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The Middle East's Push into the Metaverse


Callum Moates

The metaverse or 3D internet - as we like to call it - is on a trajectory of significant growth in the Middle East, underpinned by strategic investments and technological advancements. Metaverse technologies have the potential to add $55 billion to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia by 2035, based on a study from Meta. The UAE is at the forefront of Dubai's metaverse strategy, and Saudi Arabia is powering innovation through substantial investments in 3D internet startups. The Middle East is experiencing the transformative effects of the metaverse across sectors like tourism, retail, property, and gaming.

Government initiatives and support for the metaverse

Governments in the Middle East actively promote and support the development of the metaverse, recognizing its potential to drive innovation and economic growth. These efforts aim to build an environment conducive to developing immersive technologies through funding programs, incubators, regulatory frameworks, and strategic partnerships.

The Dubai government has launched an ambitious Metaverse Strategy to position Dubai as a global leader in the metaverse. This strategy includes plans to contribute $4 billion to Dubai's economy and create 40,000 jobs in the metaverse ecosystem over the next five years. It encompasses various sectors, including education, healthcare, real estate, and tourism, demonstrating the government's commitment to integrating the 3D internet into Dubai's digital economy.

Another leading metaverse initiative in Saudi Arabia is the government’s Cultural Universe initiative, part of its Vision 2030 program. This initiative aims to leverage the 3D internet to promote Saudi culture and heritage globally, offering immersive experiences that showcase the kingdom's rich history and contemporary artistic scene. It represents a strategic use of the metaverse to enhance cultural diplomacy and tourism.

Here are some leading initiatives and frameworks aimed at fostering innovation in immersive technologies in the Middle East:

  • Funding programs: The Middle East has seen several investment funds directed towards attracting metaverse-focused startups and innovators as the region ramps up efforts to commercialize the technology. For instance, KPMG launched a co-investment fund to expedite practical metaverse use cases in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with public and private partners.

  • Accelerators and incubators: The region has established metaverse incubators and accelerators designed to nurture early-stage 3D internet and Web3 startups. These initiatives offer crucial financial support, mentorship, and resources, enabling local entrepreneurs to develop innovative metaverse solutions. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)’s Metaverse Accelerator Program is one such initiative in the UAE designed to allow companies to collaborate, innovate, and grow their ideas substantially.

  • Regulatory frameworks: Governments are also working on creating regulatory frameworks that ensure the safe and responsible development of the metaverse. These frameworks address privacy, data protection, cybersecurity, and intellectual property rights, providing a solid foundation for growth and innovation in the sector. According to a report published by the Chalhoub Group, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has strong foundations to support the success of 3D internet initiatives driven by a favorable regulatory environment.

Cultural expression in the metaverse

The metaverse revolutionizes artistic expression by facilitating immersive art installations, virtual galleries, and digital museums. This innovative platform enables the meticulous presentation of Middle Eastern heritage and contemporary artwork within an expansive, interactive digital environment. It offers an unparalleled opportunity for audiences to engage with the cultural and artistic narratives of the region in a deeply immersive manner, transcending traditional physical and geographical limitations.

For instance, Emergeast showcases artworks from emerging and mid-career artists across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The platform has over 50 artists and more than 500 artworks and offers immersive online exhibitions and limited edition non-fungible token (NFT) drops.

Furthermore, integrating the 3D internet and virtual reality (VR) technologies is crucial in preserving and promoting cultural identity, heritage, and creativity within the Middle East and sharing it with a global audience. For instance, CyArk leverages VR to create new and engaging cultural heritage experiences. The company recreated the Temple of Eshmun in Lebanon through a digital 3D, 360-degree visualization for virtual visitors to experience. 

Case studies of metaverse projects in the Middle East

Health Metaverse Portal

Dubai’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) brings healthcare to the metaverse with the primary goal of providing patients with comprehensive customer service solutions in a virtual setting. These services include enabling visitors to interact with actual employees from the Customer Happiness Center, request information, submit documents, and complete payments, all within a virtual 3D space.

Ali Al-Ajmi, the Director of the Digital Health Department at MoHAP, highlighted the program's innovative approach, stating, "The customer happiness execpresent virtually to assist the customer." This direct virtual interaction is a key feature of MetaHealth, ensuring personalized and efficient service. Additionally, MetaHealth is aligned with the national digitalization agenda, aiming to reduce the necessity for physical visits to the happiness centers, thereby streamlining processes and enhancing customer satisfaction.

As part of the UAE's broader digital transformation efforts in healthcare, MetaHealth represents a forward-thinking approach to customer service. By integrating virtual reality technology, MoHAP not only addresses the immediate needs of its customers but also sets a new standard for digital healthcare services worldwide. 

Yas Island

The Yas Island Metaverse project is set to transform Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, known for its Formula 1 racetrack and the world's fastest rollercoaster, into a virtual realm. This move marks the initial step in integrating the UAE's capital into the metaverse. The initiative is a collaboration between six Abu Dhabi entities - the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, Aldar, Miral Abu Dhabi, twofour54, Abu Dhabi Motorsport, and Flash Entertainment. It represents the UAE's first venture into digitizing an entire physical location on leading immersive 3D platforms such as The Sandbox and Roblox. 

The venture aims to create a comprehensive 3D internet ecosystem, enabling global visitors to explore Yas Island's attractions remotely. Users can engage in various activities, from constructing and acquiring digital properties to exploring cultural sites and enjoying theme park thrills, including Warner Bros World and Ferrari World, and attending exclusive events.

Additionally, the experience will be enhanced with customizable avatars and unexpected rewards, making each user's journey uniquely personal.

Given the project's scope and its focus on delivering an innovative, interactive platform, the Yas Island Metaverse project will likely significantly impact attracting a more extensive and more diverse group of tourists to the island. 

Lamina Tower, Jeddah, KSA

Projected to be amongst the most prestigious residential developments within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Lamina Tower is presently under construction at the esteemed Jeddah Corniche resort on the Red Sea's serene shores. This endeavor is set to offer residents an exclusive lifestyle unparalleled in luxury and comfort.

In March 2021, Cityzenith, a leader in advanced digital twin software services from the United States, announced its contract to develop a comprehensive digital twin for the Lamina Tower project. This collaboration signifies a pivotal advancement in integrating digital twin technology within the construction and management of high-end residential properties.

Characterized as a groundbreaking project for the Middle East, the digital twin of the Lamina Tower encompasses both the structure and its surrounding environment. This innovative application of technology aims to optimize operational efficiencies, enhance marketing and sales strategies, and improve the overall experience of tenants. Such an endeavor marks a significant milestone in applying digital twin technology within the region, setting a precedent for future projects.

Future outlook

The future of the metaverse in the Middle East can be underpinned by the growth of immersive web technologies like virtual reality in the MENA, which has a CAGR of 43.5%, placing the industry on a trajectory to reach $23 billion in 2028, as reported by Oliver Wyman. As the regional regulatory infrastructure continues to take shape, governments and private entities could amplify metaverse applications. 

Here are some possible trends that could drive growth in the region:

  • Luxury fashion in the metaverse: Phygital experiences continue taking center stage in luxury retail, opening up creative ways for brands to connect with consumers. Luxury brands can tell stories and share product lines in a 3D immersive environment, maximizing consumer satisfaction and experience. The Chalhoub Group surveyed 1,600 consumers across the Gulf Cooperation Council  (GCC), revealing that 89% would like to preview products in the metaverse, and 71% percent are already engaged with branded virtual experience.

  • Real estate and smart city projects in the metaverse: The Demand for real estate and development projects integrating 3D internet technologies is rising across the Middle East, with major companies investing in the industry. A leading project in the sector is NEOM, a futuristic city project in Saudi Arabia, for which $1 billion has been invested in creating a digital twin in the metaverse. The digital twin allows people to experience the city in the metaverse before it is built and also helps in the construction process of the final project.

  • A new arena for social and political expression: The 3D internet is poised to revolutionize social interaction and political discourse, presenting a space unbounded by the limitations of traditional media. This digital frontier could usher in an enhanced citizen and community engagement era. Capitalizing on this transformative potential, the UAE Ministry of Economy has already ventured into the metaverse to establish a presence, under the representation of Abdulla bin Touq AL Marri, a pivotal advancement in digital and economic interaction. This initiative facilitates governmental and public engagements in the digital realm. It mirrors the physical services of the Ministry of Economy's Abu Dhabi office, seamlessly blending virtual and real-world experiences.


Callum Moates

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We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024

Landvault · Wam Group

All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved