Dubai: Building and selling a Sharia-compliant hotel apartment is a completely different ball game compared to what it is for a standard unit. But that is not about to deter Damac Properties from taking it on.

The developer has launched a Dh660 million project in Jumeirah Village which will offer 742 “keys” and with prices starting at Dh702,000 for a studio unit. Completion of the “Constella” tower is scheduled for 2017.

“There is an impression in the local market that a Sharia-compliant project is limited to designating it as a “dry” hotel,” said Ziad Al Chaar, managing director. “But full-scale Sharia compliance requires changes from the standard sales and purchase agreements on disclosure, construction and even on the operational side.”

The level of detail that is involved even extends to the way the apartment is laid out. The bed, for instance, should not be set facing the Holy City, and nor should the bathroom. There should be separate pools for singles and families, and floors that will be exclusively for use by women.

“The [Holy] Quran should always be playing in the hotel property — the level of compliance checks are many and we have a Sharia Board that is vetting the whole process,” said Al Chaar.

For developers who get the detailing right, there is a pay-off. There is a ready base of prospective investors in the Gulf markets, who would prefer committing their asset purchases on Sharia principles. Hotel serviced apartments as a category have an instant attraction for such investors.

Multiple branding

Damac already has form in this line, with two of its projects in Saudi Arabia already operating on Sharia. Al Chaar said this that at some point the company will have a separate branding for its interests in this line.

With its recent launches, the developer has been focusing on creating a portfolio of “hotel serviced apartments”. The Maison branding was launched in 2011 and Naia introduced earlier this week. ‘We are the largest developer in this category with 10,000 “keys” in the project mode,” said Al Chaar. “While both Maison and Naia have upscale leanings, there will be some differentiation elements, with Naia tuned towards a younger demographic.

“There was a need to create multiple branding — with most of our hotel serviced apartment projects located within a certain area, it would have led to competition between the properties if all came under a single branding, and that would not have been good for our investors as well. The leading hotel chains such as Starwood and Marriott have multiple sub-brands and we felt it was the right track for us as well.”