Abu Dhabi is planning two of the emirate’s largest ever building projects. The two multi-billion dollar schemes are a grand mosque and a palace hotel in Al-Ain that will be similar in size to the Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace hotel on Abu Dhabi island.

The grand mosque will be one of Abu Dhabi’s biggest building projects and could be even larger than the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that opened in late 2007. “It is massive,” says a source was involved in the early stages of the scheme. “It is bigger than the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and will cost billions to build.”

The design details have not been finalised, but early design documents show that the main feature of the new mosque is a 160-metre-wide dome that will cover the main prayer hall and four 120-metre tall minarets, two next to the mosque and two at the entrance to the site. The complex also includes other buildings for ablution, classrooms, and offices, as well as underground parking.

The total built-up area is about 32,000 square metres, of which 14,500 sq m will be for the mosque.

Construction work on the project could start during the first half of this year. Contractors have been invited to express interest in the piling and shoring package. Companies approached include firms such as Germany’s Bauer, the local Dutch Foundation, the local/Turkish Al-Habtoor STFA Soil Group, and Swissboring, which is part of Italy’s Trevi Group.

Contractors in Abu Dhabi say they have not been approached for the project’s main construction package.

The architect is the local Bayaty, the engineering consultant is the local office of KEO International Consultants, and the project manager is the UK’s EC Harris.

The client is Abu Dhabi’s Department of President’s Affairs, which is currently building the 330-metre tall Landmark tower on Abu Dhabi Corniche. A joint venture of the local/Australian Al-Habtoor Leighton and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) won the estimated $381m main construction contract in 2007. Bauer was the piling contractor. EC Harris is also the project manager on that scheme.

The Department of President’s Affairs declined to confirm any details of the project.

The second major building project in Al-Ain is a palace hotel known as the Qasr al-Ain planned by state-backed Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC). According to a source close to the project, the resort could cost more than $500m to build and will be even bigger than the Emirates Palace hotel on Abu Dhabi island that opened in 2005.

South Africa’s Northpoint prepared the concept architecture for the hotel. KEO is the architect, and the cost consultant is South Africa’s MLC. TDIC declined to comment on the scheme.

In 2009, TDIC opened Qasr al-Sarab hotel in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter near the Liwa Oasis in the Western Region. The local Alec was awarded the estimated $136m construction contract in 2007 for the resort, which includes a five-star hotel, conference centre, tented villages and an observatory.

Located in the emirate’s Eastern Region on the Omani border, Al-Ain is the second largest city in Abu Dhabi.

The city has close ties to the ruling Al-Nahyan family. Former Abu Dhabi ruler and founding president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan was the ruler’s representative for Al-Ain before he became ruler in 1966. His children, including the emirate’s current ruler and UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, have residences in the city.

Building activity in Al-Ain over the past five years has been limited when compared to Abu Dhabi city. The main schemes currently under construction include the new UAE University Campus and a convention and exhibition centre. A major new hospital for the city was tendered by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) last year. It has selected the joint venture of the local Al-Shafar General Contracting and the local National Projects Construction (NPC) with Japan’s Shimizu Corporation for the estimated AED2.6bn ($708m) construction contract (MEED 3:12:10).