Development interests back on in Egypt

Dubai developers are reviving projects stalled since Egypt's Arab Spring revolution.

Emaar Properties has teamed up with Al-Futtaim Group to develop the 5 billion Egyptian pounds (Dh2.97bn) Cairo Gate, extending across 160 acres along the Cairo-Alexandria highway.

It represents the first time the Dubai pair have collaborated on a major development in the country and signals a turning point for the Egyptian property market. "The agreement demonstrates our confidence in the Egyptian economy," said Omar Al-Futtaim, the group chief executive of Al-Futtaim Group. "We are confident of the investor-friendly direction of the Egyptian government, especially in resolving any investors' disputes."

Egypt attracted an influx of property investment from the Emirates following the 2008 financial crisis as developers looked to generate profits abroad as projects ground to a halt at home.

But the political turmoil that spread throughout parts of the region last year forced many property companies to put their projects on hold. Now they are being revived.

The latest announcement comes just weeks after Majid Al Futtaim (Maf) awarded a US$400 million (Dh1.4bn) construction contract on its Mall of Egypt project to Orascom Construction Industries.

Maf, the developer behind Dubai's Mall of the Emirates, which became famous for its indoor ski slope, plans to repeat the feat in Egypt. Its new Cairo mall will also include an indoor ski park.

The property market in Cairo has been buoyed by a rebound in the tourism industry and an increase in the number of newlyweds.

Some 860,000 people were married in the country last year, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, helping to drive demand for new apartments. The broker also estimated tourist arrivals grew 29 per cent to 4.4 million in the first five months of the year compared with a year earlier.

Cairo is underserved by major malls, which has created an opening for Dubai's big mall builders to increase their regional footprint.

The first phase of Cairo Gate includes a 120,000 square metre mall anchored by retailers expected to include Ikea, Marks & Spencer, Toys "R" Us and Ace.

Al-Futtaim Group and Emaar have operated independently in Dubai, where they have delivered some of the emirate's best-known landmarks. Al-Futtaim was behind the Festival City development in Dubai while Emaar built the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower.

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.

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Favourite poet: Al Mutanabbi

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