x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Engineers readying Jebel Hafeet for skiing

A team of 114 German engineers have been laying the groundwork for a 2.6km indoor ski slope at Jebel Hafeet.

Jebel Hafeet will have a large 'green community'.
Jebel Hafeet will have a large 'green community'.

ABU DHABI // A team of 114 German engineers have been laying the groundwork for a 2.6km indoor ski slope at Jebel Hafeet, the most well known of Abu Dhabi's mountains. The project is in the advanced stages of planning and study and construction should begin by October, said Joe Ong, the chief executive of Tamouh Investments. Mr Ong had high hopes for the project, saying "it will be the eighth wonder of the world".

The project includes a massive "green community" including a theme park, golf courses, two hotels and a retail area at the base of the mountain called "Jebel Hafeet Glacier". The ski slope and much of the rest of the development will derive a portion of its power from solar panels. An early rendering of the project shows a solar energy farm at one corner of the mountain. "It has required a lot of study of sustainability and historical preservation," said Mr Ong.

Tamouh recently invited contractors to submit their proposals for the first phase of construction. The ski hill will be about 337,000 square metres. The project still needs a final approval from the Government because the mountain has historic sites and a hot springs area set up by the late Sheikh Zayed. Jebel Hafeet rises about 1,240 metres; the highest mountain in the UAE is Jabal Yibir, which is 1,527 metres.

The development needs to be finished within five years so it is ready to host the International Ski Federation championship, which includes competition in everything from slalom races to ski jumping. This despite a temperature at the base of the mountain yesterday that touched 46°C at midday. The next year will see Tamouh focusing on its major projects on Reem Island and exploring the possibility of international expansions, in addition to projects in Vietnam and Malaysia, said Mr Ong.

The company's project at Reem Island has been designed to ease Abu Dhabi's transportation problems, he said. "We need to solve the logistics problems of Abu Dhabi without becoming Dubai," he said. "The [Central Business District] will have apartments, home offices, and retail at street level. Some people will never have to leave the area." The Central Business District will be "a modern version of SoHo", he said, referring to the neighbourhood in New York City known for its boutique offices and high-end retail shops. Tamouh's first project scheduled for completion, by next year, will be Marina Square. Its towers can already be seen rising from behind the Beach Rotana Hotel. After that will be the City of Light, another project in the early phases of construction on the island.

Tamouh is part of the Royal Group, a holding company owned by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed al Nahyan. @Email:bhope@thenational.ae