The Falconcity supremo behind the Seven Wonders of the World megaproject in Dubai says it will become a reality “within seven to 10 years” - despite nothing being built since it was unveiled in 2005.
The sky-high plans include a controversial copy of the Taj Mahal and other famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, the vast majority of the 3.8-million square-metre project off Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road remains a desert.
But speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of a community centre at the site on Monday, Falconcity CEO and chairman Salem Al Moosa insisted his grand plans haven’t bitten the dust.
“Dubai is Dubai. It makes me believe in it and develop in it,” he said. A media tour of the site included a visit to a sewage treatment plant - that Al Moosa said was “one of the best in the Middle East” - but no definite details of monument dates were revealed. The megaproject will include residential and retail outlets, as well as the replicas. Al Moosa said 308 families currently live in 366 available villas - but deputy CEO and son Alharith admitted there had been no villas sold since “the start of 2009”.
Last year, the Falconcity chairman was reported as saying the cost of the project had grown from the original estimate of Dhs5 billion to Dhs12 billion. Yesterday, though, he refused to put a figure on the current cost, saying only that it had “changed tremendously”.
The wealthy businessman said financing for the Falconcity project was “30 to 35 per cent from us and 65 to 75 per cent from investors”. No loans from banks were behind his project, he added. Al Moosa said delays between the project’s unveiling and the time the financial crisis hit in 2009 was because “infrastructure took longer than expected”. The financial crisis itself had prolonged plans since, he added.
Al Moosa said Dhs600 million had been spent on infrastructure at Falconcity, and further Dhs100 million on marketing since its inception.
Thumbs up to Taj
The developer behind Dubai’s Seven Wonders of the World project has heavily backed plans to create an imitation of the Taj Mahal - despite disgusted Indians branding the build “utterly wrong and absurd”. The news that wealthy investors are planning to build Taj Arabia in Falconcity, Dubai - with a promise that it will be four-times bigger than the 461-year-old original - appalled many Indians.
However, Falconcity CEO and chairman Salem Al Moosa said on Monday: “You know Chicken Biryiani? “That’s an Indian dish that’s becoming an Emirati dish too. Do we have to pay royalties on that too now?” Al Moosa added of the proposed Taj Arabia hotel development: “I’m working for the Indians in Dubai, I’ve heard them on the radio. They say ‘that one’s a tomb, we want one to enjoy’.
“Yves Saint Laurent can’t say I’m imitating a purse if he puts a chain and I put a strap. That takes it out of Yves Saint Laurent’s copyright.” Surendra Sharma, president of an Indian heritage society, had claimed
any replica of the Taj Mahal would “belittle” the sacredness of the marble mausoleum in Agra. And former Agra legislator Satish Chandra Gupta said a build in Dubai should “pay royalties” to the Taj Mahal.
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