By Staff writer
Bringing almost four decades of experience to the table, Mohamed Morshedy describes where he gets his ambitions from and why he's not afraid to take on one of the biggest real estate challenges in the world
We have been in the right place at the right time.” This is how Egyptian businessman Mohamed Morshedy describes the story behind his phenomenal success since he established Memaar Al Morshedy nearly 40 years ago.
From a small group of highly talented architects, planners and engineers, he has helped grow the company to the real estate force it is today, with projects from Cairo to Greece.
Moving into the next decade, the company has big plans for the future, with its Skyline project set to rival Manhattan’s Central Park and will be the world’s largest residential property when complete.
Arabian Business sits down with the founder and owner to get a sense of the man behind the record-breaking endeavour.
How did you start Memaar Al Morshedy? What were the early days like in the construction business?
I always wanted to have a career in the oil and gas industry since I was in college, or maybe to become a pilot. I worked hard to graduate from university as fast as I can in order to pursue my dreams. After graduating with a degree in chemical engineering, I decided to apply for a position in an oil company as I was convinced of the importance of the oil industry. Around that same time computers and videotapes started getting momentum and started spreading widely in Egypt.
From day one, I had the ambition to start my own business. I started working for an oil company right after graduation, but I always had the feeling that I can do much more. Only one month after starting my corporate job, I made a decision to resign so I can start my own projects, build my own business and fulfil my ambitions. To resign was really a difficult decision, since I had just started a family at the time. There was also a financial crisis that affected the housing sector at that time. I had to think out of the box, so I first started on a small project. I redesigned my parent’s place, all by myself, into a modern style apartment that was way different from what was prevalent at the time. Fortunately, this new and modern design has received widespread approval among people.
Within two or three months, I received many requests to implement similar refurbishing ideas on other apartments. In parallel, after I noticed the great demand for videotapes at that time, I decided to start a business to cater to this market too, which translated into setting up a small company specialised in importing, copying and publishing videotapes. My construction business witnessed great growth. I was able to take part in the construction of one building, then the second, and so on until I was a partner in a construction project that involved several buildings, each with a large number of apartments. At this point I had to choose between focussing on my construction business or the videotapes company. I chose the construction business, taking into account the great demand on housing and the need for more apartments at the time.
You started with one apartment, now we are talking about the largest building in the world. Can you tell us more about this project?
Al Maadi was the place where I was born and raised, and where I first started to follow my dreams and fulfil my ambitions. At first I worked on partnering with some friends, to buy few apartments and resell them for profit.
I would always add artistic touches to those apartments such as building swimming pools on rooftops before reselling them. These modern touches proved to be very popular with a lot of buyers.
Before turning 30, I had made a brilliant name in the housing sector, but my eagerness to achieve greater success made me scout out for other areas beyond Al Maadi. I then launched new construction projects to build apartments with high quality specifications and standards but still with reasonable price tags with the objective to help the middle-class people who could not afford buying pricier apartments in Al Maadi area.
The new buildings quickly became very popular and the project was a big hit. I was very pleased with the results, I decided to build similar projects in other areas. This was the beginning of an era of many years of success, hard work, and great results.
However, I had the eagerness and urge to achieve more, this is when the idea of constructing the largest building in the world came to my mind. I wanted to build a very large residential complex that can meet all the needs of its residents, a unique building that offers retail shops, entertainment facilities, a swimming pool, and many other amenities.
I was first able to start with a large building which contained 300 apartments, then another building with 1,000 apartments. However, within a few years, we built a very large building that housed 3,000 apartments. It was half the number of apartments in the largest building in the world at that time, which was located in Paris with 6,000 apartments. Later on, we started focussing on the idea of building the largest building in the world which will contain more than 13,000 apartments. With the help of our local and international teams, and after finding a suitable land for the project, we were able to start working on the largest residential building in the world which is located in Egypt.
Why didn’t you pick Dubai for the project? Dubai is the ultimate location for such mega projects?
There is no doubt that Dubai is a global pioneer when it comes to construction and mega projects, and it is home to the highest skyscraper in the world. It is for sure a very important project that helped put Dubai at the forefront internationally. My dream was to build the largest residential non-vertical building in the world. So the dream came true, and I was able to build this building under the name of Skyline, with more than 13,000 apartments, the largest pool and parking space, as well as the largest shopping centre in the Middle East.
The reason behind implementing this huge project in Egypt was on one hand the growing need for more residential buildings, on the other hand it has always been my ambition to enhance the tourism industry by drawing global attention to Egypt as the place where the largest residential building is located.
Mega projects always help flourish the tourism industry. Let’s take the city of Neom, currently being built in Saudi Arabia for example, a future city which will boost tourism demand in Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan and Egypt. It will create jobs and opportunities as well.
Despite the political unrest that is widespread in the region for many years now, I still feel so optimistic about the future, and I can envision seeing great developments in the region paving the way for more mega projects to be implemented in the near future. My advice to any Arab youth who dares to dream is to make sure a considerable amount of time and effort is spent. With strong determination and self-discipline, dreams are achievable no matter how big dreams are.
Do you think now is a good time to invest more in the housing sector?
This sector may suffer a recession temporarily, however, the construction sector can get sick but it never dies. In countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there is currently a huge uptake in construction and urban planning. In Egypt, with a population of 100 million people living in high density cities, the demand for apartments will continue to increase. I am sure that this sector will provide more opportunities in the future.
Can you tell us about your business in Greece?
I have been working in Greece for six or seven years. Since I started my business there, I liked the nature of the country and its proximity to our traditions in Egypt. We also have historical and economic relations with Greece, and it reminds me of the city of Alexandria in Egypt.
When the economic crisis that hit Greece years ago, I wanted to seize the opportunity by buying apartments and lands at cheap prices. And with my complete certainty that the economic situation will be better in Greece, being one of the most important touristic countries in Europe, I was confident that this sector will recover within a couple of years.
Have you ever thought about investing in the tourism sector?
Absolutely, but with my busy life in my construction business and focussing on building apartments at an average of 6,000 apartments per year, working in the tourism sector had to be delayed a little. However, I bought two small hotels in Greece, and this could be regarded as the starting point of my business in the tourism industry. I am totally sure that Egypt should be a beacon for international tourism, as it represents the oldest civilisation in the world, and it is located in a distinguished location. I am very hopeful that Egypt would become the number one tourism country all over the world.
In fact, I chose Greece as I believed in the importance of tourism sector in this country. Greece receives 40 million tourists annually, and the opportunities were great to buy cheap lands and real estate.
My aim was to find the best areas for investment in Greece, areas that attract tourists and considered suitable for launching urban projects. As a businessman who has a great experience in the construction sector, I decided to invest in lands and real estate that could develop more value in the future. Today, I own a wide range of apartments in the most expensive areas in Greece, and I focus on high-spec buildings that can attract people who want to own or rent luxury apartments, even with small sizes.
Tell us more about your business projects in the northern coast region in Egypt
My business in the northern coast region started almost 25 years ago, when I implemented a few small projects in the area of Abotalat, which is near Al Ajmi. However, we are currently working extensively on implementing distinctive urban projects in the new Alamein area after purchasing a very large land to meet our ambitions to invest distinctively in the coast.
Over the past two years, our local and global teams have focussed on distinctive buildings that can be implemented, of which we can meet the expectations of people and their desire to obtain what suits them most. We will unveil the project details soon. It will contain around 18,000 apartments, which is a very good number for the northern coast region of Egypt.
Tell us about Mohamed Morshedy, the human?
Life should never be spent only on working, we live only once in this life. Businesses should only be a way to achieve success, not a lifestyle. I actually work a lot, but at the same time I focus on having breaks away from work life. I travel a lot to entertain myself and to discover the world. I also try to do some sport activities when I get the chance.
Everyone has to experience all aspects of life, including work, social and family life, with a focus on life entertainments as well. Even if some people earn a lot of money, they will never enjoy it if they cannot keep their social and family relationships healthy. Happiness and love are the foundation of a good life, and if people cannot obtain happiness and love through money, they will spend all their life on work only.
Therefore, I decided I would never forget who I am, and to maintain my true personality. No matter what I have achieved, and with all my successes and accomplishments, I was determined not to forget the real Mohamed Morshedy, who studied in high school and university, and had all the good relationships and happy memories with people. Being rich and famous does not make you happy unless you learn how to hold your social and family relationships strong. Happiness lies in being a giver and to learn how to show love and to be loved.For all the latest Real Estate news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.