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Site visit: Muriya, Salalah Beach, Oman

Yamurai Zendera gains a taste of the tropics at Oman tourist complex

Salalah Beach is completely accessible by water through a network of man-made lagoons.
Salalah Beach is completely accessible by water through a network of man-made lagoons.

Muriya, a joint venture between Orascom Development Holdings and Omran, is building in Salalah what it hopes will set the standard for integrated tourism complexes in the region. Yamurai Zendera paid a visit to see what it’s all about.

Salalah Beach is located in the sole tropical destination on the Arabian Peninsula adjacent to the Southern Omani town of Salalah. The 15.6km2 development which features an 8.2km Indian Ocean beachfront is easily accessible by air through Salalah International Airport and road via Muscat.

When complete, Salalah Beach will feature an array of retail and restaurant facilities, alongside two Peter Harradine designed PGA golf courses, a 200 berth inland marina with dockside restaurants and cafes, two boutique hotels and a selection of world class resorts, including Club Med, Movenpick, and Rotana.

The development is being built by Muriya, a joint venture between Orascom Development Holdings (70%), a leading developer of integrated destinations and Omran (30%), the tourism development arm of the Omani government.

Phase one started in 2007, but interestingly, construction was not halted when the global financial crisis and later the Arab Spring took hold.

Muriya CEO Hamza Selim said: “The good thing about Orascom and Muriya working together is that they are still on track and they give credibility to the clients that they will never run and hide and they will always be there.”

Described by Selim as “the Venice of the Middle East”, one of Salalah Beach’s most striking features is the Muriya-built lagoons that run through the development, making it completely accessible by water.

At present only a tiny fraction of the site is being developed, with the first phase including the now operational Muriya-owned and managed Juweira Boutique Hotel, along with the marina basin and marina town. When fully finished the marina town will include 200 berths, the Lagoon and Juweira boutique hotels, shops and restaurants.

Five luxury hotels have so far been earmarked for Salalah Beach. Three are known: Rotana, Movenpick, and Club Med; and two currently not yet signed. Muriya’s senior director, design and engineering, Christa Diener said the construction team is on course to finish the Rotana by the end of the year.

The hotel is currently in its finishing stages however its associated villas will be completed at a later date. The 399-room Rotana will be spread over 130,000m2 of land. When you add the 47 villas to that the total plot area jumps up to 262,932m2.

Diener said that in terms of hotels after the Rotana the Movenpick would be the next focus, adding that it was currently at the design stage. The project consists of a 391-room five star hotel and 50 villas on an adjacent site.

It’s proximity to the marina and marina town will make for convenient pedestrian connections to the central commercial/entertainment hub of the phase one development, with its marina activities, shopping and restaurants. It will be framed by Rotana in the west and Club Med in the east, which will feature 398 rooms and take up a land area of 227,032m2.

Construction Week understands that Muriya is open to investors coming onboard for future hotels which would signify a departure from its usual model of building and owning hotels. So far construction work at Salalah Beach has only focused on the southern section and not the northern section.

The two sections are split by a road, meaning at some point work will need to be undertaken to join the lagoons to the northern side.

The construction team is also currently focusing on one of two 18-hole golf courses, with around six to seven holes roughly shaped. Elsewhere, some villas are at various stages of construction. Muriya will only construct villas once a contract has been signed with a buyer, at which point it pledges to complete and handover within three years.

Selim believes Salalah Beach will appeal to longer stay holidaymakers given that between May and September every year Salalah is transformed into a lush green paradise by the seasonal kharif (monsoon).

While temperatures soar above 45oC in the rest of the GCC, Salalah remains at a cool average of 25oC before gradually transforming to rugged desert typical of Oman for the remainder of the year. “It’s a whole new offering that simply does exist in Oman today,” said Selim confidently.

Low density - low impact is the fundamental tenet of the Muriya philosophy. A maximum of 25% of land within Muriya developments are zoned for building, with the remainder set aside for manicured gardens, golf courses, regional wildlife preservation and the natural environment.

Property ownership within Salalah Beach is on a freehold basis and upon completion of their purchase owners are granted Omani family residency together with the financial benefits that flow from residing in Oman including; zero income, capital gains, inheritance and
property tax.

In numbers:
- 2007 Start of phase one of Salalah Beach
- 200 Total number of berths set for marina

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