Al Areen: a novel concept

An artist’s impression of the spa

A VAST and luxurious mixed-use health and family tourism development is coming up in the southern region of Bahrain, promising to offer a serene atmosphere in a uniquely rejuvenating, and entertaining environment.

The $750 million Al Areen development, nestled next to the Al Areen Wildlife Sanctuary, will have cutting-edge amenities and aesthetics, mixing modernity with tradition.
In an exclusive interview with TTN, Al Areen Holding Company’s general manager Eng. Waleed Ishaq Saffy, said that the entire development is an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Excerpts from an interview:

TTN: Al Areen is seen as a major tourism project for Bahrain. How is the project progressing?
Eng. Waleed Ishaq Saffy: Al Areen is a development involving about 2 million sq m. The master plan for this one-of-a-kind development covers various parcels of land to be developed into specific projects including hotels, shopping centres, a spa resort, leisure facilities, etc. Our aim is to create a mixed-use modern community, where residents and tourists can stay, shop or access entertainment and recreational facilities of their choice.
In 2006, two major components of the Al Areen development will be up and running. Work has already started on the Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort, and it is moving extremely fast for completion early next year.
The $140 million Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort is at the heart of the first phase of the overall Al Areen development. The spa and resort is the first venture for Banyan Tree in Bahrain, and is a cornerstone of the company’s Middle East expansion strategy. It will span 130,000 sq m, and feature 78 luxury villas (22 presidential two-bedroom villas and 56 one-bedroom villas) complete with private gardens, swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Another key component of the development is The Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park, which will also be ready next year. This $50 million park will be designed and operated by Sim Leisure Consultants of Malaysia, and will be fitted with the latest water park equipment from Canada-based White Water West, the world’s leading supplier of water park gear.
On the infrastructure front, Phase I – earthworks – is nearing completion. Phase II involving road-works and water and power connections will begin around this month. Some sections of the development will get the infrastructure earlier than others depending on the progress taking place in those particular areas. The infrastructure work will be completed in around 20 months.

What other stages of development are planned at the moment?
Almost all the parcels of land available in the development have been sold. A Kuwaiti developer will build the shopping mall complex, which will have a hotel attached to it. Work will start on this project in 2006, and the first phase is expected to be completed in 2008.
Bahrain-based Enshaa Development Real Estate Company will develop a mega resort spread across 51,900 sq m at the north-eastern end of the Al Areen development. The development’s master plan envisages a 250-room hotel, multi-purpose hall, 91 executive serviced apartments and 120 condominiums for sale. An international operator will manage the property.
Another hotel is also planned overlooking the water park by a Sharjah-based company. The Oryx Hills residential cluster has also been launched. It offers freehold property and has gone very well with investors, who have already taken almost 70 per cent of the plots. By 2008, there will be a lot of activities available throughout the development.

What is the Al Areen Holding Company’s role in the development of the project?
The Al Areen Holding Company is responsible for the master plan, which has been prepared by an international consortium of architects led by the Lebanon-based Erga Group. It is also our responsibility to see that the land is developed according to the guidelines set out in the master plan and provide infrastructure facilities. There will be no surprises this way, and the investors will know exactly what they can do with their parcel of land and who their neighbors are. Al Areen is also developing, as previously stated, the Banyan Tree Desert Spa and Resort as well as The Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park, two key components of the development.
This development has been termed as one-of-a-kind. What’s unique about Al Areen?
There are many beach and desert resorts in the region. But you will hardly find a resort with a wildlife sanctuary next door. You can actually see animals from your window. This is a novel concept, and we hope that GCC and international residents will enjoy this.
Al Areen is different in many other aspects as well. It’s a complete community where everything is available. People living in Al Areen need not travel all the way to downtown Manama for day-to-day needs. The type of facilities and services provided at Al Areen will be world class and conveniently on site. At Al Areen, people will enjoy life at a relaxed pace. The roads are curved to slowdown traffic. The whole development is created in such a way that people are able to enjoy their stay in peace and tranquility. We have received some excellent feedback about this aspect of the development.
There are natural desert valleys or “wadis” within the Al Areen grounds, which will be largely left untouched, and – wherever necessary – bridges will be built. These native wadis have already been incorporated into the master plan design of Al Areen, and will become part of the innate natural theme of the development.

What steps have you taken so that the wildlife is not affected by the development, and to ensure an ecological balance is maintained?
Al Areen has a comprehensive environmental protection strategy, which is integrated into the development of the project. Arrangements have been made to relocate rare and endangered plant and animal species to reduce the impact of the development on the environment.
We have had extensive consultations with a number of environmental experts and incorporated their valuable input into our plan of action. Our initiatives to safeguard the environment stems from our desire to balance developmental issues with concerns of natural preservation.
We have created a buffer zone along the 4.4 km boundary between the wildlife sanctuary and the Al Areen development. This zone, called Linear Park, will be landscaped and visitors can watch wildlife from here, while enjoying a leisurely stroll along this path.