‘We have resumed discussions with the best bidders and are about to decide the winner,’ Solidere director-general Mounir Douaidy told MEED on 17 November. Construction of the 100,000-square-metre mall is due to start early next year and take about 24 months to complete. ‘It will be open in 2007,’ he said.

Designs for the project, which will transform what was Beirut’s traditional marketplace into a modern shopping district, were completed five years ago and work on the underground car park – for which the local Arabian Construction Companywas the main contractor – was completed in 2001. However, government agencies withheld the permits necessary for work to begin on the superstructure (MEED 14:11:03).

The development includes a 13,000-square-metre department store, a 7,000-square-metre supermarket, a souk with about 200 shops, a gold and jewellery market, a multi-purpose store, a leisure complex, and underground parking for 2,500 cars.