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Forest living in Dubai: How Majid Al Futtaim is redefining community living

Forest living in Dubai: How Majid Al Futtaim is redefining community living

Dubai’s property market, a testament to the city’s resilience, expanded by 39 per cent on average in Q1 2024 compared to the corresponding period in 2021 just after the pandemic.

While a probable correction is expected in the next few years, Ahmed El Shamy, the CEO of Majid Al Futtaim – Properties, reassures that the real estate industry regularly goes through multi-year cycles of boom and bust periods.

This usually leads to a bit of a plateauing, probably some minimal corrections in the city’s prime residential market, but the market remains robust, he says.

El Shamy extols the growth in Dubai’s real estate sector as the city has risen into the upper echelons of the luxury end of the market, going toe-to-toe with long-established hubs as a magnet for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), a segment that is expected to spend as much as $4.4bn in the emirate’s luxury segment in 2024.


Dubai’s prime residential market entered an uncertain 2024 on a solid footing, with capital values increasing 17.4 per cent in 2023 and a more modest 5.6 per cent in the second half of the year. The city’s luxury property market continues to be a global outlier, having grown by 26.3 per cent over the past 12 months, 16.3 per cent in 2023, following a record 44.4 per cent increase in 2022, according to Knight Frank.

Real estate investors buy properties in Dubai for investment, capital gains, second homes, holiday homes, or rental income. They also invest as part of a strategy to diversify their investment portfolio.

Dubai broke a decade-long record for real estate property sales in 2023 and saw rents jump to unprecedented levels, bucking the trend in much of the world, where values have largely dropped amid high interest rates and a slowing global economy.

Savills said, in a February report, that the [Dubai] market is still relatively competitively priced by global standards at $850 per square foot. The real estate advisory firm said the Middle East tourism and business hub offers a comparatively low cost of living, a relatively easy visa process, and a warmer climate, which continues to attract international and domestic buyers.

Sustainability and community living have emerged as fundamental drivers in Dubai’s evolving residential property market, influencing investors and occupiers alike. El Shamy emphasises that sustainability in luxury real estate is not just a trend but a strategic move towards a more prosperous, appealing, and responsible future.

“Dubai has established itself as a global hub attracting families and working professionals. Developers need to differentiate themselves, and we focus on building strong communities through our unique ecosystem of retail, entertainment, and lifestyle offerings,” he adds.

Nurturing sustainable living

Dubai’s skyline incorporates sustainability initiatives into every aspect of real estate development, creating a dynamic and eco-friendly urban landscape.

The demand for environmentally conscious and socially responsible living options continues to grow in the city, a trend that is being driven by several factors that are revolutionising the real estate landscape across the UAE.

El Shamy stresses that sustainability sits at the core of Majid Al Futtaim.  “Sustainability is central to our growth strategy, and we are lucky to be in the UAE, a country on a mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We play right into that strategy, and for us, sustainability is no longer an option but an imperative, an enabler and the best way to do business,” he says, adding that sustainable living is ingrained in the developer’s DNA.

Majid Al Futtaim launched its newest development, Ghaf Woods, Dubai’s first forest living community, in June. The property development is poised to redefine indoor-outdoor living, anchoring world-class design and architecture in the surrounding natural environment.

“Ghaf Woods is more than just a new community – it’s the beginning of a new chapter in premium developments with creative and sustainable community design at its core, and we are confident that its appeal will extend far beyond the UAE,” notes El Shamy.

Trees are a significant feature of Ghaf Woods. They help reduce soil erosion, conserve water, and provide shade, keeping the community’s average temperatures around five degrees Celsius cooler than other parts of the city. The development will be home to 35,000 trees suitable to the local climate, including the Ghaf, and the forest will outnumber the number of residents.

These features are not differentiators for Majid Al Futtaim but align with Dubai’s quality-of-life strategy and the company’s sustainability goals.

El Shamy stresses that Ghaf Woods is more than just a new community. The development aligns with the company’s overall focus in the GCC and North Africa regions, with a particular emphasis on the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.


“It embodies our pioneering spirit – just as we introduced snow into the desert with Ski Dubai, waterfront living in Tilal Al Ghaf, Ghaf Woods will be the first development in Dubai to offer “forest living,” he adds.

El Shamy underscores that 72 per cent of the gross sales value (GSV) in the Dubai residential property market is in the apartment business, an essential segment that Majid Al Futtaim had previously not considered. Ghaf Woods is the developer’s entry into that market. The company started with townhouses/villas and is venturing into the more substantial bulk of the market: the apartments.

“We are positioning Ghaf Woods within the upper middle entry of the residential property market, so not only are we in the right market segment, but we are in the middle price range offering within the affordable luxury property sector,” adds El Shamy.

“We will introduce a high-end premium product for that price range, and we will offer something unique through customisation upgrade packages – an uncommon offering in this market.”

Ghaf Woods embraces a harmonious living experience marked by thriving greenery, enhanced connectivity, and unrivalled sustainability. “We set clear science-based targets for sustainability, and we are embedding innovative technologies for power generation, water consumption, and recycling,” El Shamy unpacks, noting that the company utilises water from humidity and air conditioning condensation.

“We mandate the use of sustainable materials and special living arrangements in our developments. We are constantly looking for ways to minimise water usage and ensure optimal water supply for the trees.”

Majid Al Futtaim plans to release the development in eight phases over the next seven years. Ghaf Woods, which covers 738,000 square metres of land off the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Highway, offers residents more than 7,000 premium units, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and penthouses.

The development dovetails with the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, an initiative to expand green cover by 100 per cent.

Strong foundations

Dubai’s residential real estate landscape is undergoing a significant transformation amid growing demand for community living as savvy and aspirational home-seekers increasingly value social connections and a sense of belonging.

“We go beyond just selling apartments – we provide customisation packages that allow residents to personalise their living spaces. This, combined with the sense of community and the indoor-outdoor fusion offered by Ghaf Woods, creates an exceptional living environment,” says El Shamy.

A Property Finder survey published in May revealed that residential property buyers in Dubai are seeking communities that align with their desired lifestyles. The draw of community living lies in its ability to enhance residents’ overall quality of life.

Ghaf Woods aligns with the property developer’s focus on building mixed-use communities. “Our ecosystem is unmatched. We offer a place where people can live, work, shop, and play in the same community,” El Shamy shares.

In 2018, Majid Al Futtaim unveiled its landmark destination, Tilal Al Ghaf. The development epitomises how community-living residential developments meet the growing demand arising from the collective consciousness of a new segment of home-seekers who are reframing how we live in the post-pandemic future.


“Tilal Al Ghaf is different from the master plan we launched a few years ago because we realised that home-seekers were clamouring for a sense of belonging and bigger as well as more luxurious units,” adds El Shamy.

“There was a demand for community living while still having privacy – that’s when we introduced the islands, which offered customers both.”

El Shamy says Majid Al Futtaim is leveraging its design studio to cater to its sustainability targets and the home-seekers living in the company’s communities. “We want people to view our communities as a destination, a lifestyle proposition they would enjoy living there.”

Earlier in 2024, the property developer broke ground for Alaya and Elysian by awarding contracts worth Dhs3bn for two residential projects that will be handed over by mid-2026. With more than three million square meters of walkable neighbourhoods connected by forest pathways, cycling tracks, jogging trails, and green spaces, the mixed-use community offers a modern resort-style living experience in the heart of Dubai.

Tilal Al Ghaf is a community offering a luxurious and sustainable lifestyle with amenities such as open spaces and outdoor recreational facilities providing residents with everything they need for a comfortable and convenient lifestyle.

Over the years, Majid Al Futtaim has become a name that people trust for innovative, customer-focused solutions, and Ghaf Woods marks the start of an exciting new chapter in premium developments with creative and sustainable community design at its core. El Shamy closes out by saying that the development’s allure will resonate well beyond the borders of the UAE.


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