Wellness

Living well - Middle East & North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa is one of the smaller markets for wellness lifestyle real estate, but like most of the world, it is poised for growth. Jane Kitchen looks at some of the most interesting projects in the works


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The Middle East & North Africa (MENA) is the fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world – it’s increased 13.4 per cent annually (from 2015–2017) to reach US$10.7bn. MENA’s spa industry is also seeing explosive 15.4 per cent yearly growth, and is now valued at US$2.8bn. But when it comes to wellness lifestyle real estate – communities and buildings developed with the holistic health of residents in mind – the region is one of the smallest, with the Global Wellness Institute putting it at US$.5bn of the approximately US$119bn segment worldwide. That’s in stark contrast to the nearly US$52.5bn market for the US alone, or the US$19.9bn market in China.

But wellness real estate is expected to grow at a rate of 6 per cent annually worldwide through 2022, and the Middle East and North Africa is poised to be part of that growth. The GWI sees significant and growing interest in health and wellness as a differentiating feature in the region’s competitive real estate market, and predicts there will be a number of new projects in the coming years, particularly at the luxury end of the market. “What the region has going for it is demand,” says Ophelia Yeung, senior research fellow for the GWI. “The youth swell in many countries means a large cohort of young adults are entering the home-purchase market with a high level of awareness and interest in wellness and healthy lifestyles.”

The United Arab Emirates, while at the top of the MENA region for wellness real estate, barely makes the list of top 25 countries globally, coming in at number 25, but Yeung says it will likely remain the top market in the region for the next few years. “The sophistication and development of UAE’s market is way ahead of other countries in the region,” she explains. “The second largest market – Saudi Arabia – will take a while to catch up.”

With consumers increasingly associating environmental health with their personal health, MENA faces some extreme conditions, such as low rainfall and high temperatures, that make green building and incorporating nature into the design of these communities even more important. “With the environmental consequences of these conditions, such as high energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission, it is no surprise that much of the wellness real estate in the region incorporates green building features,” says Yeung. “But when it comes to incorporating nature, it is not only about adding the lush, green landscape that may be missing outdoors, but also about getting away from cookie-cutter designs, and creating a sense of harmony with the heritage and natural landscape around these communities.”

Here we take a look at some of the wellness lifestyle real estate in development across the region.

MAG Creek Wellbeing Resort
Dubai, UAE
Architect: VX Studio and Carlo Colombo
Opening: 2021

Designed by architecture firms VX Studio and Carlo Colombo, in partnership with international wellness real estate and technology company Delos, MAG Creek Wellbeing Resort is an AED2.2bn project that aims to “provide residents with a holistic and healthy lifestyle by integrating the best of science, health and technology within the built environment.” Each home is designed to enhance physical and emotional wellbeing through features such as dynamic lighting, advanced purification, enhanced sleep environment and automated wellness systems.

The gated, landscaped community spans nearly 900,000sq ft, covers 550m of the Dubai Creek waterfront, and is strategically situated adjacent to the Ras Al Khor Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary. The project will be home to 17 waterfront mansions, 75 luxury apartments and 172 serviced wellness holiday homes.

In addition to the luxury residential units, MAG Creek will include a 120,000sq ft WorldCare Wellness – which claims to be the largest wellness centre in the world – which will offer residents and guests full access to a state-of-the-art medical check-up clinic focused on healthy living choices. The community will also include a 96-bedroom WorldCare Wellness Hotel; a sports, fitness and leisure centre; and a variety of restaurants, cafes and retail outlets. Architects A++ are responsible for the projects interiors.

VX Studio and Carlo Columbo teamed up with wellness real estate company Delos to create the MAG Creek Wellbeing Resort

The development will feature a 120,000sq ft wellness centre with access to a medical check up clinic
King Salman Park
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Architect: Omrania
Opening: from 2020

The world’s largest city park – large enough to hold a top class 18-hole golf course and much more – is just one part of a US$23bn (€20.19bn, £17.51bn) wellbeing project that will change the nature of Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh capital. The entire project consists of four separate parts: the 13.4sq km (8.32m) King Salman Park, which will be four times the size of New York’s Central Park; Sports Boulevard, which features a 135km-long (83.88m) cycling track covering the city and surrounding valleys, as well as riding stables and athletics tracks; Green Riyadh, where 7.5 million trees will be planted, increasing the city’s green cover from 1.5 per cent of the total area to 9.1 per cent, and reducing ambient temperatures by 2 degrees celsius; and Riyadh Art, which looks to establish the city as a “gallery without walls” through an interactive public arts programme.

Providing up to 70,000 new jobs, the project is intended to create vast open green spaces in the Saudi capital, creating sustainable communities and driving action against climate change. Organisers see the scheme offering opportunities worth US$15bn (€13.17bn, £11.44bn) for the private sector to invest in residential, commercial, recreational and wellness areas. Saudi Arabian architectural and engineering firm Omrania has been appointed to design King Salman Park. It will include residences; hotels; an arts complex featuring museums and theatres; water parks; cinemas; sports facilities; restaurants; and the Royal Golf Course. Construction is due to begin in the second half of 2019, with the first phase to complete by the end of 2020.

Environmental considerations are also etched into the plan. Green Riyadh, for example, will use more than a million cubic metres of treated sewage effluent per day for irrigation.

Basem Alshihabi, founder and managing partner of Omrania, says the project will create a “space that will bring back the human life to Riyadh, rather than the current situation where cars are the main means of transportation and there is little consideration for the natural human need to walk, ride bicycles and go running”.

The development will feature open squares, green areas and an extensive range of leisure and cultural facilities


Driverless cars will pick visitors up at the metro station and drop them off wherever they want to go within the park
Central Park at City West
Dubai, UAE
Opening: unconfirmed

Dubai conglomerate Meraas is developing the Central Park at City West, an expansive and wellness-orientated “leafy community” in the heart of Dubai. The residential complex, which will be located a stone’s throw from the Dubai Arena, will surround a 40,000sq m green space – dubbed “Central Park” – and comprise 187 condos housed inside 12 terraced mid-rise buildings. The property’s on-site leisure and wellbeing amenities and facilities will include sports courts, pools, fitness and spa areas, as well as a skatepark and a playground.

The site’s apartment units will be shaped to facilitate “nature-inspired living”, boasting a “sleek contemporary design, with light colours and carefully selected high-end materials that seamlessly blend with the natural environment, including plants and flowers suspended in hanging baskets from balcony edges”.

Details for the project’s completion date have not yet been announced.

Wellness facilities include spa areas, swimming pools and sports courts

sports courts
La Reserve Residences
Dubai, UAE
Architects: 10 Design
Opening: Q4 2019

La Reserve Residences, developed in partnership with Dubai Healthcare City, will be an upscale development with a focus on community wellbeing. The project, co-developed by Swiss Property, a Dubai-based boutique real estate developer, and Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC), is set to offer 230 simplex and duplex apartments ranging from one to four bedrooms.

Wellness is at the centre of the project’s concept, which incorporates holistic elements, integrating the indoors and outdoors – visually or through connected activity. From open terraces, outdoor activity areas and pedestrian trails, to running tracks, pools, gyms, and expansive greens for recreation, the project is designed to promote healthy living.

The design concept of La Reserve Residences traces back to the Arabic word ‘Wadi’, a riverbed or oasis that often forms from waterfalls and signifies balance, and the simple beauty that arises from it. Lush greens have been designed to weave around pavilions and flow into the cascading terraces of two buildings that mirror one another.

The project is designed to promote healthy living
The Gate Heliopolis
Cairo, Egypt
Architect: Vincent Callebaut Architects
Opening: From 2022

In the heart of New Cairo, the Gate Residence is a green, sustainable building, featuring a solar roof, green terraces and vertical gardens, as well as a health club and spa and a branded gym. The community is organised around a central street named The Boulevard, which acts as the spine of the housing project, with the 1,000 apartments organised in U shapes around the central street.

The facades of the building have been inspired by fish gills, and act as sunshades. Balconies are transformed into suspended gardens by the integration of planting beds along the facade’s perimeter in order to create green cascades falling into each courtyard.

A large community garden will be set up on the roof of the complex, with two plots linked by sky foot bridges, and will feature a common playground area of food gardens, orchards, infinity swimming pools and sports areas for residents. The gardens are designed to improve residents’ health through increased fresh vegetable consumption, and also to break down isolation by creating a social community.

“In the Gate project, we propose to transform the roof into a new innovation place for the social life of all residents,” says architect Vincent Callebaut. “This garden in the sky will integrate playgrounds, sports areas, food gardens and orchards. This green roof will compensate the high density of the construction and will be a perfect insulation coat above the residential levels to reduce the urban warming.”

The gill-inspired facades act as sunshades
Dilmunia
Muharraq, Bahrain
Opening: from late 2019

Positioned as “Bahrain’s wellbeing island”, this US$1.6bn mixed-use development is being built on a man-made island off the coast of Muharraq, and will contain residences, a hotel, leisure facilities and shopping districts. With a mandate to provide a development where wellbeing and vitality are the focus, master developer Ithmaar Development Company worked with international master planners to conceive an island location that balances the needs of all its inhabitants.

Dilmunia takes its name from the ancient civilization of Dilmun, believed to be the original Garden of Eden, and aims to “create a modern Garden of Eden, where a progressive society can prosper, while balancing the need for growth with the need for a healthy, sustainable ecology”.

The Mall of Dilmunia, designed by Singapore-based DP Architects, is set to open this October, and will feature a 100m video display ceiling – reportedly the largest in the GCC – as well as the largest atrium in Bahrain, a 16m tall cylindrical aquarium, ice skating rink, indoor zipline, two football pitches and an open-air sky terrace.

“The strategy underpinning Dilmunia is founded on insights of what modern society wants from an integrated development,” the developers said in a statement. “Today, the trend has moved toward people wanting lifestyles that provide genuine wellbeing.”

The project’s tagline is ‘restoring balance, enhancing life’
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