Emaar planning a 'female' version of Burj Khalifa in Dubai Creek Harbour

Mohamed Alabbar says Noon is growing 30 per cent to 40 per cent year on year

Mohamed Alabbar said the new design has been approved and construction has started on the tower, which will not be as tall as the Burj Khalifa. Photo: Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival
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The tower being built at Dubai Creek Harbour will be a smaller, more elegant structure than previously planned, Emaar Properties founder Mohamed Alabbar has said.

Speaking at this year's Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival, he also said while there are no plans to list ecommerce giant Noon in the immediate future, it will happen in the coming years.

Mr Alabbar announced in August that the cable-tied tower, designed by the Spanish-Swiss architect Santiago Calatrava, that was due to be 100 metres taller than Burj Khalifa, was being redesigned.

We are creating one of the most interesting avenues and I hope that it will be the first time that cars can enter the mall
Mohamed Alabbar, Emaar Properties founder

Speaking at the festival, which was held at the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park, Mr Alabbar said the new design had been approved and construction has started on the tower, which will not be as tall as Burj Khalifa.

He described the new tower, the centrepiece of the six square kilometre project, as an elegant version of the famous building.

"We build these beautiful towers because we make money out of the apartments that look at these towers. The [project] tower doesn't make any money," Mr Alabbar said in an on-stage conversation with UAE content creator Ahmed Al Marzooqi.

"Everybody wants to have an apartment in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower, right? So we said 'listen, our buildings are only 50 storeys tall, why do we have to build something one kilometre tall?'

"We changed our minds and we redesigned. In the coming months we will show the tower. I think we did something like male and female [towers], so Burj Khalifa will be the male and Creek Tower will be the female."

The Dubai Creek Harbour site is twice the size of Downtown Dubai but will not have a shopping centre comparable in size to Dubai Mall.

"We are also building a new mall [at Dubai Creek Harbour] ... but I think we are going do a new generation," he said.

"We are not building the biggest in the world but definitely we are creating one of the most interesting avenues and I hope that it will be the first time that cars can enter the mall. This will be very, very unique – [cars will be] electric only."

Noon evolving

The discussion on Saturday, under the headline 'Towering Success: What it Takes to Build a Business Empire’, covered all aspects of Mr Alabbar's businesses.

He launched the $1 billion e-commerce platform Noon with the help of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, in 2017.

He described setting it up as "one of the most difficult challenges of my life".

"I started at the age of 60 – I wasn't exactly 19 years old so I had to understand the difference between iPhone and Samsung, which is a big challenge for me," he said.

Mr Alabbar said he was lucky to find good people to help him build the company, which has evolved from ecommerce into a super app that offers grocery shopping, food delivery and peer-to-peer payments.

"Noon today is an incredible story," he said. "Actually, it's not even ecommerce company anymore because ecommerce has changed. If you want to do ecommerce, I don't think you will make it anymore because Amazon do not make [big] profit out of ecommerce; they make profit out of the cloud business.

"So that's why we reinvented ourselves. Today the company is still growing 30 to 40 per cent year on year. It's probably one of ... the only companies in ecommerce that in five to six years be profitable, which is very rare but then our model is so different."

Mr Alabbar said Noon, which operates in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, sells four million products and attracts one billion visits a year.

While he again ruled out an initial public offering for Noon, he did admit it was under consideration.

"I think at the end of the day we have to list," he said.

"I'm not really sure [when it will be], the board have to decide but definitely in the coming few years. It looks very interesting."

Updated: February 05, 2024, 4:25 PM