As Jeddah’s Mall of Arabia nears its opening date in September, workers from Alarabi Decoration and Construction Company are busy with the interior finishes of this prestigious development, which is designed to be the largest shopping centre of its kind in Saudi Arabia.
The two-storey mall, which offers a built-up area of 276,000 sq m, expects a weekly footfall of around 250,000 and will provide parking space for around 5,000 cars.
“We are currently supplying and installing Prodema ceilings, gypsum ceilings, ceramic and marble flooring and mosaic tiles for this prestigious mall of the Al Hokair Group under a subcontract from Riyadh-based Haifa Al Jazira,” says Saleh M Saleh, business consultant at the Jeddah-based interior décor specialist.
“Apart from the Mall of Arabia, we are working on a number of shopping centres for the Al Hokair Group, including the Al Hofuf Mall in Hofuf where we expect to start work next month (August) on the gypsum ceiling works,” he adds.
The mall is among a host of commercial complexes and residential projects that the company is engaged with in the region. Having recently finished work on Al Nour Mall in Madinah, Red Sea Mall in Jeddah and Sephora Rashid Mall in Al Khobar, Alarabi is currently working on the Stars Avenue Mall and poised to complete the installation of acrylic ceiling works on the Mall of Dhahran extension in Dhahran. In the retail sector, it has also carried out decoration works for the Tanagra retail centres in Jeddah, Riyadh and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Christian Dior outlets in Jeddah and Riyadh and Doha in Qatar as well as Louis Vuitton shops in Doha.
Apart from malls, Alarabi is also involved in ongoing projects such as the supply and installation of gypsum suspended ceiling works in Makkah at the King Abdul Aziz Endowment development for Saudi Binladin Group; the 1,320-suite Le Meridien Hotel and Towers, also in Makkah and a conference hall project in Jeddah for Saudi Oger; a development for the equestrian club in Jeddah; and several palaces and luxury private villa projects. It has just handed over the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs' HRH building in Jeddah, where it carried out fibrous gypsum and painting works.
Alarabi enjoys an enviable position in the market, being the preferred interior decoration firm for leading Saudi contractors such as Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and Saudi Oger and developers such as Al Hokair.
“The regional market is booming with some $1.4 trillion worth of civil construction projects expected to come on the market and we are optimistic that the next five to 10 years to be very busy as there are not sufficient experienced players to take on this volume of projects,” says Saleh. “The market holds immense potential and we are hopeful of working on prestigious projects such as the King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, 80 km north of Jeddah.”
Alarabi has also broadened the scope of its activities to include works such as parquet flooring, interior fit-outs and joinery, to enable it to implement interior projects on a turnkey basis.
Business has been booming to such an extent that the interior décor specialist is urgently looking at boosting its staffing numbers by 25 per cent, up from the current 1,000 craftsmen.
“We are fully booked and doing our best to cope with the orders. In fact, we have had to keep some of the new orders on hold so that we fulfil the contracts that we already have in hand,” Saleh points out. "We are facing a staff shortage and are currently processing visas to recruit artisans right from Morocco to Philippines.”
“In addition, there is a shortage of material – particularly steel – which is also affecting the schedules of projects as well as steep rises in prices.”
To tackle the problem of the price increases, Alarabi has had to limit the validity of quotation to 30 days instead of the two to three months that was offered previously.
Commenting on trends in the interiors market, Saleh says: “With the bulk of the construction activity in the kingdom being high-rise buildings and malls, there is greater demand for contemporary designs using gypsum. Classic and neo-classic interiors, however, are still popular in the luxury residential sector such as palaces.”
Over the past 26 years, Alarabi has undertaken a variety of decorative gypsum works, special painting and artistic decoration works for numerous projects and clientele across the Middle East. Its expertise covers the entire spectrum of decoration works from gypsum decorative ceilings and walls to artistic painting applications; and from furniture and special woodworks to marble mosaic and tiling works for pools and murals.
From its modest beginnings as a small establishment founded by Faisal K Adham in Jeddah in 1982, Alarabi Decoration and Construction has grown into one of the key interior and exterior décor specialists in the Middle East, with its head office in Jeddah and a branch office in Riyadh. It converted into a limited liability company in 2004. In the same year, it set up an office in Kuwait known as Arabi International for Decoration, which has continued to capture a growing market share of the decoration business in that country every year. In January 2006, Alarabi established an office in Abu Dhabi – known as Alarabi Decoration – which has been involved in a multi-million-dollar refurbishment of Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Alarabi has a 2,000 sq m workshop in Jeddah and a 1,500 sq m workshop at its branch office in Riyadh.