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Al Barari has set a new standard for ultra-luxurious yet ecologically sensitive living in the Middle East. Launched in 2005, the 14.2-million-sq-ft development located next to Dubai's Wildlife Reserve has already garnered a raft of awards.
Some of the awards it has won are Best International Property Single Unit at the International Property Awards in December last year, Best Restaurant gongs from What's On and BBC Good Food for on-site concept restaurant The Farm and most recently Future Residential Project at the Cityscape Awards in September, which recognized the sophisticated Ashjar apartment project.
Property Weekly speaks to Dereck Alexander Jon Hoogenkamp, Sales and Marketing Director of Al Barari, to find out more about the project's award-winning concept.
- What makes Al Barari unique compared to other luxury developers in Dubai and the region?
Many developers are trying to achieve something similar now. But there's one difference: they can't. There is no other project that has as much green space. For us, it's not just about the money, it's about the quality of life for our clients.
We have dedicated more than 80 per cent of the development to greenery. We have 1,800 species of plants, 1,000 of which are unique to the Middle East, and we have the region's largest plant nursery.
The focus is on nature and the outdoors. When you live in Dubai, people never really walk around, but you can't help but want to do that in Al Barari. Currently, we have more than 600 hours of walkways and as of last year we had 16.1km of waterways, even more today.
Even the climate in Al Barari is three to five degrees cooler than the rest of Dubai because of factors such as the plants, water treatment, shade from the trees and the way we recycle our waste.
- How did you realise the Al Barari vision?
We are not like a conventional development company: we use external architects (10 Design) but also have our own in-house designers. We manage the architects and combine our expertise to make something even better. That is because we know our development better than anyone.
We are probably not an easy company to work with — we have our vision in place but our working collaboration with 10 Design has worked well, resulting in beautiful, award-winning projects that we expect to win more awards over the coming years.
- How has Al Barari evolved since its launch?
We started in around 2006 with the Al Barari villas, The Residences, which are completely sold out now and fully occupied. One and a half years ago, we launched the Reserve Villas, Al Barari's high-end, customizable houses, which are delivered core and shell and can be adapted to each homeowner's needs. We have 11 left, but the first batch of residents have already moved in.
On February 1, we launched the Seventh Heaven residential community, with all 156 units sold out in just 48 hours. Most recently, we launched phase one of Ashjar, the lowest-density apartment development in the Middle East. The entire development is 1.5 times the size of Dubai Marina, but we only have 20 buildings of up to four or five storeys.
A maximum of 2,000 people will be living in the development, which will have three types of buildings — the Cube, Extrovert and Introvert. It is private, low density and, like the rest of Al Barari, super-exclusive.
- What type of customer buys property at Al Barari?
For the villas especially, our buyers are ultra-high net-worth individuals. Our decree is to give these clients complete privacy — they don't want to be known.
We found that buyers have often moved from some of Dubai's most exclusive residential areas because of the lifestyle offered there. It is very difficult to describe Al Barari to people if they've never been there. When you walk outside, it is cooling and calming — the wildlife, the fresh smell of nature. It is completely different from anything else in Dubai.
- How accessible is it?
It's very close to the city and is getting even closer. If you've lived in Dubai for a long time, you'll remember that it felt very far to get to the Marina from what is now the Burj Khalifa area. It seemed like the other side of the world. In reality, Al Barari is much closer to the Burj Khalifa than the Marina. And now, with all the new road connections, the new underpass and the Meydan Highway opening soon, it's possible to drive to Dubai International Financial Centre in less than 15 minutes.
- What can we expect next from Al Barari?
A new spa opened recently and we will be announcing a new food and beverage concept, as well as the plans for our six-star hotel. Phase two of Ashjar will be launched at the end of the year.
We also have the retail area at Seventh Heaven. This will be ultra-exclusive — not just big-name brands, but unique concepts sourced from the world's most revered shopping districts.
Al Barari is slowly turning into a destination in its own. We don't want to rush it, it's an evolutionary process. We change things constantly to strive to make it better than ever — even The Farm restaurant, which was already fantastic and has won a lot of awards. We are constantly adapting to the needs of our customers.
- Al Barari is known as the vision of founder Zaal Mohammed Zaal. Does the family still take an active role in the project?
They are still very handson. Zaal, the head of the company, is still the visionary. Mohamed Bin Zaal, the CEO, is very active. In fact, most of the Zaal family live in the development and are actively involved in the company, from its eco credentials and landscaping to the marketing and public relations.
The family members complement each other and have the future of the project at the heart of what they do. The whole community at Al Barari really cares about what goes on there. If you are a developer who actually lives in the development, you get personally involved and are easily accessible to the residents.
Surrounded by lush greenery, the low-rise, low-density Ashjar project combines a sophisticated, high-end living environment with nature. The project's concept scooped the prize for Future Residential Project at the Cityscape Awards in September. The community features 300 large and elegant apartments, with buyers able to choose homes that suit their personality and lifestyle.
The project was the result of a collaboration between Al Barari and architectural agency 10 Design Europe and Middle East.
''Ashjar doesn't just look beautiful,'' says Dereck Alexander Jon Hoogenkamp, Sales and Marketing Director of Al Barari. ''It is a completely different concept to anything else in the world. We have set a new standard for quality and it shines through.''
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Source: Claire Glasby, Special to Property Weekly