Posted inInterview

Majid Al Futtaim’s Ghaf Woods, Dubai’s first forest living community sells out

Ahmed El Shamy, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, in an exclusive interview shares insights on this unique forest living community, amenities, target market, and the impact this development will have on Dubai’s real estate landscape

“Ghaf Woods will also provide 15 square metres of open space per resident, exceeding the WHO standards of 10 square metres per person by 40 per cent”

In an extravagant affair in June at One&Only One Za’abeel, Majid Al Futtaim, one of Dubai’s largest family conglomerates, proudly announced their latest endeavour—Ghaf Woods, the first forest living community nestled in the bustling heart of Dubai. This ground-breaking concept, first showcased at the prestigious MIPIM 2024 in Cannes, France earlier this year, was unveiled amidst opulence and splendour, marking a new era of luxury living in the city.

Today marks a significant achievement as the first phase of Ghaf Woods has completely sold out. This development has seen over 1,000 units purchased in the initial phase. The second phase of sales is scheduled to commence later this year.

We therefore sat down with Ahmed El Shamy, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, for an exclusive interview where he revealed details about this premium development and how it is going to redefine the real estate landscape of UAE.

Please elaborate on your vision for Ghaf Woods and how different is it from your previous project—Tilal Al Ghaf.

There are significant differences between the two projects, yet notable similarities. Firstly, our company embraces the enduring vision and forward-thinking spirit instilled by our founder, Majid Al Futtaim. When we introduced skiing to Dubai, it was met with confusion. Similarly, we were among the first to introduce a swimmable lagoon in the middle of the desert in our project, Tilal Al Ghaf. And now, we pride ourselves on being the first to introduce forest living in Dubai. So, we always try to be at the forefront of innovation.

Also, we at Majid Al Futtaim have a unique ecosystem, which sets us apart from other development companies. We have a shopping mall arm, hotel arm, residential arm, retail arm, lifestyle offerings, and entertainment options. This holistic approach is reflected in the DNA of Tilal Al Ghaf, and Ghaaf Woods will be a natural extension of our commitment to creating integrated communities offering a full range of services. Just like in Tilal Al Ghaf, our upcoming project will provide a lifestyle where individuals can live, work, shop, and play.

Now, the similarities between Ghaaf Woods and Tilal Al Ghaf end there. While Tilal Al Ghaf focuses on townhouses and villas (around 28 per cent of the market), Ghaaf Woods will cater to the apartment segment, which makes up 72 per cent of the market share.

Also, as mentioned earlier, this new development will offer a unique forest living experience, with 35,000 trees planned to be planted—surpassing the number of residents in the community. Once fully established, Ghaaf Woods will comprise 7,000 units spread across 738,000 square metres of land near Global Village, off the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Highway.

The community will also provide 15 square metres of open space per resident, exceeding the World Health Organisation standards of 10 square metres per person by 40 per cent. The abundance of trees will also contribute to improved air quality, with up to 20 per cent better air quality and cooler temperatures of up to five degrees compared to the surrounding area. The development will be released in eight phases between now and 2031, creating a harmonious blend of nature and modern living for residents to enjoy.

What are some unique amenities that residents will have access to if they purchase a home in this project?

The community aims to promote a healthy lifestyle and overall well-being among residents by encouraging outdoor activities. Residents will have access to various amenities such as eight kilometres of walking trail, a three-and-a-half-kilometre biking loop, and resort-style pools for both kids and adults. Additionally, there will be fitness facilities, family-friendly gardens, and a wellness and yoga pavilion to provide nurturing spaces for balanced living. The community will also feature Distrikt, Majid Al Futtaim’s iconic multi-purpose neighbourhood hub, with an exclusive selection of retail and restaurants boasting farm-to-table cuisine. We are committed to providing the best of our DNA to enhance the overall living experience of the residents.

What kind of units will be available and who is your target audience for this project?

If you look at the market, we have different segments—ultra-luxury, luxury, mid-market and low-end of the spectrum. Our project falls into the mid-market category, offering a slightly higher level of premium compared to our competitors. We will offer unit sizes that are five per cent to 10 per cent larger in space compared to other units. And we will be offering three types of products: studio/one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units, including duplexes and penthouses in the three-bedroom category.

In addition, what sets us apart from other competitors in the market is the customisation packages that we will be rolling out for the buyers. This will allow residents to upgrade their living spaces with three different packages: one for flooring, one for the vanity, and one for smart home systems. This personalised approach is a departure from the common cookie-cutter method seen in the apartment business. Although we are currently launching the basic product, we will be announcing these upgrade packages in the coming time, and interested buyers can sign up for these packages before construction begins.

What is the payment plan for the project?

We will be following a 60-40 payment schedule. This means 60 per cent of the payment will be due before handover, with the remaining 40 per cent to be paid upon handover.

Were there any learnings from the execution of your previous project (Tilal Al Ghaf), which you kept in mind while working on Ghaaf Woods?

When you are selling villas in Tilal Al Ghaf ranging from 20 to 40 million dirhams and beyond the level of customisation required is incredibly sophisticated. This demands stringent monitoring and quality assurance to ensure that the expectations of the clients are met. Hence, in Ghaf Woods we are offering three simple yet sophisticated upgrade options, as opposed to overwhelming the process with excessive choices. This approach allows us to streamline the customisation process and deliver exceptional results for our clients.

Secondly, there is a high demand for Grade-A contractors, leading to many contractors reaching full capacity. Therefore, attracting interest and involvement in various tenders is becoming increasingly challenging. Hence, we plan to engage with contractors early on, involve them in the project vision, and communicate effectively to ensure successful outcomes.

Where do you think is the real estate market headed and how do you see your projects fitting in this ecosystem?

The real estate market operates in cycles, experiencing both ups and downs. Over the past 16 years, we have witnessed several cycles, and fortunately, we are currently residing in Dubai, where there is a lot of potential for growth. Dubai has a history of redefining excellence and our political leaders are dedicated to achieving the best.

Also, in the past year, Dubai has experienced an influx of over 100,000 individuals who fit into the desired demographics—individuals with white-collar jobs and significant spending power. In fact, 66 per cent of the global high-net-worth individuals want to buy a second home in Dubai, as per Knight Frank’s recent study. Furthermore, if you look at the real estate bubble index, Dubai does not rank among the top cities facing a potential bubble.

However, I do anticipate the luxury and ultra-luxury market to soften a bit, which is healthy because that correction leads to affordable land banks, which in turn helps serious developers like us secure more land banks. Overall, I believe a small adjustment in the luxury and ultra-luxury segments may occur, while the mid-market segment will likely remain stable due to sustained demand.

Are there any new projects in the pipeline?

Absolutely! We have a team that is working day and night to secure our next entry into the market, and we are exploring opportunities in Saudi and Egypt as well.