The Economist: Arabs are coming to Bosnia because of Profit

Arabs in B&H depo.baIn its online edition, the British weekly magazine Economist published a story about Arabs in Bosnia and Herzegovina who are coming to this country more and more in order to buy real estate, build residential facilities, open numerous complexes and launch business projects.

Two decades ago, a smaller wave of Arabs came to B&H with the intention to fight on the side of Muslims in the war. Today, another wave of Arabs is coming to this country, this time to ski, go to saunas and build houses. In 2010, 1,000 tourists from six Arab countries were registered in Sarajevo. In the first ten months of 2015, over 19,000 of them came only from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Investments of Arabs in this country and purchase of real estate extremely increased in the past several years. For a country steeped in bureaucracy and political deadlock, this new investments represent a bright spot, the writes.

The Thermal Riviera on Ilidža, the suburb of Sarajevo, has been attracting people since the time of Roman Empire, and after the war which lasted between 1992 and 1995 this area was destroyed and lifeless. However, in the past three years it has undergone a renaissance of a kind. The Libyans came first, then other Arabs as well. Nowadays this area is exceptionally popular for purchase of real estate, construction of residential units, hotels, restaurants, etc.

In the café of Hotel Hollywood in Ilidža, the real estate agent Ayyad Salim Al-Ayyad from Kuwait says that business is thriving. Another real estate agent looks across a Bosnian woman who want to buy an apartment in Hadžići. “This is not a place for you”, the agent explains, “It was built by a company from Saudi Arabia for Arabs”.

On the hill above Sarajevo are Poljine, built by the Saudi Al-Shiddi group, and apartments in this complex are intended for Arabs and wealthy Bosnians, the Economist writes. Al-Shiddi group also built the Sarajevo City Center, a large shopping center in the heart of the city, in 2015. During the summer, the center is full of Arab families, many of which are staying in the Hotel Bristol during their visit to B&H – because there is no alcohol in that hotel.

However, this project will be overshadowed by the one near Trnovo: Buroj, a businessman from Dubai, intends to build at least 3,000 villas, apartments, a hospital and sports hall. This investment is worth around 2.5 billion EUR. “Arab tourists feel like home in B&H”, said one real estate agent.

Bosnian market is attractive for Arab middle class buyers who want to get away from the Middle East but cannot afford London or Geneva. In Bosnia, a three-bedroom villa can be yours for 200,000 EUR. Since the B&H legislature demands from foreigners to purchase real estate through local companies it is hard to get accurate data, but real estate agents confirm that the market is on the rise.

Arabs have no special connection with B&H and they invest in this country only because they can generate profit from it, not because they love B&H. One should think would the investors show less interest in B&H if they were Europeans, it was stated in the conclusion of the text published by the Economist.


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