Link Global, the company behind Dubai’s US$1bn replica of the Taj Mahal, is in talks with four international hotel operators to manage the 300-room hotel, its director has told Arabian Business.
The Dubai-based firm said it has been inundated with requests from jewellery and retailers wanting to rent retail space in the development, said Arun Mehra.
“We are already negotiating with three or four [hotel] operators; we want to bring the best in,” he said. “They are all international… one of them is not yet here [in the UAE] but is quite big.”
“Around the Taj we have wedding and romance as a theme… The gold and jewellery business in Dubai is multiplying every year so it will be jewellery retailers. We’ve had a huge response from the big players in jewellery wanting the prime spots,” he added.
Link Global made international headlines last month when it announced plans to build a replica of the Taj Mahal in Dubai’s US$36.5bn Falcon City of Wonders development. It will be four times the size of the original Taj Mahal in Agra when complete.
The project, known as Taj Arabia, is slated for completion in 2014 and will include 1m sq ft of retail space. Infrastructure work for the project is almost completed with construction work on ground expected to begin in the first quarter of 2014, said Mehra.
The proposal has been slammed by cultural officials in India who claim the plans to copy the UNESCO world heritage site will detract from the original building.
“It is patently wrong and absurd,” former Agra legislator Satish Chandra Gupta told India’s IANS news agency. “This kind of distortion and in principle duplication of history artificially makes no sense.”
“You cannot re-create history. Agra must get its share in terms of royalty from anyone using the brand Taj Mahal,” he added.
Others called on the developer to scrap the project altogether. “Ideally the Dubai builder should not go ahead with this project as it hurts our sentiments,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
“Taj Mahal is basically a spiritual centre, with thousands of people offering prayers and paying obeisance round the year.
“The Taj represents or climaxes the 5,000 years of Indian excellence. To belittle the original through a fake model is not a desirable thing,” he added.
Mehra dismissed critics of the project, claiming that it is unlikely to affect livelihoods of those living in Agra. “The criticism is coming from a very small population around the Taj. It’s not going to affect their livelihoods with people coming to see the Dubai one instead of the original,” he said.