Seven years after first launching with Omar Sharif as frontman, Ajman’s ambitious plans to build a vast new resort city in the Al Zorah area are finally coming to fruition.
Squint when you drive onto the vast expanse of sand next to Ajman Creek – earmarked for the 5.4 million square metre mixed-use development – and you’ll almost get an idea of what it will look like if and when it is completed.
The site, sandwiched between Ajman Creek and the sea, is now crawling with hundreds of construction workers, marking out individual plots, completing infrastructure work on roads, electricity cables and water pipes as well as building the unmistakable shells of luxury villas.
Drive a little further and suddenly you’re in the midst of dozens of sprinklers gushing out treated sewerage water onto the already grassy slopes of the project’s par 72, 18 hole Jack Nicklaus designed golf course.
A coffee shop and marketing suite overlooking the mangrove swamps of the Creek is already trading and the project’s first 42 villas – underway and due for completion next year – are already sold. Marketing for a second phase of homes is likely to start at Cityscape Global this autumn.
However, it is still a long way from the vast new city originally promised by the project’s development team, Al Zorah Development Company, a joint venture between Lebanese developer Solidiere and the government of Ajman.
Ajman’s most famous property development is set to one day include thousands of new homes, six luxury hotels, cafes, restaurants and a massive nature reserve.
The project, first launched in 2008 with the aim of putting Dubai’s tiny neighbour on the tourist map, has had a rough ride. Its initial launch coincided with the global financial crisis which left the high profile scheme in limbo
“There have been many changes to the project between when it was launched in 2008 and now,” said Imad Dana, chief executive of Al Zorah Development Company at a press briefing earlier this week. “When the project first started it was designed as a mixed use city, but after the crisis it has been revised the plans to focus more on nature and hospitality.”
Who can buy there?
The project is in a freehold and free zone area which means it enables 100 per cent ownership of businesses, land villas and apartments. In other words, anyone can invest in a property there as long as they have the money.
What are the prices like?
So far only the first phase of 42 golf villas have come to the market. According to the developer these fetched between Dh4 million and Dh6.5m.
What happened to Omar Sharif?
The Egypt-born Oscar nominated actor fronted high profile advertisements for Al Zorah before the global financial crisis but has been dropped as brand ambassador for the project’s relaunch. Al Zorah says that it will not be getting another star to promote the scheme.
How big will the scheme be when it’s finished?
Under the current master plan, Al Zorah is expected to house around 100,000 residents upon completion. This will include five districts; Gateway, Beachfront, Peninsula, Creekside and Golf Course.
What about this focus on nature?
The project also includes 1 million square meters of natural mangroves, home to more than 58 bird species including pink flamingos, 12 kilometres of waterfront and 1.6 kilometres of beaches.
And the hospitality?
The development will also feature two hotels – the Oberoi and the LUX – both due for completion next year.