Time Out takes a look at 10 of the projects converting Bahrain from traditional kingdom into an ultra-modern island
Fifty years ago, there was scarcely a road in Bahrain, and the Kingdom’s inhabitants lived a traditional Bedouin lifestyle. Fast forward to 2008 and it’s all change in this tiny, oil rich, island state. Bahrain may be steeped in history (the ancient civilisation of Dilmun was, after all, centred here), but it’s the future that the Kingdom is focusing on.
New hotel complexes, roads, shopping malls (Sitra, Country Mall etc), theme parks (like The Lost Paradise of Dilmum and Adhari) and more have sprung up all over the country.
This wave of development shows no sign of stopping. There are plenty more projects (and we’re talking mega projects – nothing is insignificant), in the pipeline and even the first time visitor to Bahrain can’t help but be struck by how fast things are changing. The plethora of projects are made even more astounding given Bahrain’s geography; at 716 sq km, the island is no bigger than a postage stamp (albeit a big one). But despite being small in stature, Bahrain has always been big on ambition, so it’s no surprise that the Kingdom refuses to let a little detail like lack of space get in the way. Like property developments throughout the Gulf region, many of the multi-billion dinar projects are being built on reclaimed land. Take a good look around, because the Bahrain of 2012 is going to look very different from what you see today. The nation is about to become one of the most spectacular destinations, not only in the Gulf, but on the planet.
Bahrain World Trade Centre Where: Northern coastline What: No development has garnered quite as much attention as the Bahrain World Trade Centre (BWTC) and its iconic turbines, which have put Bahrain on the map, much like the Burj Al Arab has done for Dubai. Built to look like sails, the BWTC not only offers accommodation, but also boasts a five-star hotel, a high end shopping centre called MODAa Mall and sophisticated office space. Even more impressive are the BWTC’s green credentials. The centre was short listed for the 2007 Award for Environmental Excellence in the category of ‘Sustainable Construction’, owing to its environmentally sound, energy efficient measures such as solar powered external lighting and enhanced thermal insulation. Find out more:www.bahrainwtc.com
Abraj Al Lulu Where: Seef district, Manama What: Two 50 storey towers and one 40 storey tower housing more than 860 one, two, three and four bedroom apartments plus 12 villas, and a wide range of sport, health and fitness facilities. We’re talking tennis courts, basketball courts and an open air pool. Added attractions include a rock garden and waterfalls plus a landscaped play area and plenty of parking space. The project has cost BD100 million (US$265 million) and covers an area of 186,000 sq m. When: 2008 Find out more:www.abrajallulu.com
Al Areen Where: Sakhir What:The development will transform the arid Al Areen area from a dry, dusty desert outpost into a residential, healthcare and entertainment complex that should appeal to both tourists and residents. The Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort opened its doors in 2007, and although it’s only been open a short time, is already being hailed as one of the Middle East’s most luxurious hideaways. Adjacent to the Banyan Tree is the Middle East’s premier water park, The Lost Paradise of Dilmun. They will be joined by Hotel Al Areen, Al Waha Resort, Oryx Hills, Downtown Al Areen, Sarab Al Areen and other residential, recreation and retail options. When: 2008 Find out more:www.alareenresort.com
Bahrain Bay Where: North east coast of Manama What: A landmark BD943 million (US$2.5billion) waterfront development encompassing an area of 1.1 million sq m, Bahrain Bay is designed around vibrant neighbourhoods of residential, commercial and retail spaces. The community is the brain child of Arcapita; a Bahrain- based international bank focused on corporate, real estate and asset-based investments. Arcapita have chosen this carefully- conceived waterfront neighbourhood as the site of their new corporate headquarters, while in another coup, the Kingdom’s first Four Seasons Hotel will open its doors here. When: The tentative completion date is 2010, although industry insiders suspect that the project may be delayed for several years. Find out more:www.bahrainbay.com
Bahrain Financial Harbour Where: Located off the north coast of Manama, Bahrain Financial Harbour is close enough to the capital to be accessible to everyone, yet still relatively secluded. What: The BD490 million (US$1.3 billion) development, is being built on 380,000 sq m of reclaimed land and will primarily be dedicated to all things finance related. Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH) compromises 10 projects: Financial Centre, Commercial West, Commercial East, Harbour Row, Hotel, Residential South, Diamond Tower, residential North, Bahrain Performance Centre and Dhow Harbour. Given Bahrain’s long history in the banking industry, BFH has been hailed as a sound addition to the Kingdom’s existing infrastructure. When: 2009 Find out more:www.bfharbour.com
Durrat Al Bahrain Where: Southern tip of Bahrain What: The BD1.1 billion (US$2.9 billion) Durrat Al Bahrain is easily the Kingdom’s largest residential project, taking up 20 sq km of land reclaimed from the desert and sea. Designed to resemble a necklace, the Durrat developments will consist of no fewer than 13 different islands; five pearl shaped islands, an arc of six atolls, a crescent-shaped island that will house a residential complex and last but not least, an island that will revolve around a five- star resort and aqua park. According to the developer, buyers and visitors alike can look forward to a gorgeous golf course, luxurious shopping centres, excellent restaurants, promenades and a planned marina. In short, the developer is aiming for perfection – like the ‘most perfect pearl’, which the project is named after. When: The landmark project, not dissimilar to The Palm in Dubai, was scheduled for completion in 2009. However, a setback was encountered earlier this year when more than 1,300 labourers working on the project put down their tools in a protest over pay, so 2010 looks like being a much more realistic date. Find out more:www.durratbahrain.com
Health Island Where: Reclaimed land off Muharraq. What: The first island, not only in Bahrain but in the Gulf, devoted – as its name suggests – to healthcare. The BD603 million (US$1.6 billion) island, which will cover 1.25 million sq m, is being spearheaded by the Ithmaar Development Company. Facilities are said to include centres for diagnostics, aesthetic surgery, alternative medicine, nutrition and diabetes in addition to deluxe spas, boutique hotels and luxury residences. The aim of the island is to make Bahrain the regional hub for health tourism while simultaneously providing first class health care for the Kingdom’s residents. When: Construction is anticipated to take between three to five years.
Marina West Where: West coast What: Bahrain’s first gated beachfront residential and lifestyle community. Set out over 350,000 sq m, the 11 towers will house luxury apartments. A one-bedroom flat will set you back BD49,300 (US$130,804) with a four-bedroom flat on the top floor weighing in at approximately BD227,800 (US$605,849). Elsewhere, a huge space will be given over to lifestyle and leisure pursuits. Translation? Expect to see a 130m long stretch of private beach, health club and spa, dining area, supermarket, marina and more. When: December 2009 Find out more:www.marina-west.com
Reef Island Where: City Centre What: Yet another man- made island, Reef Island (which is being developed by Lulu Tourism Company), will feature 39 residential buildings, housing a total of 1217 apartments, 67 individual villas and 49 beach chalets, all of which will overlook private lagoons. When completed, Reef will also have its own private Marina & Yacht Club, shopping mall, Spa Village, aquarium, dedicated medical centre in addition to a five- star 300- room hotel. All this is being developed at a cost of BD280 million (US$740 million). When: The first phase is due to be finished in early 2009, with the second stage scheduled for completion at the end of 2010. Find out more:www.reef-island.com
Riffa Views Where: Riffa What: A brand spanking new community featuring 900 homes built around a new PGA championship golf course, designed by Scottish golfing great, Colin Montgomerie. The residential development will include three neighbourhood clusters, waterways and lagoons, and all homes will have arresting, open views of the verdant golf fairways. When: 2008 Find out more:www.riffaviews.com
Bridging the divide
While historically, the Kingdom hasn’t always enjoyed the best relationship with next door neighbour Qatar, the two GCC countries have put aside past differences and plan to build a 45km bridge linking the two together.
The Qatar Bahrain Friendship Bridge (not dissimilar to the King Fahd Causeway that links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain) has been the subject of speculation for many years, and work is now finally schedule to commence in May.
The causeway will link Ras Ashairij in north Qatar with a site in the north Askar region of Bahrain; the exact path of the link has been chosen to minimise the impact on both countries’ environments. It’s estimated that the Qatar- Bahrain Friendship Bridge will be finished in 2012, and when complete will be the longest fixed link across water in the world. Clearly, Dubai isn’t the only Arab state intent on breaking records…