Qatar Joins Middle East’s Theme Park Frenzy With $5.5 Billion Project

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The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are all pushing ahead with theme park projects.

Despite the scorching heat, countries in the Middle East are continuing to build theme parks. Qatar is the latest, greenlighting a $5.5 billion project 40 minutes north of the capital Doha.

It’s called Simaisma and it’s been built by a state-owned company, Qatari Diar, appointed by the government. With a theme park at its core, the project will span eight million square meters (1,976 acres) along seven kilometers of beachfront land. The development is also set to include an 18-hole golf course surrounded by 300 villas, hotels, a marina and beach club, as well as homes and shops. 

The theme park aspect of the development will be around 650,000 square meters. Qataris are in talks with various theme park operators to run the park.

“The anchor is the theme park and that phase will be coming first to attract more people to come and invest,” Qatari Diar Chief Executive Officer Ali Mohamed Al-Ali said in an interview to Bloomberg. “It’s part of the government strategy to diversify the economy and invest in the tourism pillar.” 

Theme Parks in Middle East

Simaisma is one of many new “entertainment districts” being built in the region right now.  The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions estimates that the amusement park industry in the Middle East and Africa will grow by more than $470 million this year. Attractions in the Middle East and parts of Africa generated $24.3 billion in revenue in 2023, it said.

Dubai and the other emirates have had large-scale parks for years, but Saudi Arabia is coming in with numerous projects of its own.

Most of Saudi Arabia’s theme park assets are centered in one place: Qiddiya, a new-build ‘entertainment city’ promising a dozen such parks.

Here are some of the facilities Qiddiya is promising:

  • 43 sports facilities
  • 12 theme parks
  • 275 rides
  • 15 hospitals
  • 60,000 buildings
  • 160,000 residences
  • 600,000 residents
  • A gaming and e-sports district
  • The world’s largest Olympic museum
  • 48 million visitors a year

Theme parks at Qiddiya include a Six Flags, the “Aquarabia” Park and a Dragon Ball-themed park – the first of its kind.

When Qiddiya was relaunched at the end of last year, developers had awarded contracts worth $2.7 billion. Qiddiya said its main waterpark was 61% built, the Six Flags was 59% complete, and all its golf courses had been “shaped” over land equal in size to 215 football fields.

In the UAE, Abu Dhabi is building a Harry Potter-themed park with an undisclosed budget and opening date, adding to its existing portfolio of a Ferrari theme park, a large waterpark, an F1 track, and its own SeaWorld, which opened to controversy in 2023.

In Dubai, the emirate has just opened a Real Madrid theme park, replacing an existing Bollywood park.

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