CAIRO: “It’s the right time to be in real estate. It’s a local maxim that would make American brokers chuckle or, perhaps more likely, cringe.
But for a cluster of Egyptian and Gulf companies, it’s hard to see how the timing could be better. The four-day “Next Move conference, the first large real estate convention in Egypt, opened Wednesday under the warehouse-sized roof of the Cairo International Convention Center with a deluge of thudding music, endless hors d’oeuvres, gleaming model homes and sleek pamphlets welcoming “the future of Cairo.
The convention drew nearly every large development company in the region – including DAMAC, Emaar, Qatari Diar, SODIC, and Talaat Moustafa Group – and dozens of others like Barwa International, Orientals, Cascadia, and Hassan Allam.
“I don’t think you would have seen something like this in Egypt a couple years ago, said Ahmed Badrawi, director of business development at SODIC. “The influence of foreign investors and, generally, the upturn in the market have really raised the bar.
Standing beside a model of the Cairo Festival City (flown in Tuesday from Hong Kong), Tarek Al Shazly, general manager of the project, noted how Middle Eastern real estate has changed over the 16 years since he joined the field.
“We started in an era where real estate wasn’t really in Egypt, but it was starting in the Gulf, so I moved, he said. “But by the time it really got mature in the Gulf, it started growing in Egypt.
The buoyant tone on the convention’s opening day could hardly contrast more with curdling American and increasingly dour European markets. The Egyptian housing sector grew nearly 16 percent last year according to Business Intelligence Middle East, more than double the country’s general growth.
Demand shows little sign of letting up. State research suggests a current shortage of 2.5 million units, with 350,000 needed to keep up with growing demand. And while many decry a widening gulf between rich and poor, real estate talk has shifted to the need to cater to a rising bourgeoisie.
“We believe that there’s this new emerging middle class that’s demanding an improved lifestyle, a better product than is currently available in Greater Cairo, said Badrawi. “The yuppie class, for want of a better word.
Many Gulf-owned companies like DAMAC and Amlak Finance are among the biggest players in the current market, often lured from their homelands’ flooded housing markets by cheap desert land and an immense, under-served Egyptian population.
Heady displays of confidence were easy to spot on Wednesday, with unicycle-riding mimes and shrubbery-clad actors among the more theatrical examples.
The palpable message was that whatever problems the region may face, the real estate wave is riding high, with the peak yet to come. Over the next five to seven years, Badrawi said he expects the satellite cities of Sixth of October and New Cairo to swell to 2.5 to 3 million people, “shich, he noted, “is the size of most major European cities and larger than most of the Gulf states.