By A Staff Writer
Bahrain is set to cement its status as the financial capital of the Middle East with the laying of the foundation stone for a US$1 billion centre of business excellence along the picturesque Manama coast.
When complete, the ambitious Bahrain Financial Harbour will be the only one of its kind in the region.
The kingdom is already the region's leading banking and finance centre with 180 major banks and financial institutions represented in the country, attracted by a well-regulated but liberal economic environment. The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal 2002 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Bahrain at number one in the Middle East and 15th worldwide for economic freedom.
These factors make Bahrain the obvious venue for banking and financial service providers looking to expand into the Middle East and North Africa. Recognising this need, Reemoon Business Development Consultants in partnership with Ahmed Abubaker Janahi Architects and Gulf Finance House launched the $1bn real estate development project. Gulf Finance House has a 60 per cent stake in the Financial Harbour while the Bahrain government holds the remaining 40 per cent.
The foundation stone for the development was laid in December 2002. To be built on a land area of 202,272 sq metres (2.17 million sq feet), it will form a community of financial firms, banks and insurance agencies. It will feature the highest office towers in Bahrain, a financial hall, residential apartments, retail shops and outlets and maritime facilities. The futuristic design is dynamic, refined and attuned to the modern day requirements of the financial world.
Viewed as a national project and a model for the future, the Bahrain Financial Harbour will provide a highly technological, regional specialist banking and finance centre integrated with a major urban retail and leisure complex.
The site is located close to Bab Al Bahrain which was, until 20 years ago, Bahrain's gateway to the outside world and centre for traders and merchants, and the old Manama port which has been the real waterfront of Bahrain since the early 1900s. The development will thus link the seafaring tradition of the kingdom with the heart of the old Manama souk.
Ahmed Abubaker Janahi Architects are particular that the project should reflect the state-of-the-art inputs needed by world-class financial organisations. To this end, the buildings will be designed with fibre-optic cabling to make traffic flow as easy as possible. Particular care will be also taken to ensure that the project does not harm Bahrain's marine environment.
Construction on the project is likely to be completed by 2010.
Financial capital of the Middle East
Mix business with leisure