“I used to come to Egypt as a kid,” Mohamed Hadid reminisces as he settles into his chair, adjusting his navy blazer. “I love it, it’s such a beautiful place. I was probably around 11 or 12 when my mom brought me here, and I still have that same image of the country. Everything was grand back then; I would have loved to build in that era.”
He may not have been able to make it happen back then, but now, decades later he’s back in the country he explored as a child, back in the region that he comes from, to do exactly what he wanted to do – build.
Despite international renown for being the father of genetically blessed offspring, ubermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid, Mohamed Hadid is first and foremost – and made his global mark as – an internationally acclaimed real estate developer. The Palestinian-American mogul and his company, Hadid Design & Development Group, have a slew of offices, hotels, and residential developments (his forte is insanely luxe estates) under his belt, scattered everywhere from New York and Aspen, to Mexico and Paris.
Most of my projects in the U.S. have some sort of element from the Middle East; I’ll put in a Turkish bath, a Syrian Hamam, a Moroccan room...
He’s now teaming up with Memaar Al Morshedy to create a new residential community in Cairo with the Egyptian real estate giants, titled Skyline. The space, currently being built in Kattameya, is an ambitious feat to say the least; it’s intended to be a self-contained community – metropolis within a metropolis if you will – featuring the world’s largest residential building, and the world’s largest infinity pool. It’s not often that the glittering city that is Dubai is bested in firsts or that Egypt, by and large a considered a developing nation, is the country to do the besting, but it seems in eight years’ time, once the project is complete, a reversal of roles will have taken place.
“We are trying to create something that’s beyond today’s imagination,” Hadid elucidates, “So it’s not like something that we saw, something we’re trying to recreate; we’re creating something new that we believe, with time, will be a better place to live. “We’re essentially trying to create a small town,” explains Hassan Morshedy, the CEO of his eponymous development company.
What Skyline is projected to look like upon its launch in 2026
The project, spearheaded by Memaar Al Morshedy but which involves a collaborative effort between Hadid, architect Raef Fahmy, and Spanish design studio Van Der Pas, is meant to have restaurants, shops, bars, a fitness space and spa – even an IMAX cinema. “It’s going to have bicycle lanes; it’s literally going to have greenery on all the rooftops - so when you fly over it, you’ll see a forest underneath. It will be very different to what we're accustomed to in Cairo,” Morshedy continues. The project is apartment based – as opposed to the usual sprawling villas which dominate developments in Cairo suburbs – to cater to young Egyptians, newlyweds, and small families, who neither need nor can afford a bloated villa of a home.
...'Skyline' is literally going to have greenery on all the rooftops - so when you fly over it, you’ll see a forest underneath. It will be very different to what we're accustomed to in Cairo.
It might strike some as odd that Hadid would choose to invest in a country whose economy is still reeling from its revolution over seven years ago, but the appeal is two-fold for the mogul; financial incentive and cultural nostalgia.
Real estate incidentally, is one of the few industries in Egypt which has consistently continued to hold its ground despite an economy that intermittently shatters and rebuilds itself – though by and large it exists in the former state more than the latter. “Over the years, Egyptians have more and more consistently been putting their money into assets, like real estate – it’s very sustainable,” explains Morshedy. “I think that’s why the market has managed to not only stay stable, but pick up – and I think it’s going to continue to do so in the coming years; now that the banks aren’t giving that 20% anymore, people might be more incentivized to take their money out of the banks and into real estate.”
The other side of it for Hadid is proximity to his culture. Hadid was born in Nazareth, Palestine in 1948 - born in the year of the Nakba, he effectively became a refugee before he turned one. He lived between Syria and Tunisia until he was about 15, when his father found a job in the US and took his family across an ocean for an entirely different life, far removed from the Middle East Hadid grew up in.
Skyline is set to feature the world's largest infinity pool.
Hadid grew up in that unique state of cultural limbo that third culture kids often experience, with elements of both sides embedding themselves in their upbringing – and influencing how they then bring up their own families in their new homelands. “I had a Palestinian family - my parents were very liberal, but being Arab we also have very traditional values; so for instance we have our Eids, our Ramadans, but whoever wanted to fast it was up to them. My father always said, ‘Being religious isn’t about going to the mosque five times a day, it’s about being good to the people around you, being generous’,” explains Hadid, “These are the kinds of things that comprise my family values, so all these things my kids will hopefully take on to my grandkids and so on.”
My father always said, ‘Being religious isn’t about going to the mosque five times a day, it’s about being good to the people around you'"
He’s since built a new life for himself and a veritable real estate empire – he’s valued at over $150 million – but the that deep-rooted link to his culture is indelible. “It’s nice to come here [to the Middle East] because I feel home,” he says simply, “Home is where your culture and your religion is. And one of the reasons why I came to do this project in Egypt with the Morshedy Group is because it’s close to home; it feels like a project for our people.”
A subterranean Moroccan room in Hadid's Beverly Hills estate (sold last year) - Hadid incorporates some element of Islamic architecture and Arab influence in every house he designs. This room specifically was built entirely in Morocco and sent to the US to be assembled.
And though the bulk of Hadid’s work has not been in the Middle East, its culture has somehow always woven its way into its work. His identity reveals itself in everything he does; traces of an Arab accent still linger in his speech and ties to his region, an inescapable tug from his homeland, thread themselves through his projects. “Most of my projects in the U.S. have some sort of element from the Middle East; I’ll put in a Turkish bath, a Syrian Hamam, a Moroccan room... These things bring an Islamic architectural aspect to every project whether it’s a classic Victorian home, or a modern home,” he says, “We tend to bring in what we feel makes us comfortable.”
You know what they say; you can take the guy out of the Arab world, but you can’t take the Arab world out of the guy. This time around though, instead of having to transplant pieces of his Arab culture into his creations in the West, Hadid is creating something rooted in where he stems from.