GCC confidence drives Dh9.6 trillion building boom

The Arabian Gulf is home to some of the planet's most jaw-dropping mega-projects. Now a new era of vast developments beckons to add to those that are already completed.

Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, home to hotels and residences, remains one of the most famous megaprojects in the region, if not the world. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
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The total value of ongoing infrastructure projects in the GCC region stands at US$2.62 trillion.

In its forecast for this year, PricewaterhouseCoopers said it asked respondents to identify the countries they intended to target this year in relation to capital projects and infrastructure.

"They told us that the UAE and Qatar were their top targets, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, suggesting that the large volume of mega projects in these countries is driving strong interest and optimism," the report authors said.

Saudi Arabia is probably the biggest mega-project builder in terms of cash. It alone accounts for $875 billion being spent on such developments in the region, according to a recent Global Investment House report.

It is also playing host to the three-day Saudi Mega Transport & Infrastructure event from September 16, focusing on the biggest projects in the Middle East, both under construction and in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, Qatar is also spending big having won the rights to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022. Current projects include: a $4bn renovation of existing stadiums as well as building new venues; a $25bn rail and metro transport infrastructure plan; a $20bn road investment programme; a new $11bn Doha International Airport; and a $7bn Doha Port development plan.

"The property boom is back in the GCC. I think we are still at the beginning of a new five to seven-year super-cycle for property development that began about eight months ago," says Brett Siegel, an independent expert and analyst of huge Arabian Gulf building developments.

"The mega-projects are moving ahead strongly once again and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are at the forefront of these enormous property and infrastructure developments. And they have already proven their ability to produce."

Here, as a thriving economy drives the resumption of grand plans, Mr Siegel chooses his top developments in the region so far.

Abu Dhabi

Reem Island

, the huge real estate mega-project in the capital, is so big there are three primary developers:

, Reem Investments and Tamouh Investment. There are three primary developments on Reem Island: Shams Abu Dhabi being developed by Sorouh; Najmat Abu Dhabi being developed by Reem Investments; and Marina Square being developed by Tamouh. Each of these three developments are so large they are mega projects in their own right. There are also many smaller developers building projects on Reem Island. Once complete, I believe Al Reem Island will be one of the crown jewels of Abu Dhabi and one of the most spectacular mega-projects in the world.

Yas Island

is one of Abu Dhabi's premiere island mega-projects. Being developed by

, Yas is home to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, which is the world's first Ferrari theme park. Also located on Yas is the stunning Yas Marina, Yas Waterworld, the

, the futuristic five-star Yas Viceroy hotel and other luxury hotels, Yas links golf course and a variety of first-class residences. Furthermore, Yas Island is an ongoing project with many new developments in the pipeline.


Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah is one of the greatest mega projects in world history. It is a true wonder on par with other monumental projects including the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Master-developed by Nakheel, this man-made island is a Dubai landmark and an enormous amount of real estate development has taken place on Palm Jumeirah. Leading real estate projects on the island include: Atlantis, The Palm; Taj Exotica & Grandeur Residence; Jumeirah Zabeel Saray; Kempinski Hotel and Residences Palm Jumeirah; One And Only The Palm; Royal Amwaj Palm Jumeirah; Fairmont The Palm; The Golden Mile; Rixos The Palm Dubai and the Tiara Residences.

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is also one of the world's great mega-projects. Master-developed by Emaar, Dubai Marina is one of the most spectacular marinas in the Middle East. In fact, I would say Dubai Marina is one of the most spectacular marinas in the entire world. There is an enormous amount of real estate development going on at Dubai Marina. Some of my favourite developments there include: Cayan Tower, the recently completed tower that twists through a 90° curve from top to bottom; 23 Marina, perhaps the most luxurious residential tower in the world with 57 swimming pools and many other first class features; and Princess Tower, the world's tallest residential tower.

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

is the financial hub of Dubai and a leading financial centre for the entire Middle East. The mission of DIFC in its own words is to is to "promote the growth and development of financial services within the UAE economy and to provide state of the art infrastructure and competitive services to stakeholders". Some of the top real estate developments in DIFC include: The Gate Building, a huge structure with 46,000 square metres of prime office space; Park Towers, a spectacular twin-tower project developed by Damac with both office and residential space; Ritz Carlton DIFC, a five-star hotel right in the heart of DIFC perfect for business people coming in from all over the world; Emirates Towers, architecturally cutting-edge twin towers with one containing prime office space and the other Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel.

Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC)

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a real estate boom and KAEC is the largest mega-project being built there. Upon completion it will be the biggest such development in the Middle East and possibly the world. The project will have six major districts: an Industrial Park District that will be home to more than 2,500 manufacturers located in their own Economic Zone; a Seaport District that will be one of the world's top 20 container ports; a Residential District that will offer a wide variety of living choices for all income groups; an Educational District that will include a sports stadium; a Central Business District with a wide variety of office space choices and a Financial Island; and a Resort District that will be host to a multitude of resorts and spas and high end villas.

King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD)

KAFD is designed to be a leading centre for finance in the Middle East. It will be the home of the Capital Markets Authority, a large number of banks, investment companies, accounting companies, lawyers, consultants as well as the Saudi Stock Exchange, or Tadawul. KAFD is a financial centre built on a mega-project scale and will also contain a Grand Mosque and cutting-edge educational training facilities for those wanting to train to pursue a career in finance.


Lusail City

Qatar's largest mega-project, and one of the biggest being developed anywhere in the world, is Lusail City. This city of the future covers 38 square kilometers. The city will be home to 200,000 residents and employ about 170,000 workers. Lusail will be the site of real estate developments including: Lusail Iconic Stadium and four other stadiums; 25,000 residential units; 36 schools; a huge Marina District; a Commercial Waterfront District and Plaza; retail, leisure and entertainment districts; an office park; two golf courses and even a rail system.

The Pearl Qatar

The Pearl is a man-made island mega-project developed by United Development Company and located off the coast of Doha's West Bay. This development contains a variety of features including: Porto Arabia, Abraj Quartier, Viva Bahriya Towers, Qanat Quartier and many others. The Pearl offers a wide range of residential villas, towers and town homes as well as office space for businesses. Many top brands have locations on The Pearl including Armani, YSL, Rolls Royce, Cavalli, Ferragamo and Hermès. The Pearl is a very well rounded mega-project and a fabulous advert for Qatar and its construction abilities.

Brett Siegel is a specialist on property investment and development in the GCC. His UAE Mega Projects blog can be found at uaemegaprojects.blogspot.com/