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Entering Makkah

Article - June 19, 2012
A major 20-year plan will develop the Makkah Gateway, a new city that will become the blueprint for suburbs of the future

Visitors to Makkah today enter cruising down a barren desert highway from Jeddah. For years they have been accustomed to this wide, smooth ride into Makkah that does not offer much to see along the way or at the entrance. In a few years that will change.

Imagine a lifelong dream – a pilgrimage to the symbolic centre of the Muslim world – a journey, a cultural and religious experience that is unique to each individual yet shared by all who are Muslim. The journeys each begin at different points of origin, but as each journey gets closer to the Haram and Holy Kaaba, it starts to take on a similar pattern of movement and visual experience – the transition in Jeddah onto local ground transportation to travel along highways and soon-to-be rail lines over mountains, through valleys, across the desert until the gateway.

Fast forward to 2012. Now imagine if this gateway was in fact marked by a new community – a beautiful clustering of low and medium-rise developments filling the valley with exciting activities and resources, planned to create an affordable and functional edge city which can provide 21st century services for residents and visitors alike within the holy region. A city that embraces and is built around a national park, a city that serves as a pressure valve for Makkah, a place for supply, organisation and delivery of the materials and services demanded within the constrained and dense fabric of Makkah. This is the vision for the Makkah Gateway Community. With a combination of high visibility along heavily travelled transportation corridors and a proximity to a site of global religious importance, the Makkah Gateway Community is envisioned as a critical new piece of the Makkah urban region, capable of generating a diverse range of development opportunities.

Makkah Gateway is a visionary new city to be built on the western edge of the Makkah Holy Region along the Jeddah-Makkah Highway. The site for the city covers approximately 84km2 of land and will house an estimated population of approximately 690,000 people. Part of the site for the new city was originally envisioned as a national park land reserve. This vision of the city in a park defines the physical context of the new community. The city will include the government district of Makkah region, a CBD, several residential and mixed-use neighbourhoods, a regional university, the first spiritual resort in the vicinity of the holy city and a convention centre. All connected with a light transit system, a cable car system overlooking the national park.

Bawabat Makkah

Bawabat Makkah (Makkah Gateway) is a new township around 13 km (8 miles) from Al Haram (Grand Mosque of Makkah), and 40 km (25 miles) from Jeddah. It is built around the biggest national park in Saudi Arabia that was granted to the inhabitants of Makkah by the King; at an estimated preserved and man-made park of 25km2. The different districts and zones are subdivided by green parks and fingers that are interlaced to build up a green environment throughout the project area.

Makkah Gateway, Bawabat Makkah, is a forward-looking new community that is built around the largest national park in Saudi Arabia
Sumou Real Estate Company and Makkah Municipality joined hands to develop the concept from mid-2008. The project is a new city that depicts Makkah in the future; it has the new government district, financial district, CBD, university and research centre, exhibition centre, Prince Sultan Cultural Oasis, King Abdullah Dialogue Centre, craft and heritage village, in addition to mixed-use residential and commercial developments. The project is expected to have the latest technology for infrastructure and utilities, as well as full-fledged services and public amenities, such as schools, mosques and community centres.

The project was presented to HRH Prince Khaled Al Faisal and currently the municipality is structuring its investment arm (Al Balad Al Ameen) that will join forces with Sumou to launch the next stage of the project execution. This project will have a 20-year span to complete all phases and construction. It is expected to become a role model for the development of new communities in the suburbs of the main cities and become a major economic driver for mainly inhabitants. It will also attract investments from all over the Islamic world as a commercial hub due to its strategic location.

Makkah and development

As part of the government’s efforts to ensure sustainable developments all over the kingdom, Makkah was always a focal point as the Qiblah of all Muslims around the world. The city witnessed several expansions through the years to serve the increased numbers of pilgrims and inhabitants.

Prince Khaled Al Faisal, Governor of Makkah launched his Ten-Year Development Initiative in May 2008 to focus on a long-term goal, ‘The Development of People and Place’. His strong belief in the role of the private sector as a catalyst for sustainable development has led to an unprecedented series of projects in all fields – infrastructure, utilities, transportation and education. This ambitious plan will transform the city into a First-World community.

The significant growth in Saudi Arabia and the region in general has given rise to a niche category of specialised and experienced companies complementing this growth; Sumou Real Estate, the company implementing the Makkah Gateway project, is the product of this development and aspiration.

Inspired by its founder Ayedh Bin Farhan Al Qahtani, whose penchant for professionalism, high quality and high standards is well known, Sumou continues its drive for perfection. Deep insight into the real estate industry coupled with his experience in successful projects has put the company on track to achieve its goals.

The head of Sumou confirmed that Makkah’s real estate market is currently witnessing many developments in light of implementing the government’s vision that seeks to transfer Makkah to the advanced world through a developmental system targeting the central part and then the rest of the city where the size of declared investments exceeds 200 billion riyals (£35.4 billion) in the central region. The size of the investments confirms the magnitude of the existing work and its features, which began with the completed projects around the Holy Mosque in Makkah. Al Qahtani stressed that the Makkah real estate market is one of the best real estate markets in the world, combining reasonable revenues of investment in addition to the service provided by the real estate developer for the visitors to the Holy House.

Passing through

For the hajjis and Umrah performers, the Makkah Gateway community might just be a passing through point as they continue into Makkah towards Al-Haram, but with its magnificent design and strategic location, along with all the services and facilities it provides, it will definitely be an unforgettable vision.

As they proceed forward in their journey they will arrive at another impressive and glorious sight that will dazzle them.