Developer prepares ground for an ‘old city’ in Dubai

Proposed Dh5b plus project draws inspiration from ancient Damascus and even include Roman gates

15:50 January 9, 2018
old arabia


A touch of old Arabia — a new development in Dubai hopes to recreate some of that history through a project expected to cost between Dh5 billion to Dh7 billion. Land for the proposed “Knooz Alsharq City” is currently being negotiated and could take up between 15 million to 20 million square feet.

In what is a significant departure from standard real estate developments now, the city would be built around a mosque, in much the same way that it was in ancient Damascus. In fact, the detailing of the new masterplan owes a lot to the “old city” of Damascus and even to recreating the ancient Roman gates that surrounded it. Elaborate alleyways and other architectural touches are being integrated to give that authentic look and feel. (As with the original, there will be seven exits/entrances to the new city.) Interestingly enough, the project was first planned for Damascus itself, and then the conflict happened. The promoters then considered Bahrain and Jeddah among likely possibilities before finalising on Dubai. Now, it hopes to conclude negotiations for the land and be in a position to launch a full plan in three months.

Market sources speculate that the location could be somewhere in Dubailand or one of the newer master-developments in the city.

GCC and other Arab investors had been particularly active in Dubai’s real estate market last year, together accounting for Dh51 billion. The tensions over Qatar hardly spilt into the property transaction space, as per the latest Dubai Land Department data.

The promoters of Knooz Alsharq City include Loulouat Alsharq Investment and Development and Ali Cloud Investment (ACI). The latter has real estate interests in the UAE before this, but not to the scale of Knooz Alsharq. It also had alternative investments, such as a $100 million (Dh367 million) investment in India’s e-distributor Just Buy Live, and in an Islamic bank in Uganda.

“We could bring in other investors for the City and reduce our equity to 50 per cent from the current 95 per cent,” said S.M. Ali, Chairman and Managing Director at ACI.

The current design plan is to allocate 15 per cent for commercial areas within the city, including traditional Arab souqs. Residential would take up another 25 per cent. Design touches to the future city includes being inspired by the cities of the Umayyad, Mamluk and Ottoman times.

For now, the promoters are only focused on the main thing — getting the designated land in their hands.