Mahmood Mohamed Ali Al Jarwani, chairman Al Jarwani Group which develops the upcoming Mall of Muscat, Sohar China Downtown and WTC Muscat, believes that real estate investment has a promising future in the Sultanate in view of its potential in contributing to the national economy. Excerpts from an interview
Can you give us a brief on some of the major commercial, residential and tourism projects of Al Jarwani Group?
Established in 2003, Al Jarwani Group is a leading development enterprise in the Sultanate of Oman. The group has diversified its investments in many sectors, including commercial real estate development, hospitality solutions, retail, entertainment, logistics, warehousing, medical, agricultural, and services. Al Jarwani Group has successfully developed and implemented several successful projects across all these sectors.
Based on Al Jarwani Group’s vision of working for a better future and in its efforts to improve the quality of life in the Sultanate, the group has been keen to develop distinctive projects that contribute to the economic development of the Sultanate, create new job opportunities and achieve a positive impact on the Sultanate’s development. Based on this, Al Jarwani Group has undertaken and developed a number of unique commercial projects such as Bait Al Reem Business Centre, one of the most prominent business centres in Muscat which offers an advanced business platform for companies and projects of various types and sizes. The group has also developed signature residential projects such as Dar Al Maha, which aimed to provide solutions to the residential challenges facing Oman’s youth, in addition to many real estate, commercial and tourism projects such as Khasab Shopping Centre, Sohar China Downtown in the North Batinah region and Mall of Muscat, which is positioned to be one of the most important shopping destinations in Oman. Al Jarwani Group is gearing up to develop another iconic project in Oman, the World Trade Centre (WTC) in Muscat, which is now at the planning stage and will be launched soon.
It is also worth mentioning that Al Jarwani Group has been a pioneer in developing and introducing world-class touristic attractions and in setting new industry standards within the leisure and entertainment sector. For example, we are introducing the first of its kind Oman Aquarium which is going to be the largest aquarium in the Middle East, as well as the first indoor Snow Park, multi-level Go-Karting racing circuit and many other recreational facilities which will be located under one roof at Mall of Muscat.
When is Mall of Muscat, one of your iconic projects, expected to open? Have you completed the works of Aquarium and Snow Park coming up in the mall?
Mall of Muscat is one of the most important commercial and touristic projects developed by Al Jarwani Group. The mall is strategically located in the Wilayat Al Seeb between Muscat Highway and the Main Highway. It offers a unique shopping experience with its world-class brands and its unprecedented leisure and entertainment attractions, making it the most preferred and popular shopping destination in the Sultanate.
Mall of Muscat has more than 200 retail outlets offering shoppers international specialised brands, some of which will be available for the first time in the Sultanate, in addition to its various leisure attractions such Oman Aquarium, the largest aquarium of its kind in the Middle East. Visitors can enjoy the world-class aquarium, which features a wide variety of marine life and creatures (more than 30,000 marine animals), all living within the two-storey water tank and over a total area of 8,000 sqm.
Mall of Muscat also introduces the first Snow Park to open in Oman with a total area of 5,500 sqm designed in Alpine style. The Snow Park is the first of a new generation of real snow and ice indoor amusement parks with many family-friendly rides, attractions and facilities such as children’s Snow Mobiles, Snow Slides, Ice Climbing Wall, Snowball Challenge, Snowball Arena, 3D Alpine Theatre and Ice Skating Rink. Furthermore, Mall of Muscat will introduce Novo Cinemas, one of the leading developers and providers of cinema theatres in the region, which is launching its 14-screen cinema theatre for the first time in the Sultanate at Mall of Muscat. In addition to these attractions, Mall of Muscat presents many other leisure facilities such as a three-level Go-Karting circuit, a bowling centre and the famous family entertainment centre “Faby Land”, which offers the latest entertainment, attractions and family games for the first time in the Sultanate.
The construction work of Mall of Muscat is progressing in accordance to the set schedules and the time plans towards the planned opening of the mall in the last quarter of 2018, as one of the most important shopping destinations and one of the key landmarks of the Sultanate. Oman Aquarium and the Snow Park are expected to open in conjunction with the opening of Mall of Muscat, being the most unique leisure attractions of the mall.
What is the current status of Sohar China Downtown?
Sohar China Downtown Mall presents a unique concept of Chinese based centres in the region through offering unprecedented opportunities and experiences for customers, vendors and investors alike. Sohar China Downtown is a step beyond the familiarity of other Chinese based centres in the region. This uniqueness is manifested through the architectural design and through its business concept, making it a touristic destination and an attraction for many small and medium-sized regional enterprises and SMEs to showcase their products and services under one roof. Sohar China Downtown also offers customers the opportunity to learn about the world’s most famous Chinese brands and high-quality products, some of which will be available for the first time in the Sultanate.
The mall is designed to be the first of its kind in the Sultanate with its unique amenities and features to ensure that everyone has an unforgettable shopping experience. The project includes a spa that offers an opportunity of relaxing, a variety of fine restaurants, as well as the largest amusement and entertainment family centre in Al Batinah region “Funtazmo”. The mall has over 200 shops, an extensive food court, a variety of restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes, a variety of Chinese food outlets and one of the leading hypermarket outlets in the Sultanate.
Furthermore, many exciting cultural events are planned for throughout the year to make Sohar China Downtown the destination of choice for shoppers and families from the Sultanate and all over the GCC.
The mall successfully opened on May 29, 2018 (trial opening) and preparations are under way for the grand opening during the third quarter of this year. The results in terms of number of visitors, leased spaces and transactions’ revenue have exceeded the expectations since the launch of the trial opening phase. We are proud of this commercial and cultural edifice and will continue with its development and enhancement.
Al Jarwani Group has acquired licence to execute the first WTC in the Sultanate. What is the current status of WTC Muscat?
Al Jarwani Group is preparing to execute another major project, the World Trade Centre in Muscat. The group has received the license to develop the first World Trade Centre in Oman, as part of a multi-development project. What makes this project really unique and special is that it provides platforms for economic development that contribute to the Sultanate’s renaissance and enforces its position as a preferred economic and investment destination in the region. This multi-development project will include the development of the World Trade Centre, a shopping mall, a residential complex and a hotel, as it aims to provide integrated services in the publishing, media and advertising, engineering, technology, information services and many more to meet all the needs of business owners and entrepreneurs.
What is your future outlook? And what are the challenges facing Oman’s real estate and retail sectors?
We have a very positive outlook for the future as Al Jarwani Group is always working according to its strategic plans and striving to contribute to building a better future. We continue to develop and implement distinctive and unique projects which will support the country’s development and achieve a better lifestyle, as well as contribute to the economic and social prosperity of the Sultanate.
The natural, social, political and economic components which Oman enjoys, strengthen its position as an attractive destination for businesses and investors.
We believe that the future of the real estate investment in the Sultanate is very promising, because of the importance of this sector as one of the most valuable contributors to the national economy. The requirements of economic diversification require the development of various real estate projects to meet the expected growth of the targeted economic sectors. This necessity is faced with some challenges that are represented in the requirement of achieving a healthy balance between supply and demand, in addition to the importance of setting the laws and regulations that encourage the process of real estate investment in all its forms.
The retail sector in Oman is witnessing a steady growth due to its vitality and resilience. The retail sector has successfully attracted businesses and entrepreneurs because of the natural and real growth rates of this sector which are associated with many factors. One of these factors is the natural population growth, more than 4 per cent annually, which is considered as one of the highest rates in the world. Oman’s strategic location, the stable economy climate, the integrated legal system and the advanced infrastructure are some of the other factors. The free trade and open market policy have also helped the growth and development of the retail sector in Oman.
Having said that, it is only fair to say that the retail sector still faces a number of challenges, such as the requirement of developing and designing this sector so that it can meet the tastes and behaviour of shoppers in a modern fashion, adapted to the developments and changes in the region and in the world. This can be done through the effective usage and application of modern technology in how this sector operates and caters to different business needs and requirements.