Muslims offered timeshare in birthplace of Islam

Started by Newshound, March 03, 2004, 17:10:19

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Muslims offered timeshare in birthplace of Islam

DUBAI (Reuters) - Islamic entrepreneurs are moving to cash in on a guaranteed flow of Muslim pilgrims to the birthplace of Islam by offering them timeshare options previously available only to holiday spas and beach resorts.

Muslims will be able to buy time at a 31-floor luxury tower overlooking Islam's holiest site, the Grand Mosque of Mecca, by investing in a type of timeshare option that is compliant with Islamic law. It is the newest instrument to hit the rapidly growing Islamic finance sector worth an estimated $200 billion.

Kuwait-based Munshaat Real Estate Co say their new product for buying timeshare at Zam Zam tower is expected to bring revenues of more than $800 million in the next three years and capitalise on Saudi Arabia's lucrative religious tourism and real estate market.

Now under construction, Zam Zam tower, the Arabic name for a holy natural spring in Mecca, will be able to accommodate 6,000 once it is build in 2006.

"We've found that seventy percent of visitors to Mecca require temporary residence. In 1995, there was a 6,600-room deficit for visitors to Mecca.

That number is expected to multiply by 10 in 2009," Meshal Khalifa al-Ameri, managing director of Munshaat Real Estate Projects Co, told Reuters on the sidelines of an Islamic banking conference in Dubai.

Each year, millions of devout Muslims make the trip to Mecca, both during the holy haj week of pilgrimage and year round.

Mecca saw more than two million Muslims converge for the haj pilgrimage in January 2004, and the numbers are rising annually as more of the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide go to Mecca.

"We are mainly concentrating on Mecca and Medina. We strive to encourage tourism in Islamic countries," he said.

Munshaat's timeshare option promises ethical investment according to Islam which forbids interest and investments in alcohol and gambling. Returns in Islamic Finance are instead made through a system of profit-sharing.

Ameri said it was too early to give sales figures as subscription in the plan opened six months ago, but he added he had "good expectations".

Buyers in Zam Zam choose a 24-year option on a range of packages which vary in price depending on the suite's size, duration of stay and religious season. For instance, a royal suite during the peak season of haj can cost more than 56,790 Kuwaiti dinars ($192,700).

Munshaat is also planning to build a similar residential tower in Saudi Arabia's second holiest city of Medina.

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