The Business Year

Close this search box.

SAUDI ARABIA - Real Estate & Construction

Ahmed Al Sulaim

CEO, Jeddah Central Development Company (JCDC)


Ahmed Al Sulaim, CEO of JCDC since 2020. He has 36 years of experience in senior leadership roles with a deep knowledge of multiple sectors, including energy, real estate, and infrastructure with some of the Kingdom’s most prominent private- and public-sector organizations. he is a member of various committees in government entities and the private sector. Al Sulaim holds an engineering degree from Minnesota University in the USA, and a Certificate of Executive Directors from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. he also gained a tremendous experience through his participation in Saudi Aramco’s extensive oil and gas projects in countries including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, Italy, South Korea, and China. & He was ranked as Advisor by the Saudi Council of Engineers.

“The Cruise Terminal is an essential part of the world-class marina that we are building. In addition to the Terminal, 473 luxury boats, yachts, and super yachts will be docked at the marina.”
Can you give us an overview of JCDC?

Jeddah Central Development is envisioned to be a global destination and a high-profile landmark district at the heart of the great City of Jeddah. It will be a unique district that celebrates the spirit of Al-Balad, where artisan life, street retail, cultural institutions, artwork, restaurants, and hospitalities are found. Jeddah is considered the second largest city of the Kingdom and Al-Balad is the historical area of Jeddah. It can literally be translated as “The Old Town”. The historic center of the City of Jeddah, founded in the early 7th century and serving as Jeddah’s commercial center for around 14 centuries. It served as an ancient trading port and was the primary gateway to the Holy City of Makkah for pilgrims making their blessed journey for Hajj. Today, is famous for its ancient architecture and traditional buildings that were constructed from local elements using coral stone and decorated with beautiful wooden lattice windows. Inspired by Jeddah’s rich cultural heritage, climate, and the Red Sea coastline, the Jeddah Central Development will be created as a connected, healthy, and vibrant community with a dynamically contemporary timeless approach. This new downtown will have a series of carefully crafted and appropriately scaled districts, mixed-use and residential neighborhoods, where fantastic opportunities for value propositions are set in place. The public realm and landscape identity will celebrate the soul of Al- Balad and urban form and reinterpret it into a modern, vibrant future Jeddah Central Development. With over 25km of active public waterfront, Jeddah Central Development will connect and create Jeddah’s continuous great public waterfront. It will offer Jeddah unique beach experiences, where people are encouraged to enjoy the Red Sea’s sands and warm waters and coral. The iconic world-class architecture will anchor key memorable moments along the coast Jeddah Central Development is based on three fundamental principles: Learning from The Past, Appreciating the Present, and Inspiring the Future. Unlike any other development in the world, with its four landmarks sitting within a thoroughly planned community spread over an area of 5.7 million square meters in the heart of Jeddah, creating a destination for tourists, residents, and the people of Jeddah. As part of the Saudi Vision 2030’s objectives, Jeddah Central aims to improve the quality of life for citizens and contribute to the development and diversification of the Saudi economy, focusing on sustainability and environmental preservation. In addition to boosting Jeddah’s tourism and entertainment offerings, Jeddah Central also includes residential components that will create a vibrant and diverse community in the heart of the city, specifically from Al-Salam Royal Palace to the end of the desalination plant, adjacent to King Abdulaziz Road, featuring a charming view of the red sea with a 9.5-kilometer-long waterfront. From its inception, Jeddah Central was visualized as a development that merged traditional and future concepts with a design inspired by the traditional architectural elements and features of historic Jeddah, re-interpreted and enriched by using the latest materials, technology, and methodology to highlight our assets. The well-being of communities has always been our top priority; hence, 40% of the area is dedicated towards public use. Our decision was influenced by the fact that Jeddah traditionally has had a scarcity of gardens and green spaces. We are determined to ensure that Jeddah Central will be exemplified by several gardens and parks and act as a significant catalyst towards the ‘greening’ of the city. Another hallmark of this development is that it will be inclusive in nature. People will have access to a variety of platforms. Residents and visitors will be able to experience a wide range of diverse experiences, from simple popcorn stalls to Michelin-star dining.

Which developers are you working with to develop these projects?

We held a tender for the masterplan and assessed hundreds of entries till confirming our partnership with four globally renowned companies. Jeddah Central’s main attraction will be its four iconic landmarks – the Opera House, the Industrial Museum, the Sports Stadium, and the Oceanarium. The industrial museum has been designed by Heatherwick Studio, based in the UK, and the Oceanarium was created by renowned designers SOM. We are also building the first opera house in Saudi Arabia, and the agreement to design this landmark attraction was signed with Henning Larsen Architects S/A and Buro Happold Consulting Engineers Limited. While the FIFA compliant stadium is designed by GMP Architekten of Germany. The design and engineering firm Dar Al-Handasah Consultants has been awarded the detailed design contract for Phase 1 of the development.

What potential does Jeddah Central present to the business community?

Jeddah Central will uncover broad opportunities for investment which will contribute to providing job opportunities, and support plans for economic diversification within Jeddah and the Kingdom. The opportunities present are multiple and diverse ranging from residential, cultural, entertainment, in addition to offices, shops and hotels, which also contributes towards building a prosperous and productive society. Our hospitality segment is full of prospects. These include 3, 4, and 5-star hotels and resorts (2,700 keys), modern residential units (17,000 housing units) built on advanced infrastructure, facilities and services, offices, world-class entertainment and education of the highest standard. We are also focusing on opportunities in healthcare, wellness, sports and education. In addition to the four major landmarks, Jeddah Central has 6 exclusive district—the Central District, Marina District, Sports Park District, Waterfront District, Cultural and Creativity District and the Wellness District and the potentials they manifest are exceptional. The marina and luxury cruise terminal also presents significant investment potentials given its attraction – a pier which extends 440m into the sea with an area of 25,000 sqm. We are also putting solutions in place for convenient parking options to ensure that visitors do not encounter gridlocks, or traffic congestion. A series of traffic impact analysis (TIA) have been conducted. The TIA is being implemented to assess and evaluate the interaction between existing transport infrastructure and proposed land development projects. We maintain a balance in managing our subject matter experts without interfering in the best-in-class highlights of this unique development. As developers, however, we ensure that the essence of our design mandate is maintained, and that the development retains its investment potentials.

Can you elaborate on the MoU between JCDC and Cruise Saudi towards developing a luxury cruise terminal?

The Cruise Terminal is an essential part of the world-class marina that we are building. In addition to the Terminal, 473 luxury boats, yachts, and super yachts will be docked at the marina. Undoubtedly, this MOU reflects JCDC’s ambition to strengthen partnerships with leading developers and commitment to establishing Jeddah as a global maritime hub. The core characteristics of the marina will be a significant factor in the overall guest experience. With realizing its significance, we have also partnered with a globally renowned engineering firm HR Wallingford, and renowned consultant’ Marina Projects’, who have conducted multiple numerical surveys, including hydrodynamic and flushing studies, cruise navigation studies and wave modeling, with a return period of 1 in 100 years in collaboration with our team at JCDC. To ensure the safety of its design, we have also built a physical prototype model of a marina in the United Kingdom at a scale of 1:40 and tested it under extreme design conditions. The engineering of the marina has been completed and the construction is in progress. We have also conducted a study on the profile of the marina’s clientele, and we have concluded that our target consumers are Europeans forced to sail to the Caribbean during the winter. We intend to provide a year-long plan which includes refueling and basic maintenance facilities. In essence, the Red Sea is a fantastic destination, and the partnership with Cruise Saudi is essential because it will help us establish a world-class marina with a luxury cruise destination, helping JCDC accelerate its efforts to diversify the Kingdom’s tourism and entertainment industries, which is one of the main objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

What are your key priorities and targets for 2023?

Jeddah Central aims to award all the landmarks and infrastructure related to the development to qualified contractors by this year. While there is an opportunity for synergy – the biggest challenge has been determining the contractor for the various unique assets that we are creating. Our focus on sustainability is reflected by being awarded four ISO certificates already and we aim to raise sustainability standards further. In addition to green spaces, the development will include energy-saving buildings and sustainable transportation options that enhance the population’s health and wellness and reduce any form of adverse environmental impact. We are also striving to ensure a solid financial model. Part of our objective is to stimulate Jeddah’s economy, encourage local investors and provide direct and indirect job creation by supporting the private sector. Jeddah Central is an attractive development and we have received several inquiries from international and local investors who have expressed an interest in partnering with us. We aim to attract and select the best partners who will contribute towards enhancing this unique destination.



You may also be interested in...


SAUDI ARABIA - Real Estate & Construction

Sami Al Sabbagh


CEO, Dar Al Omran



Nada Al-Tuwaijri


CEO, Merwas



Peter Rawlinson


CEO & Chief Technology Officer, Lucid

View All interviews



Become a sponsor