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Thu 7 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Tunisia’s $10bn super city

New Abu Dhabi development giant Al Maabar is eyeing African opportunities.

Each week Arabian Business turns the spotlight on a leading company.

So there's a new giant developer in Abu Dhabi... and it has its eyes on Tunisia?

You must mean Al Maabar International Investments Company, a result of Sorouh Real Estate, Aldar Properties, Al Qudra Real Estate and Reem Investments all joining forces. Al Maabar means ‘gateway' in Arabic.

That's the one. So what's the Tunisia project all about? I hear the figures are staggering?

They are. Al Maabar last week announced that it is planning to develop a US$10bn city, Bled El Ward, which will spread over 5000 hectares in Tunisia.

The project is one of the biggest in the southern Mediterranean region and will be built as a modern city, comprising several components including an international health city, water channels, tourist resorts, residency units, sports facilities, golf courses, as well as shopping venues, entertainment and open space.

And what's going to be so attractive about Bled El Ward?

From a tourism point of view, the city of Ariana, where the project will be built, is known for its idyllic setting. The city's design will also be inspired by Ariana's ancient architectural styles. The development focuses primarily on the surrounding environment, with its sea and forests, and provides 50km of beaches through its water channels.

When is work on the project scheduled to commence?

At the moment no date has been announced, but the Tunisian president, Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali (top), seems to have taken a liking to the project and has praised its high standard of design. He has also given the go-ahead for studies and final procedures to commence. After all the necessary formalities are finalised, work is expected to start.

Obviously, it'll be completed in phases...

Yes, like many large-scale projects there will be several phases, starting with the Diar El Fel zone that covers 300 hectares. A total of 190 hectares will be devoted to buildings. The project is expected to be completed within the next five years.

It's quite a big project. Anything else in the pipeline for Al Maabar?

We haven't heard anything concrete yet but this isn't going to be the only announcement from the group of Abu Dhabi companies. Apparently, projects in different parts of the Gulf region, North Africa and Europe are also in the works.

When was Al Maabar actually formed?

You haven't exactly been following the news, have you? In March last year, the four giant Abu Dhabi developers announced the new jointly-owned company, with an eye on overseas markets. Many see this as a different approach to the ones adopted by Dubai developers, whose rapid expansion abroad has been a cause for concern to a number of shareholders, especially following the declining US market.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall