Majid Al Futtaim is to build Saudi Arabia's first indoor ski slope as part of a 14 billion riyals (Dh13.7bn) investment in two new shopping centres in Riyadh.
The massive Mall of Saudi project, which loosely resembles Dubai's Mall of the Emirates, will include 300,000 square metres of shops, restaurants and entertainment areas – making it Saudi Arabia's largest shopping centre, Maf said yesterday.
The mall, to be built in the north of Riyadh, will cover a land area of more than 866,000 square metres.
Construction work on the first phase of the development, which will include the mall, ski slope, one hotel and serviced apartment building, will start by the middle of next year and will be completed five years later, privately owned Maf said.
Future phases will include flats, offices, hotels and a medical centre.
Maf’s second Riyadh shopping centre, measuring 100,000 sq metres and based on its City Centre mall format, will be located in Riyadh’s upmarket Ishbiliyah district in the east of the capital.
City Centre Ishbiliyah will include 250 stores, a 9,000 sq metre Carrefour hypermarket, a food court and a Magic Planet amusement arcade.
The new projects will be Maf’s first malls in Saudi Arabia, although the privately owned company has had a presence in the kingdom for the past 11 years operating 12 hypermarkets and four supermarkets through its Carrefour business.
“Our spirit of innovation has seen us make it snow in the desert for the first time with Ski Dubai, introduce the region’s first indoor and outdoor water park in Bahrain. We look forward to delivering similar life-changing experiences for residents and guests of Saudi Arabia,” said Alain Bejjani, the Majid Al Futtaim Holding chief executive.
The move to expand into Saudi Arabia is part of Maf’s plans to diversify across the region away from its home base of Dubai.
The conglomerate is expected to open its Mall of Egypt shopping centre complete with Africa’s first indoor ski slope in Cairo this year. As well as its assets in the UAE, it also operates malls in Muscat, Manama, Alexandria and Cairo.
Saudi Arabia’s retail market is attractive to developers keen to tap into the country’s rapidly growing population, 70 per cent of whom are aged under 30.
“Maf knows that the Dubai market is well provided for shops, and so it has been looking for other population centres where it can operate which is good business sense,” said Craig Plumb, the head of research at JLL’s Dubai office.
“The Saudi market is very different from that in the UAE and includes its own challenges as well as opportunities,” he added. “Developers, are well aware of this and tailor their offering to suit the local market.”
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