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Exploring Edamah's plan to boost Bahrain tourism with Sa'ada

Construction Week tours the Muharraq site of government-backed Edamah's waterfront development in Bahrain

Government-backed Edamah is building Sa'ada in Bahrain.
Government-backed Edamah is building Sa'ada in Bahrain.

Government-backed real estate developer Edamah is developing the Sa'ada mixed-use waterfront destination – which it describes as one of the nation’s “most prestigious developments” – to unlock the economic potential of oil-dependent Bahrain. 

Located in Muharraq, the main city on Bahrain’s second-largest island, situated to the east of Manama, Sa’ada is a mixed-use project that features a marina, dozens of shops and restaurants, and a footbridge to Muharraq’s traditional souk.

The multimillion-dollar project sits between the kingdom’s two largest islands, adjacent to the King Hamad Causeway that connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. As well as a waterfront setting with views of Manama’s skyline, Sa’ada has a 500m public corniche, 34 shops, a multi-storey car park, open plazas, and a renovated bus station and post office.

The developer says Sa’ada aims to fuse the traditional Bahraini architecture for which the Muharraq area is known with the modernity of a vibrant leisure destination for both tourists and locals.

Edamah says the waterfront spot has 36 yacht berths [supplied image].

However, all of this does not explain why Edamah describes Sa’ada as a significant among Bahrain’s ongoing projects. In order to better understand the project’s significance, it is necessary to widen the lens.

Under Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030 strategy, the country is moving away from oil to create a more competitive economy. Edamah, as the real estate arm of the government’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, has a major role to play in building the infrastructure required to take the country forward.

A challenge with the project was the soil condition, as we encountered a few issues that had to be improved.

Edamah currently has approximately 200 plots of land, many of which remain undeveloped, and the developer is now aggressively activating its land bank. Sa’ada, it explains, is a catalyst for this plan.

Work on Sa’ada kicked off in the first quarter of 2018 with the reclamation required to create an 18,000m² plot, and sea walls built to protect the structures within the site. The two-phase project is currently 20% complete and has encountered one or two speedbumps along the way.

Two of the main challenges that have had to be overcome are poor soil quality and the rerouting of underground utilities, Edamah’s senior manager of projects, Ayman Mohammed Buheji, tells Construction Week.

“A challenge with the project was the soil condition, as we encountered a few issues that had to be improved,” he says.

Edamah also had to diverge all underground utilities such as water lines, electricity cables, and telecommunication wires, in order to prevent them from clashing with the new buildings. This was a “dangerous phase” of the project, according to Buheji, because these also supplied the popular souk in Muharraq.

It was necessary for the building team to dig trenches to locate the conduits, pipes, and cables that needed to be rerouted. Once this was done, an alternative connection was set up, Buheji explains. The local service providers – Electricity and Water Services Bahrain (Ewa) and Bahrain Telecommunication Company (Batelco) – then came on to the site to commission the underground utilities, which had to be temporarily shut down before they could be restarted.

Edamah created an 18,000m2 plot using land reclamation [supplied image].

“This takes a lot of coordination between us and the service providers, the end users, and the contractor doing the work. There was a lot of prep work done before any building work kicked off,” Buheji says.

With the utility lines having been successfully diverged with the assistance of Ewa and Batelco, the team on site moved on to complete the necessary soil improvements, site activation, storm water systems, infrastructure, and substructures.

Sa’ada is now starting to take shape, and work on the project’s seven retail and restaurant buildings is ongoing. These buildings range in size from 319m² to 1,702m², with each unit able to accommodate several shops. The largest, Building 5, will boast the most outlets, with a total of 12.

Many of these buildings will offer first-floor terraces for al fresco dining. The units are arranged in a semi-circle formation, looking out onto the waterfront, and will be accessible via a landscaped walkway. Behind the seven buildings, to the north-west of Sa’ada, is a three-storey car park that covers an area of 6,200m², with space for more than 150 vehicles.

Most of the contracts have already been awarded, but sub-contracts for finishing and tiling are still to be awarded.

Core and shell work started on the seven retail buildings in the first quarter of this year, and all of them are due to be completed in Q4. Once tenants for the units are on board, Edamah plans to make a start on fit-outs and get the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing works under way.

While the developer admits that completing all of this in time for the completion deadline will be something of a challenge, Buheji says Sa’ada is lucky to have a main contractor on board that has a good track record and manages procurement. “This is a single package contract, so we have one contractor and it will be appointing various sub-contractors for specialised areas of work. For example, the piling work is done by a sub-contractor that was appointed by the main contractor,” he explains.

“Most of the contracts have already been awarded, but sub-contracts for finishing and tiling are still to be awarded, as well as for the supply of equipment and materials.”

Mohammed Jalal Contracting Company is the main contractor, while Gulf Engineering House is the main consultant and Aecom is the infrastructure consultant.

Phase 2 construction commenced in Q3 2018 and comprises two stages. The building of a footbridge from Sa’ada to the souk in Muharraq is “the centrepiece” of the second phase, says Buheji, explaining that the bridge will run to a renovated bus station across the highway.

A 736m² museum – along with a café, retail and dining units, and open plazas – will also be built during Sa’ada’s second phase.

Sa’ada is starting to take shape in Bahrain [supplied image].

With good progress being made on Sa’ada, Buheji says Edamah is now extending its focus to four additional multimillion-dollar construction projects that it hopes to build in order to further leverage Bahrain’s economic potential. Sa’ada may be at the helm of the firm’s development plans at the moment, but there are other schemes in the pipeline, he explains.

These planned projects include a smart city-style car park called The Terminal; a 600-space multi-storey car park for a public hospital; and Bilaj Al Jazayer, a masterplan to develop a 3km strip of beachfront and turn it into a tourism destination.

The latter, according to Buheji, will become the flagship project for Edamah when it cranks up construction activity on the project, which covers approximately 1.3km² and comprises public beaches and more than 300 chalets. The development is set to be in line with Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, as it aims to create sustainable tourism and help to preserve public waterfront spaces.

Edamah says that all of its projects have the potential to create new jobs and opportunities for local businesses, which will in turn stimulate economic growth in the country. With Sa’ada, the developer is taking an important step towards unlocking Bahrain’s full economic potential.

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