Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got a standing ovation when he visited a gathering of Saudi youth last month. Last week, after hearing about his economic plans in a meeting with religious leaders, one of the kingdom's most conservative sheikhs tweeted a smiling selfie of himself with the prince.
Whether the 31-year-old son of King Salman will achieve his goal of modernizing the kingdom's economy is the subject of animated debate on social media, in office buildings and at coffee shops here.
The plans, aimed at ending dependence on oil by 2030, require shaking up a bureaucracy that has stymied changes in the past, challenging powerful religious conservatives and building up a private sector currently reliant on state spending.
Diplomats and economists say the program, which relies on the private sector driving growth and providing new sources of revenue to the state via new taxes and fees, will be exceptionally difficult to implement.
"Saudi Arabia is far away" from its economic goals, said Steffen Hertog, an economist at the London School of Economics (LSE) who studies the kingdom.
The prince's close aides acknowledge the difficulties. Some ruling family members fear too rapid economic changes could cause social unrest or tension inside the Al Saud dynasty, Saudi analysts say.
Yet in this country of 20 million Saudis and 10 million expatriates, the rise of Prince Mohammed -- who runs economic, defence and oil strategy -- underscores a dramatic shift towards a leadership seemingly more in tune with the needs of a country where 70 percent of the population is under 30.
It is the first time that effective power has passed from the royal gerontocracy of 70- and 80-something rulers to a third generation of a family founded by the prince's grandfather, known as Ibn Saud. King Salman still has the final word, but he has delegated nearly unprecedented powers to his son.