Makkah has always been a place of immense religious, cultural, and spiritual importance amongst the Muslim community worldwide. For this reason, the growth and development of the holy city deserve special attention for high quality of life in Makkah. Through Masar, the urban development program in Makkah, Umm Alqura for Development and Construction (UAQ) has found great success in transforming Makkah into a thriving cultural destination and modern landmark.
In an exclusive interview with Big Project ME, Yasser Abuateek, the CEO of UAQ, said, “The project began with the issuance of Royal Decree no. 6258/MB stipulating the development of the King Abdulaziz Road in Makkah. After which, Umm Al Qura for Development and Construction (UAQ) began developing the project by surveying the properties of the six neighbourhoods located on the project land, paying compensations, and starting the infrastructure works.”
Umm Alqura for Development and Construction (UAQ) is developing this urban development project, which is a closed joint-stock company with investors like the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the Public Pension Agency, and Ministry of Finance. Yasser Abuateek, addresses the project as ‘Masar’ as it communicates the concept of comprehensive mobility, which is a primary pillar of the project.
Flaunting an array of dynamic features and capabilities, this massive urban development project aims to improve the quality of life of Makkah’s residents. Also it will enhance the Hajj and Umrah journey of the pilgrims. It facilitates the residents’ and pilgrims’ access to the Holy Mosque, in line with the kingdom leadership’s directives to attract 30 million pilgrims by 2030.
“The idea was to create a destination that considers the urban and economic ecosystem, utilising an urban plan and design, and providing services that ensure the smooth movement of visitors for distinctive and diverse attractions experiences that take into account the culture and authenticity of Makkah Al-Mukarramah,” he explained.
Key features of Masar Urban Development Project
The urban destination features several green landscaped areas and numerous cultural, social, and recreational amenities. Keeping in line with the kingdom’s Quality of Life Program, modern transportation methods and facilities are being developed continuously. It will enhance the lifestyle of the individuals in Makkah. The project will provide a number of investment opportunities in several sectors like hospitality, accommodation, food and beverages, and transport.
Justifying its name, this urban destination features several pathways, such as a 3.65-km-long pedestrian boulevard located in the middle of the primary 80 m-wide two-way roads. The two pathways do not intersect at any point, becoming the Holy Mosque plazas’ natural extension. Masar also consists of a plethora of tunnels, commercial centers, hotels, residential units, and car parks. In addition, there are several open public spaces as well as cultural, retail, and government centers.
In the interview with Big Project ME, Abuateek also explained, “The core elements of Masar are the main pathway extending from the western entrance of Makkah, through Prince Mohammed bin Salman Road to the Holy Mosque Plaza, in addition to other pathways, such as the pedestrian boulevard, the metro, and the rapid bus transit network.”
Around 65% of the infrastructure work was completed by May 2021. According to Abuateek, there are a total of 205 development plots spanning across an area of 690,000 sq m. UAQ is aiming to build 13,000 residential units and 38,000 hotel rooms through long-term investment channels. These include 59 residential buildings, 58 hotels, 82 hotel apartments, and numerous commercial centers.
Masar Development Project: Vision & Opportunities
With an array of new innovations and advancements, Masar will meet all the evolving technological and communication needs. Featuring a strategic location in the heart of Makkah and adjacent to the holy Haram, it becomes a hotspot for attractive investment opportunities. The development of the destination is taking place by keeping in mind the potential growth in the demand for accommodation and transport services required by the vast number of visitors for bettering the quality of life in Makkah.
In the interview, Abuateek said, “We are currently in the ideal time to invest in the hospitality, accommodation, and mobility sectors, with an increased opportunity to offer new living concepts that cater to the next generation of pilgrims and visitors. This segment, and according to several studies, look for a higher standard of quality and environmentally friendly concepts and buildings.”
With Masar entering the limelight, the destination has successfully captured the interest of several world-renowned investors. Reputable international hospitality companies like Grand Hyatt, Hilton, Kempinski, Marriott, and Taj have already started planning the implementation of their projects here. As per the initial plans for Masar, the investment opportunities will be effective in 2022. However, owing to the piling interest of those looking to invest in Masar, UAQ has preponed the decided date by signing memorandums of understanding with many investors.
Abuateek further said, “Our focus is on the added value that the investor can provide in these sectors. Therefore, we are keen on accommodating such added value by building more flexible and sustainable investment models that rely on innovation, whether in partnerships, long-term rentals, or other arrangements, in a way that benefits all parties involved.”
Towards the end of his interview with Big Project ME, Abuateek expressed his full confidence that everything will proceed according to the plan to enhance the quality of life in Makkah. He gave assurance that the project is in full compliance with the precautionary and preventive measures issued by the relevant institutions.