Dubai developer Emaar has launched an ambitious $3bn master community project in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, in what is the first major investment in the area in decades.
The 541,000 sq m development will include 15,000 residences, three five-star international hotels, 715,000 sq m of office space, the city's largest shopping mall and restaurants.
Twin towers will dominate the skyline, while about 40 percent of the area will be greenery and water features.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechervan Idris Barzani, whose participation in the launch signified its importance to the region, said 45,000 much needed jobs would be created.
Called Downtown Erbil, the 10-year project will include many of the same features as Downtown Dubai, which is one of Emaar's and Dubai's most successful developments and has made Emaar an international name.
Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar said the company was attracted to Erbil by its dynamic investment environment.
Kurdistan is an autonomous region of Iraq and enjoys far greater economic prosperity than the rest of the country. The Kurdish economy is now one of the fastest growing in the Middle East, with double digit growth.
"There's no doubt there's a strong sense of optimism and positivity here that reminds me of my home town Dubai," Alabbar said during a speech at the launch in Erbil on Sunday.
"Such a dynamic city requires an equally dynamic city centre, a vibrant heart that ... further energises the economy."
Prime Minister Barzani said the additional housing and economic boost were much needed in Erbil following "destruction and demolition ... of our homes, villages, city and our country".
Downtown Erbil, which is being fully developed by Emaar, would become a place of pride for Kurdish people, he said.
"Downtown Erbil shows the growing importance of Erbil and Kurdistan, while at the same time it will be another economic milestone for Erbil and the Kurdistan region," Barzani said.
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