Why is Jeddah Tower on hold?
Why is Jeddah Tower on hold? That is a question political analysts and real estate developers have been asking. At its core, the answer revolves around Saudi Arabia’s internal politics.
The so-called “Saudi Purge” of 2017 led to the arrest of many Saudi elites, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who initiated the project. Subsequently, the $1.3 billion, which was the estimated Jeddah Tower cost, seemed to lose its backing, and construction ceased.
Jeddah Tower vs Burj Khalifa: The unfinished battle
If completed, the Jeddah Tower would become a monumental feat, dethroning the 828-meter Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest man-made structure. Jeddah Tower was initially designed to be one kilometre high, making the competition a David and Goliath story of modern construction.
The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is well-known, and Jeddah Tower was intended to softly assert Saudi’s regional dominance over the UAE. However, as of 2023, the status of Jeddah Tower construction still remains uncertain, leaving the Burj Khalifa uncontested.
While the Burj Khalifa boasts 163 floors, Jeddah Tower’s design was even more ambitious, with a planned 252 floors. Yet, the reality today is far from this vision. Current photographs reveal a deserted construction site and an uncompleted tower with empty concrete floors.
The uncertain Jeddah Tower finish date
The finish date for the skyscraper has been postponed. Despite initial estimates that aimed for completion by 2020, construction of Jeddah Tower in 2023 remains to be determined. The skyscraper was supposed to be the crown jewel of a larger development project, the Jeddah Economic City, adding even more pressure for its completion.
Aside from political reasons for the project’s delay, economic factors must be considered. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the construction industry worldwide, putting additional strains on the Jeddah Tower construction.
As countries closed their borders and imposed lockdowns, the flow of materials and labour slowed considerably, further complicating the already intricate logistics of building the world’s tallest tower. Even as economies began to recover, the aftermath of the pandemic continued to influence global markets, adding a layer of economic uncertainty that exacerbated the project’s financial challenges.
In addition, the fluctuating prices of raw materials like steel and concrete have thrown original cost estimates into disarray. The skyscraper’s cost, initially estimated at $1.3 billion, has been subject to potential escalation due to these price hikes, thereby affecting investor confidence.
On top of that, the project also faces competition for funding from other ambitious infrastructure ventures within Saudi Arabia, most notably the NEOM city project, a $500 billion mega-city planned for completion in the coming decades.
These economic challenges add complexity to the already multifaceted issue of when the Jeddah Tower will be completed. While initially projected for a finish date in 2020, these factors have contributed to pushing that date further into the future, making the prospect of a close completion increasingly unlikely.