IN THE DESERT, A THOUSAND FLOWERS BLOOM

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohammed Sultan Al Qadi, Managing Director & CEO of RAK Properties, on boosting luxury developments, eco-themed mixed-use projects, and knowing when to invest in hotels.

Mohammed Sultan Al Qadi
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed Sultan Al Qadi has 35 years’ experience in the field of management. He spent 26 years working for the Emirates Telecommunications Corporation Etisalat. He experienced several leading positions, including the General Manager of Etisalat Ras Al Khaimah and the Chairman of the board of directors of Etisalat Zanzibar “Zantel.” He led a team that managed to win a license for Etisalat to operate in Sudan (Sodetel). He also served as a board member of Arab Satellite Organization (ARABSAT) for 15 years, and he was the representative of UAE in the Arab League Permanent Committee for Telecommunications in Cairo, in addition to many other positions. He graduated from the British Royal University.

What have been RAK Properties' landmark projects?

RAK Properties was established with the vision of HH Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi. At the time of inception we were seeking AED1 billion, but when we announced it, the demand far exceeded our expectations. Everyone wanted to participate and we reached AED56 billion. We discussed this with His Highness and we decided to aim for AED2 billion and return the extra money back to the investors. After that, we registered our company on the Security and Commodities Authority in the UAE because it is a public shareholding company. Our first projects were the Julphar Towers, where our offices are located, and Mina Al Arab, our biggest project. We started with the infrastructure of Mina Al Arab and the first phase of villas and apartments, which cost approximately AED1 billion. The plan at that time was to spend about AED10 billion on Mina Al Arab. There are about nine hotels planned along the coast together with a big mall in a specific area of the development as well. Unfortunately, by the time we were going to float a tender for these projects, the economic crisis hit in 2008. By that time, we finished and launched the first part of Mina Al Arab. Now we have around 2,500 units completed to date. Furthermore, around this time, we finished the RAK Tower development in Abu Dhabi, which was sold completely.

How do you evaluate the market for eco-themed mixed-use projects such as Mina Al Arab in RAK?

These types of properties are ideal because Ras Al Khaimah has not previously had high-quality buildings, gated communities, or mixed-used developments. So we decided to build hotels, malls, high-class villas, and medium-class apartments. The only difficulty we had was during the financial crisis. Otherwise, whatever we launched at that time was sold. The demand was high before 2008. After the crisis, we changed strategy and decided to follow market trends, which was affordable housing. Moving forward, we hope that the domestic real estate sector will continue to improve, although there are many economic difficulties and instability in the region. And yet our country is different because of the great infrastructure. We have almost 200 nationalities living peacefully, and there are no problems. We have around 10 million visitors to the UAE every year. In Ras Al Khaimah, we have a different topography from the rest of the UAE because we have the mountains, the sea, and the sand dunes. We are also close to Dubai, just 45 minutes away. All this adds value. Also, we have a well-established free trade zone authority and it attracts many investors. All this encourages us to pursue new projects.

Why have you decided to expand beyond Ras Al Khaimah?

The UAE is a unified space and the Emirates complement each other. Whatever we do in Dubai or Abu Dhabi complements Ras Al Khaimah.

What trends have you identified that will affect your approach to future projects?

Ras Al Khaimah is a rapidly growing tourist destination, which is why we need to increase the number of hotels. I wish I had started hotels eight years ago. Another factor is that high-end homes are at the point of saturation. Mid-market houses are in demand now. There is demand in the high-end market, but people want beach front properties. The majority would like to have an affordable apartment or villa, so that is what we are now taking into consideration. Also, maybe people look for the quality of shops in the area that add to the destination, like Tim Hortons, Starbucks, and so on. It adds value to your projects.