Embracing nature, El Shahawi Properties breaks through with its latest gem, Ein Hills on El Galala Mountain in Ain Sokhna. The beauty of Ein Hills is indescribable, be it for its unique location, the mountain lifestyle it presents, and the exclusivity every homeowner enjoys. Bringing “Monaco to Ain Sokhna”, as the developer calls it, Invest-Gates sits with Ein Hills CEO and El Shahawi Properties Vice President Hosni El Shahawi to shed light on his boutique Ein Hills resort and to discuss the investment climate, the real estate sector, and urban planning in Egypt today.
How do you view the investment climate in the real estate market?
Where real estate is concerned, we have only developed 7% of land plots along the Nile, east on the Red Sea, or north on the Mediterranean Sea. Naturally, Egyptians build communities
around water resources, leaving the massive land of the western desert empty. Now, the Armed Forces are creating a number of industries, including the adoption of new advanced agricultural methods to bring life to such areas.
It is worth noting that part of the government’s plan is to bring water resources like lakes to the desert for agriculture. Such a plan is to counter-attack claims of losing our Nile as a resource following the construction of Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia. The natural waters of the desert that are being discovered and maintained today are to sustain life for the entire population for many decades to come.
On a negative note, we as Egyptians lack creativity. We see real estate booming, then all directions by the government and people are only directed to real estate. We see SMGs create a growing trend in the food sector, and then all companies invest in cafes and restaurants. Back in 2016, the small district of Zamalek in Cairo witnessed the launch of 33 openings of cafes and restaurants in just six months. Misr El Gedida saw around 156 coffeeshop launches. We lack intuition. We never bring something new that the country lacks to the table…We only check what is made successful and we follow its lead.
On a positive note, only now do I observe that the people’s mentality is starting to develop and there is investment awareness. The government itself is starting to think out of the box by developing a new urban plan to build new cities, services catering to such new communities, and infrastructure, for instance. I predict that we will see somewhat a new Egypt in the upcoming 10 years.
However, I would like to see proper urban development and long-term planning. I want to see Egypt’s vision in 50 years from now. They are developing Egypt’s eastern desert, yet not much has been done on our massive western desert.
What are the challenges that affect the real estate sector today? And how to overcome them?
Challenges in the real estate market are massive because the sector in Egypt has no proper urban planning. Most developers focus on the product, market it, and sell it without considering its surroundings. I mean facilities, services, and means of life to build a self-sustained community.
However, there is a growing trend in Egypt, today, to build a community rather than construct a compound.
Another challenge is that the sector relies on the Egyptian workforce. We see local developers succeeding and if the developer is a foreign company, it is still run by an Egyptian management. This is given the bureaucracy of our system; it is only the Egyptians who can deal with it. This applies to all chains within the entire industry from buying land, materials, to the relationship between contractors and clients.
To overcome such challenges, there are two roles of equal importance. One is the government’s role, which has worked on improving its systems by issuing the New Investment Law, for example. The law has 94 articles covering almost all types of investments. What remains to be seen is its implementation and its terms of rules and regulations.
The other part relies on the developers themselves. Again, we need urban planning and not just developing a project. I take Hisham Talaat Mostafa as a successful developer with his Madinaty vision. He created a complete city on the outskirts of Cairo. Now, the government is following his lead and is forcefully entering our market, creating a much greater competition. The key to win this competition is through the development notion and not the project.
Where Ain Sokhna is concerned, how do you view it given the massive urban planning it sees today?
Ain Sokhna is one of the most interesting destinations in all of Egypt, in my opinion. Ain Sokhna has the privileges of any Red Sea destination. It is on the edge of Suez, so it has trading potential. There is its sea life like the rest of the Red Sea destinations, and nice beaches as well. Given its closeness to Cairo, merely 120 kilometers away, Ain Sokhna is to be considered the capital’s beachfront. It is the best retreat for year-round short breaks unlike its competitor the North Coast, which is considered a long-term vacation destination. Ain Sokhna enjoys the “mountain life”, something that is new to the Egyptian public and needs to be embraced. It is a very promising destination.
Now, we see the government, because of the destination’s proximity to Cairo, Suez, and the governorate of the Red Sea, is eyeing Ain Sokhna. They have changed its infrastructure and created El-Galala City, aiming to turn Ain Sokhna into a fully-integrated community that is an extension to the previously mentioned governorates. All projects surrounding El-Galala are to enjoy all facilities and services provided by the city. Up until last year, Ain Sokhna had no transportation facilities. The only means to reach Ain Sokhna was one’s own vehicle.
Five years from now, Ain Sokhna will be catering to first-home buyers. The housing plan, according to our demographic nature, is indirectly reaching Ain Sokhna. The current developments by the government and the private sector, alike, with New Cairo, the New Administrative Capital, and El-Shorouk, to name a few, has reached 35 kilometers away from Ain Sokhna. So, naturally, Ain Sokhna will soon attract first-home buyers.
I anticipate that all new cities in the works are to fulfill Egypt’s urban development vision and hence, Ain Sokhna would be Greater Cairo’s seashore.
Moving on to Ein Hills, the latest of El Shahawi Properties, to be added to Ain Sokhna. What is so special about it?
With Ein Hills, we embrace the “mountain life”. We need to emphasize our nature and mountains are of equal importance to the Red Sea. In fact, they dominate our eastern desert. When we thought of Ein Hills, we wanted to add a value to Ain Sokhna, and
were eager to present something special and different to stand out.
We had to study the geology of the mountain. Developing the concept took three years until we started construction. With each step in planning, we faced an obstacle, which we transformed to our benefit and gave Ein Hills a further edge.
We introduce a new lifestyle in a luxurious way. By lifestyle I mean, the positioning of units from sea level up to the top of the mountain. I mean your daily life on a mountain, including public spaces and landscape, driving on roads, transportation means, hiking, and all other amenities and services. It is the details that matter to deliver such a lifestyle. Ein Hills is a mountain lifestyle compound with a sea view.
You describe Ein Hills as the Monaco of the Red Sea. How is that implemented?
It is the luxury provided in the project. If we examine the Southern European shores, Monaco is the only country that is luxuriously built on cliffs and mountains above sea level.
Ein Hills is the same… We present a boutique resort compound, comprising of only 500 units on six platforms. Every platform with its roads enjoys the sea view. It features very neat, top-notch services, including housekeeping and room services for every unit. We bring hospitality services to your home. We had to cater to all needs way before marketing the project. We needed to give a complete life, solving any daily obstacle that may appear.
One of the most important characteristics of the project is the privacy each unit enjoys despite being leveled on a mountain.
Some of the blocks have ground, first-floor, and second-floor units. To serve the private lifestyle we present, the second floor unit became the ground floor. You access the house from the top and take a few steps down to your reception. Such leveling provides privacy to your house and the road in front. You are not seen by any on your backyard and if you are walking down the street, too. This idea again added another identity to the project, which is the walking experience. From your road and as you go up to the tip of the mountain or downwards to the sea level, you get to enjoy the sunset and the sea as well. Your view is never distracted by another unit at all. It is an open, scenic point all through Ein Hills, from the first to the last platforms.
Moreover, as the idea of a walking experience progressed, we had to think about means of transportation catering to the open seaview concept. So, we added a poly train, another addition to the mountain life experience. As a safety precaution, we hired Puma, owner of Ottis, to develop this transportation.
The open spaces enjoy massive greenery, waterfalls, and bonfire areas for all to enjoy. It is somewhat an extension to the terraces provided in each unit. Units that exceed two to three bedrooms have private infinity pools to add to its sea view.
What are the updates on Ein Hills?
We can now say that the foundation is completed and the construction of compound itself has started. We are to deliver the first phase in March 2019 and the entire project in December 2020. However, updates on the development as a plan is still ongoing, but we are about to finish it.
What do you have in the pipeline?
We are now developing a new project in Dabaa on the North Coast. This, too, is to deliver something different to the very challenging and competitive market of the North Coast. We have acquired a land plot on a cliff and are still working on the concept of embracing its surrounding nature. The launch of this project will be in the second quarter of 2018.
In our plan, we will embark on three different projects within the upcoming three years. Five years from now, El Shahawi Properties will adopt urban planning in all of its upcoming projects.