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Massive Haram expansion a boon for Makkah suburbs

By IINA | Makkah | 28 Apr 2012

The real estate sector in the holy city has undergone a drastic change during the last couple of years, resulting in large numbers of people, who had lived in the vicinity of the Holy Haram for generations, migrating to the outskirts of the city.

The massive expansion project of the Grand Mosque, which has necessitated the acquisition and subsequent demolition of thousands of properties, has escalated the rate of migration from the center of the city to the suburbs.

More than 10,000 properties have been demolished to make way for the expansion projects, resulting in an exodus of residents to neighboring districts, including Aziziyah, where Hajj and Umrah companies have started leasing residential buildings to accommodate pilgrims.

With this population shift, several major commercial stores and supermarkets have opened branches to meet the growing demands of the mushrooming suburbs. Several real estate investors have also moved in to take part in the unprecedented economic growth.

According to economic experts and real estate officials in the city, the economy in Makkah has expanded by a staggering 40 percent.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, they noted that Al-Sharaie District in East Makkah is the major beneficiary of the current real estate boom in the holy city. There has been a huge flow of Makkawis to the district and this has resulted in the doubling of the number of local residents.

Unfortunately, this has also caused a huge increase in real estate rates.

Prominent economic expert, Salem Al-Matrafi, who is also owner of Al-Hotaim Real Estate Group, said that the flow of commercial capital and investments to these areas is very positive. “The important aspect is easing the immense pressure on the central districts in Makkah, such as Aziziyah and Sitteen Street, which had been experiencing stagnation as far as commercial souqs and shops were concerned,” he said.

According to Al-Matrafi, this new migratory trend has helped boost the hitherto backward and untapped suburban districts. “This has encouraged a number of small investors to come forward to make investments in these districts, and this in turn has lead to further expansion encompassing the entire city of Makkah,” he said, adding that citizens living in these areas now do not need to go to the city center to buy goods for daily use.

Mishaal Al-Zayedi, a real estate expert, said the appearance of branded commercial stores across the city would also boost the real estate sector. Such a situation will eventually lead to the construction of hotels and more residential apartments in all areas to accommodate the growing number of people who prefer to live away from the traditional center. Other real estate companies expect that there will be a tremendous response from Hajj and Umrah tour operators as they move to these areas to accommodate pilgrims at reasonable rates.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Saqat, member of the real estate evaluation committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that there are a number of studies and technical consultations with regard to tapping the economic and investment potential of these districts. He stressed the need for tackling the existing problems before developing residential townships in these suburbs. Saqat disclosed that the evaluation of strategic places to make investments is under way. This would lead to job opportunities and an improvement in utilities. It is essential to form economic blocs to allow for the opening of more commercial centers and mega-malls as part of the ongoing changes in the holy city.

Saleh Al-Ghamdi, a citizen living near a major commercial store, said that even though several famous commercial stores have opened their branches in far-flung areas of the city, their selection of locations was not ideal. “For example, parking is a problem because many of the stores are located in areas with heavy traffic. We hope that the concerned authorities will take quick action to address such problems. On the other hand, we can now buy everything we need in stores that are close to our house, and, therefore, no longer need to waste several hours in making a trip to the city center.”



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