Given strong growth in population, by now standing at 100 million inhabitants according to last month’s census, and with a distinctly unstable financial market, it is no wonder that the real estate sector has achieved significant growth since 2014. Egyptians consider property to be a safe investment and in 2015 alone this field covered 5% of GDP. Major new residential projects also now pay close attention to design and public spaces, beforehand often ignored, and in January 2015 the Egyptian construction company Tatweer Misr appointed the internationally renowned Italian studio 5+1aa Alfonso Femia Gianluca Peluffo, which has offices in Genoa, Milan and Paris, to design the masterplan in strategic areas for luxury real estate in resorts by the sea. InfoAfrica interviewed Giulia Tubelli, the Italian architect at 5+1aa who, in collaboration with Tatweer Misr, is currently following up projects in all stages from design to sale.
What are your most significant projects in Egyptian real estate?
The two projects that 5+1aa is handling in Egypt are in Ain Sokhna, with the design of a master plan for the new “Mount Galala” city located on the Red Sea 150 km from Cairo and 100 km from the Suez Canal, involving a land area of 2,200,000 m2 and an initial stage comprising 1,800 residential units, two hotels and other leisure activities on the coast. The second project – named “Fukha” – is located on the North Coast. Here, 5+1aa has only followed up the second stage involving an area of about 600,000 m2 and, just like the Ain Sokhna project, these are second homes.
Both projects are in particularly strategic areas experiencing construction development, Consequently, both are keen to become first home projects since they are located close to future administrative-local government centres – respectively, Mount Galala a few kilometres from the new administrative capital and the new town of Galala City, as well as Bay on the coastal area not far from the new city of El Alamein.
How did cooperation with Tatweer Misr come about?
5+1aa took part in a selection process alongside about thirty other international studios. One of the main reasons why we were selected is that the project we are launching on the Ain Sokhna coast is a hillside location. Thanks to our experience as architects in Liguria, we were able to apply the ‘terracing’ logic – a concept that has only recently begun to emerge here in Egypt, since the country is largely flat and by no means mountainous. Tests were then carried out on new construction approaches, especially multi-containment, land-fills and terracing.
What were and still are the main difficulties encountered?
We got on well with Tatweer Misr eight from the outset, since it is a young company founded only three years ago. The Egyptian team communicates extremely well with the Italian team and we have many meetings with them in Italy and us in Egypt in order to understand how to implement the project after the design stage.
You also have several masterplan projects in Turkey, France, Benin, China, Algeria, Switzerland, Brazil and Italy. Compared to the other countries where you work, what are the strengths of the Egyptian market?
The Egyptian market is currently achieving the highest real estate development in the entire Arab world. It is objectively a marvellous opportunity both for the market and as regards the project dimensions – that are always extremely large, given the fast-growing population and widespread availability of vacant and still undeveloped land.
Will the current Egyptian monetary crisis continue to encourage investments in the sector or it peak out?
As regards the Egyptian market in luxury and high-end spheres, which is where we operate, real estate is still a very safe investment ensuring good earnings from property, that is often resold. Ain Sokhna and the North Coast are two holiday destinations for weekends and longer periods targeting Egypt’s upper classes, where social status requires owning property in one of these two locations, if not both, and often more than just one.
How would you assess foreign investment in Egypt, especially as regards Italy?
In relation to foreign investment, we essentially target an Egyptian audience, although there is also the hope that, with the resumption of tourism, Egypt may once again become a place appealing to foreign investment. In our experience, despite current affairs, politics and economics, there is still a very strong Italian involvement and the bond between Egypt and Italy is still stable and easy to implement.
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