Sharjah plans US$18bn Palm rival

SHARJAH in the United Arab Emirates is planning an enormous offshore development to rival the Palm projects currently under construction in Dubai.

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By  David Robinson Published  September 4, 2005

SHARJAH in the United Arab Emirates is planning an enormous offshore development to rival the Palm projects currently under construction in Dubai. Saudi-based real estate firm Al Hanoo Holdings is behind the US$18 billion project, to be known as Nujoom Islands. The scheme will comprise 10 islands connected by bridges and have residential units, more than 2500 villas, offices, and hotels. The residential and commercial complex will cover 60 million square feet and is scheduled to be finished in three to four years’ time. “It will put Sharjah on the map in a big way,” said Adel Salah, project engineer at Al Hanoo Holdings. Salah said the Nujoom Islands project is double the size of Dubai’s much-vaunted Jumeriah Palm development. “What we are doing is quite different. It’s a work of art,” he said. Salah said water would be added to the Nujoom Islands development once primary construction was finished as oppose to building out at sea like the Palm projects. “Water will be inserted as the final touch. We will bridge that land then we will add the water,” Salah said, adding that the firm began constructing the foundations for the project six months ago. The project is part of Sharjah Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi’s plan to hit back at illustrious neighbour Dubai. Dubai has left Sharjah trailing in its wake in the last decade with a raft of ambitious, high-profile real estate developments. The rivalry between the two emirates goes back a long time. Back in the 1950s when the British forces played a prominent role in Middle Eastern affairs, Sharjah, with its superior port facilities, was the dominant emirate in the region. But following the discovery of oil, the last few decades have seen a shift in the balance of power. Dubai’s imaginative response to the prospect that oil stocks will run out in a few years time is to heavily invest in development. The enormous Palm projects — under construction in Jumeriah, Jebel Ali and Deira — have been labelled the “eighth wonders of the world” by some observers. When completed it is expected the Palm projects, alongside the Great Wall of China, will be the only man-made constructions visible from space. Other grandiose schemes include The World, a series of 200 islands, positioned strategically to form the shape of the world map; the Burj Dubai, the tallest skyscraper in the world; and DubaiLand which will include among its many attractions the world’s largest shopping mall, and an indoor ski slope. To many, Sharjah is nothing more than a low-rise suburb offering cheaper rents than Dubai. Thousands of workers commute from their homes in Sharjah to their offices in Dubai leaving the main road between the two emirates clogged for much of the day with traffic. But after spending the last few years gazing enviously across at its neighbours’ spectacular growth it is clear that Sharjah is striking back. Rumours have been rife in recent months that Dubai’s Palm Deira project — the largest of the three palms — is at risk because Sharjah claims the 8-kilometre-by-5-kilometre development encroaches on its waters. Salah said the intention behind Nujoom Islands is to attract property buyers from around the world, including many expatriates. This has led to speculation that Sharjah will reduce restrictions on the sale of alcohol, which is currently banned in the emirate.

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