An Emirates-based company has been awarded a Dh142 million (US$38.6m) contract for an overhaul of the Fisherman's Marina at Al Bateen Wharf. Contractor AST will build a new quay and dredge the bay as part of a Dh1.6 billion project to turn one of the oldest occupied areas of the capital into a waterfront destination with a five-star hotel.
Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) said the contract was awarded after consultations with dhow builders and fishermen. Lee Tabler, the chief executive of TDIC, said: "The facilities have been incorporated after in-depth dialogue with the district's resident fishermen to discover their needs, and to ensure that the area remains a source of livelihood to both them and the builders of traditional dhows.
"We regard both these communities as integral to the distinct heritage of Al Bateen and are determined to preserve this cultural advantage while upgrading the district." A number of dhow builders and fishermen in the area yesterday said they did not believe the works would preserve their traditional craft. Abu Ahmed, an Emirati fishermen with a wooden boat in the marina, said: "When TDIC came to the site, they shut down a large number workshops that were building the boats here.
"So, how are they trying to encourage the culture of these boats when they keep shutting down workshops?" Othman al Falahi, the Emirati owner of Emirates Waves that builds traditional and modern boats at Al Bateen, said TDIC had not done enough to involve boat makers or fishermen in the design. "I feel like they have all these modern ideas that have nothing with preserving our culture, which we are starting to lose completely," he said.
"I know that a hotel and resort might sound like a good idea, but this has nothing to do with our national identity." Ali al Hammadi, the assistant director of the marina's development at TDIC, said there would be many benefits for the shipwrights and fishermen. "Before we started this project we asked the fishermen in the area what they wanted and, of course, at the end of the day you could never make everyone happy," he said.
"We had met the committee of fishermen, which has six members that represent the rest of the trade, and they told us what they wanted, which included electricity to the area and fresh water, which we will deliver." Mr al Hammadi said TDIC would also equip the marina with a hydro lift to remove the dhows from the water. "After talking to the dhow builders they told us that the boats have to removed from the water and so we thought this lift would help them," he said.
The larger development of the Al Bateen district covers an area of 5.4 hectares under a public-private partnership with Belbadi Enterprises, another UAE contractor. It is due for completion in 2011. The design of the 400-room Al Bateen Wharf Hotel and its adjoining 200-unit serviced residential wing has entered its final stage. The AST contract will include installation of berths for 320 fishing vessels and 38 racing dhows.