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Game changer behind Shurooq

A dedicated CEO with a mission to elevate Sharjah at various international forums, His Excellency Marwan Al Serkal has always been the face of Shurooq along with his dedicated team responsible for the development of the emirate.

SHEHARA RIZLY

As CEO of Shurooq, Marwan Al Serkal has been instrumental in initiating many global programmes to portray Sharjah as an attractive destination for trade, tourism, education, healthcare, transport and logistics. He states, “Having been involved with Shurooq since its inception in 2009, it has been a tremendous journey to see Sharjah evolve so dynamically in terms of a truly international destination for domestic and overseas investment. In parallel to that, maintaining and enhancing Sharjah’s cultural importance in terms of achievements and developments is a great testament to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of Shurooq.” HE Marwan further states, “Our first priority is to the people of Sharjah by ensuring that they have firstclass facilities, amenities and services by working hand in hand with government entities and private companies. Besides, Shurooq is dedicated to establishing foreign ties and subsequent investment in areas such as healthcare, environment, real estate, leisure and tourism, education and transport and logistics. We are constantly promoting Sharjah on a global scale, securing the emirate’s position on a more international investment map. Shurooq has an enormous portfolio of cultural and commercial projects and as CEO, I want to increase that in terms of numbers and diversification.”
Graduating with a diploma in accounting from Dubai Men’s College and a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Sciences in Business Administration, he joined the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority in 1999 as the head of the auditing department. In 2003, he worked as Finance Manager for Dubai Shopping Festival and was promoted to Director of Finance and Administration in 2005, following which he became part of the Shurooq family, what he says is genuinely a constantly rewarding role.
Reiterating the reason to select the specific career path, he said, “When I entered the HCT, I felt that I would be more a person in the IT world as I thought that it was the future. I would say the shift came when I realised that accounting is very interesting and it means a lot to the business if you understand numbers. I used to read a lot of articles about CEOs and found out that many of their backgrounds were accounting; that was the time I decided to change. I received huge resistance from my teachers because they knew that I was excellent and didn’t want me to move but in the end, it was my decision and I don’t really regret it. Accounting made me who I am today.”
HE Marwan states that he has been lucky in his life, among some of the most remarkable achievements in his career. “In every place I felt that I achieved what was at that time something really special. I used to head the finance department in DSF and the achievement was to transform the way of management in the shopping festival, We also managed to flip the financials to make it breakeven and then profitable. My personal achievement was to be responsible of a motoring programme on Dubai TV. With no real experience in the automotive industry and no experience in media, I managed to create a programme that was a huge hit at that time.”
Among his many challenges, Qasba is one that he transformed with his team. “Transforming Al Qasba was the biggest challenge and making it transform is something I’m proud of. We took a place that was dead and managed to make it a vibrant place with events year-round. We hosted major events in Al Qasba among which the Asian torch relay all around Sharjah and ending in Al Qasba was a huge achievement as we received a compliment from the organisers that Sharjah was the star.”
Another project under his leadership in Shurooq is ‘Heart of Sharjah’. He says, “It is really interesting because it’s a story of the past that we believe will have a huge impact on future generations. It’s a work in progress but Al Bait will be the jewel that we will celebrate in 2018. Kalba ecotourism is a lovely project that is going to be open to public for the first time, with Sharjah Collection Kalba as the top destination for bird watching in the region. Mleiha is another huge success on how Shurooq managed to transform this area, celebrating archeological sites and making everyone proud of history. The best part is when you combine activities with archeology. The flag island and flag poles are projects that you will always be proud of and we are trying to create destinations rather than monuments for people to visit them everyday and not on occasions only.”
Ecotourism is a project which HE Marwan has been working on for the past few years. He shares, “Some of Shurooq’s most notable and ambitious conservation ventures till date have been in the leisure and tourism industry, reflecting the combination of economic innovation and Sharjah’s outstanding areas of natural beauty. Shurooq estimates the value of Sharjah’s environmental market to be AED 960 million by the end of this year, growing to AED 1.13 billion by 2020.
The emirate has established itself as the premium ecotourism destination across MENA, which is more than a predetermined domestic strategy. It also shows Sharjah’s ability to keep pace and often anticipate international trends. The AED 250 million Mleiha Archaeological and ecotourism project and Kalba ecotourism project, for example, combine luxury with an ecofriendly experience. While environmentally conscious tourism may still be a relatively niche market, these developments are not only fulfilling the existing demand but also promoting the concept. At this year’s Arabian Travel Market, we launched the ‘Sharjah Collection’, which comprises three individual projects. Nestled within the Kalba ecotourism project will be Kingfisher Lodge – a collection of tented lodge-style accommodations surrounded by mangroves. Al Badayer Lodge is set in the sweeping deserts of Al Badayer Oasis where guests will enjoy five-star facilities amid authentic Bedouin surroundings, while Bait Khalid Bin Ibrahim will have two four-star B&B villas in the heart of Sharjah, converted from old Emirati homes that belonged to heritage settlements.

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