x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Investors on road to Damascus

Interest in Syria's property market is gaining momentum as the country tries to ease a residential shortage.

Interest in Syria's property market is gaining momentum among investors from the Gulf and beyond, as the country tries to ease a shortage in residential and commercial accommodation. Many Gulf developers, including Emaar Properties and Qatar's Diar, moved into Syria in early 2008, just months before the global financial crisis hit the Gulf's property sector.

Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the company behind Dubai's Mall of the Emirates, is pushing ahead with its plans in Syria, which has emerged relatively unscathed from the economic downturn. The company has drawn up a masterplan for a mixed-used development that is due to be built across a 100-hectare site in the Sabboura Yafour district of Damascus, and is expected to begin construction within the next year.

An initial US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) is expected to be invested in the development, which will include a mix of hotels, offices, homes and retail outlets, and is due to be built in phases over the next 10 years. A shopping mall the size of the 223,000 square metre Mall of the Emirates is also planned. Meanwhile, Arabtec Construction, the UAE's largest contractor, also awarded a $67 million contract in February to build the Yasmeen Rotana Hotel in Damascus.

Syria's property sector is growing at an annual rate of 8.8 per cent, according to a statement from Arabian Group, the company organising the construction trade show Buildex Syria in Damascus this month. Meanwhile, a shortage of commercial property has led to Syria becoming the eighth most expensive country in the world for office space, according to a March report from Cushman and Wakefield, a US-based global property brokerage and consultancy.

As part of its plans to ease the shortage, the Syrian government intends to create 20 new industrial cities to attract foreign investments, the Arabian Group says. "Syria's relatively young real estate sector remains largely untapped and offers excellent returns on investment, and so investors from areas such as the Gulf and Europe are keen to enter into this expanding market," said Alaa Hilal, the general manager of Arabian Group.

"Moreover, the Syrian government has pledged to earmark billions of dollars into the development of infrastructure and tourism." agiuffrida@thenational.ae