It’s an “if you build it, they will come” approach – one that represents a leap of faith into the Palestinian future. And when Mr. Masri, originally from Nablus and educated in Egypt and the United States, first began developing the concept in 2007, he knew he would need foreign investors. What he didn’t expect is that one major investor would come forward – Qatar Diar, a real estate company owned by the Qatari government – with the entire $700 million-plus he needed.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also became a fan of Rawabi, which, on a clear day, will command a view of the Tel Aviv skyline. That helped Masri push his plan through the sluggish bureaucracy of the Palestinian Authority (PA). And Masri notes that members of the Israeli business community and Israeli President Shimon Peres have offered support.
“For every negative comment raised by Israelis, we’ve gotten 100 positive ones,” Masri says in his office in Ramallah, itself looking like a page out of a state-of-the-art design magazine. On the wall is an eye-catching painting by Israeli artist Irit Hadani of a colorful line of trees. “I like it because it feels light and optimistic,” Masri says.
Indeed, an energizing thread of optimism runs through the Ramallah offices where the city is being mapped out. The project’s principal architect, Raphael Samach, came here on behalf of the New York firm Aecom more than two years ago. His young team – who order pizza and work straight through lunch – have in mind a firmly 21st-century city conscious of its ecological impact and equipped with a fiber-optic network.