Yousef Al Shelash is not only the CEO of Dar Al Arkan real estate development company, but also one of its founders. Since the Saudi Arabia-based company’s inception in 1994, he’s been a visionary leader who has helped it grow and expand its business throughout the Middle East and beyond. “Recently, we grew into being present in eight countries, not only in Saudi. As a result, we are doing real estate development in eight countries today,” says Al Shelash.
When six families banded together to launch the real estate development company, “There was an opportunity in the market in Saudi Arabia because it was newly allowing what you might call in the United States real estate funds,” says Yousef Al Shelash. He recognized that “a very big business was bubbling up.”
Sheikh Yousef Al Shelash perceived the potential and understood that his experience in law — he obtained an MSc in law and legal proceedings from the Institute of Public Administration and a BSc in Shariah from Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, both in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — would be an asset to establishing himself as a reputable source for drafting funds. “People trusted me because I was a lawyer, and so I was able to start acquiring real estate using those real estate funds,” he says. “The company started with very small, small projects, and the market growth helped them a lot to eventually grow into taking the company public in 2007.”
His father was a real estate investor and one of his most significant role models and mentors throughout his life and career. “My father used to trade land in what used to be Palestine in the 1940s,” says Al Shelash. Growing up with a father who believed in real estate investing left a lasting impression on Al Shelash, which is evident in every decision he makes regarding the company’s projects.
In addition to being a leading real estate developer in Saudi Arabia, the real estate development company is expanding globally. In February 2022, the company announced the opening of its office in Beijing. The Beijing branch will mainly focus on partnerships within the technology and real estate sectors to implement worldwide best practices in those industries.
It serves multiple purposes to streamline joint ventures between the company led by Yousef Al Shelash and leading Chinese real estate developers for the Chinese and the Saudi market. In addition, the goal is to grow and clear the way for collaboration between Saudi Arabia and China by increasing investment and information-sharing opportunities.
According to a press release from Dar Al Arkan, the new office “will act as a hub to support Chinese companies and investors seeking expansion, company formation, and investment opportunities in the Kingdom. By providing access to required information, permits, legal and financial knowledge, and support on partnerships and other requirements, Dar Al Arkan is making entry into the Kingdom more accessible.”
The real estate development company appointed Guo Jiancheng as the general manager of the Beijing branch. “Over its [28-year] history in Saudi Arabia, Dar Al Arkan has pioneered a distinctive approach to development, introduced new technologies, and raised the benchmark for the real estate and technologies sectors in the Kingdom,” stated Jiancheng. “With this expertise and industry know-how, the company is well positioned to take this knowledge and creativity to a global level and promote it as a best practice. Furthermore, by entering the Chinese market, Dar Al Arkan is also well positioned to enhance relations between the Kingdom and China across multiple fronts.”
Yousef Al Shelash: The Business of Balancing Finances and Family Matters
In addition to being the chairman of Dar Al Arkan, Al Shelash is the chairman of Saudi Home Loans and the chairman of Alkhair Capital. He co-founded Saudi Home Loans with his partners in 2007 and took it public in the winter of 2022. Alkhair Capital is an investment banking company based in Saudi and also in the Dubai International Financial Centre in the United Arab Emirates. Between the three companies under his chairmanship, there are close to 55 billion riyals (about $15 billion) of assets under management.
However, the innovative businessman is focused on more than just money. “Yes, I am a hard-core businessperson, and the main driver of the business is to make money,” says Yousef Al Shelash. “I see building houses and apartments where families can grow and live in communities as a noble target.”
Al Shelash says he “is not only fulfilling a commercial target by generating for the shareholders of the company that requires right of return, but because I am in real estate, I am involved in building cities and communities [for] families.” In Saudi Arabia, the company has new developments in the works in Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca, Taif, and Medina.
Blazing a Trail of Global Expansion
Yousef Al Shelash’s investment in the company continues to pay off as it expands worldwide. A press release from the real estate development company states, “Starting in 2021, Dar Al Arkan has embarked on a global expansion drive starting with the announcement of its Sidra project in Bosnia, followed by the launch of two luxury co-branded towers in the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with luxury fashion brand Missoni, and hypercar manufacturer Pagani Automobili, respectively. The company also announced the expansion in the Qatari and Omani markets through premium residential and commercial projects.”
Additionally, the company is building three towers in the United Arab Emirates, including the world’s first W Residence, and five other buildings in Qatar. It’s also creating a semi-gated community in Bosnia. The chairman says, “Dar Al Arkan is working in Dubai to provide unique products to the people who are investing and want to live in Dubai. So far, the company has only taken plots in key locations, either on the water or in the center of the downtown. The company only presented co-branded products, like the limited edition of the real estate market in Dubai.”
One of the real estate development company’s top executives has stated that the property development company’s mission is “to spread successful brands outside Saudi where we will be able to demonstrate what a Saudi brand can deliver … and will be a reflection of what we have in Saudi Arabia.”
The executive confirmed that the company is looking to expand into other countries, including the United Kingdom and Spain. “We are evaluating many areas [for expansion],” he stated.
Yousef Al Shelash says, “This is part of taking Dar Al Arkan global as a brand. I take pride in showing the world another image of what Saudi is and being successful in places like Dubai, Oman, Qatar, the United Kingdom, Spain, and China. Planting that Saudi flag outside Saudi and showing the Saudi values in delivering on promises, quality, and delivery on time. This is what we are trying to do very hard and very actively in our real estate projects outside Saudi, starting with the very first project that we’ve done outside Saudi, which is the Urban Oasis with interiors [by] Missoni.”