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June 2015

Still in its infancy, the Palestinian real estate sector offers ample opportunities for investment and development across all asset classes.

Driving through the streets of Ramallah, at first sight, one might think that it is just like any other city in the Middle East: colourful, narrow winding souks line the streets filled with an abundance of fresh vegetables, with shouting merchants outgunning each other for the best prices on anything ranging from leather shoes to China-made plastic toys.

At second sight, you’ll notice the differences. For a country under military occupation, or perhaps precisely because of it, Palestinian life radiates an incredible vibrancy. People like to voice their opinion whether it’s criticising the government or commenting on the latest football scores. Bars serve every imaginable beverage under the sun to the tunes of Pink Floyd and Iggy Pop.

Due to Ramallah’s hilly topography, the architectural landscape also paints a peculiar picture. Buildings in Palestine’s administrative capital are made of the local abundantly available stone while not major efforts are paid to concealing building infrastructure such as water tanks and electricity lines. The cityscape itself, as is the case with most major Palestinian cities, largely lacks contemporary architecture and large-scale real estate projects and planned communities are fairly new to the country.

It is only over the past seven years, despite the prevailing economic and political instability in Palestine, that real estate investors and developers have begun to work on strategic housing projects and other community focused real estate projects in the country. Developers are now increasingly taking the challenge to literally help build towards a prosperous Palestine and to offer a comfortable way of life for Palestinians.

Real estate landscape

Taking the lead in this the Amaar Group, Palestine’s largest real estate development and investment company. A Ramallah-based privately held company fully owned by Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and with a total capital of USD 140 million, Amaar’s strategy for empowering the Palestinian economy focuses on investing in various real estate sub-sectors in partnership with strategic partners, both locally and internationally.

Cityscape magazine spoke to Munif Treish, CEO, Amaar Group, about the company’s current plans with regards to future development of the Palestinian real estate landscape.

“We are currently engaged in the preparation for the next phase of the affordable housing programme which will cover other cities in Palestine after we have concluded both the Al Reehan project in Ramallah and the Jinan project in Jenin, and after having initiated a new concept of horizontal development called ‘Build your own Home’ in our Moon City development project located in Jericho,” Treish commented.

PIF’s National Affordable Housing Program aims to build 30,000 housing units over the next few years. In line with the programme, the Affordable Mortgage and Loan Company ‘Al AMAL’ was established to initiate bank loans to allow a large number of Palestinians to afford their dream homes, says Amaar Group.

With its 250,000 square metre Al Reehan project, Amaar Group is creating homes for more than 1,500 Palestinian families, providing them with commercial, social, and medical facilities. The first phase which consists of 350 units is now ready and many families have already moved to the neighbourhood.

In the north of the West Bank, the Al Jinan project will comprise residential buildings only three kilometers away from Jenin’s city center, near the Arab American University. Al Jinan will be the first model of a planned-community in the northern West Bank and will offer contemporary architectural designs whilst preserving the local heritage of the area.

Located on a strategic piece of land on the northern gate of Jericho city, Amaar’s Moon City is a mega project aimed at driving prosperity to the Jordan valley. The first phase of Moon City covers 553,000 square meters and will contain residential, touristic, and commercial components whilst paying attention to green areas, road network, and public spaces.

Going forward, Amaar Group is also planning to work with both the Nablus and Hebron Municipality to develop two industrial estates in both cities. On the retail front, the Group will soon commence on the development of the first commercial mall in Palestine. To be located north of Ramallah, the 35,000 sqm mall will provide shopping and entertainment services to more than 250,000 people living in the central area of the West Bank.

Another major project in Palestine is Rawabi City. Developed by Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, Rawabi City is Palestine’s most ambitious real estate project to date. Developed in several phases over a time span of 20 years, the planned city will be eventually home to 40,000 residents and contain schools, hospitals, offices, hotels, and a commercial and entertainment centre.

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