The lure for many is granted, the glamour and the luxury the place has to offer, but it’s lovely how it also has preserved a unique mix of the old and the new - Dubai may be iconic for the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet), the world’s biggest indoor theme park, and soon the world’s first rotating skyscraper, but most remarkable are the city’s man-made islands, all in different stages of completion: Palm Jumeirah, Deira Islands, Palm Jebel Ali, The World, and Bluewaters Island.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the United Arab Emirates’ prime minister and Emir of Dubai, is the intelligence behind these huge developments, which are destined to propel tourism and enlarge Dubai’s coastline.
Exactly how are man-made islands made in Dubai?
Intrigued in finding how exactly these islands came to be? The answer lies in a process called land reclamation, which includes scouring sand from the Persian and Arabian Gulf’s floors. The sand is then sprayed and “vibro-compacted” into shape using GPS technology for exactness and surrounded by millions of tons of rock for fortification. Sounds technically advanced and well thought out, right?
The Palm Islands: Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali
Possibly the most familiar of the cluster, Palm Jumeirah is appropriately shaped like a palm tree, containing a trunk and 17 branches, and surrounded by a nearly 7-mile-long crescent-shaped island which is home to Atlantis, The Palm (just one of many extravagant hotels and resorts that crowd the Island). The scheme was initiated by Nakheel Properties in 2001, and eventually supplemented 40 miles of beach space.
Nowadays, travellers can access Palm Jumeirah from mainland Dubai by a monorail, and an underwater tunnel joins the highest branch to the crescent shaped area. Upcoming introductions for Palm Jumeirah include The Palm Tower, which is set to open in 2018.
Work on a second Palm island, Palm Jebel Ali, began in 2002, but due to the 2008 monetary crisis, construction paused. Nakheel has meanwhile reassured journalists that Jebel Ali is not cancelled, but he classes it as a “long-term project."
When the island is complete, it will be twice as big as Palm Jumeirah and is said to have planned homes built on stilts, a water park, villas, six marinas, and extensive boardwalks shaped into the words of a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed himself.
The proposal of a third Palm Island, Palm Deira, with the aim to dwarf the other two at eight times the size of Palm Jumeirah, was presented in 2004. Nevertheless, in 2013, Nakheel changed his mind and retitled the development as Deira Islands, choosing to create four slighter, man-made islets. Is has been reported that it will be late 2018, when we will see the opening of Deira’s first large-scale debut, its Night Souk, the world’s largest (can’t expect any less of Dubai) night market with over 5,000 shops and almost 100 restaurants and cafes.
If shopping indoors during a UAE summer is more your cup-of-tea, Deira Mall, with its telescopic roof atrium and over 1,000 stores, might just be heaven. The mall will serve as the centrepiece of Deira Islands Boulevard, which will contain retail space and at least 16 residential towers. By 2020, two of the four islands will, with any luck, be established and completed, with 250,000 people living on them.
The World is yet another project by Nakheel, was initiated in 2003, and entails of 300 small islands built in the shape of a world map. Another target of the 2008 financial catastrophe, the World’s development froze. By 2013, only Greenland and Lebanon had been developed, and unfortunately, NASA images suggested that the islands were sinking back into the ocean.
Despite this corrosion problem, developer Kleindienst Group is eager to resuscitate The World in a big way, with the launch of The Heart of Europe by 2020. He plans to complete the development with underwater villas (aka “Floating Seahorses”), five-star hotels, and even streets wizened with manmade snow. The St. Petersburg island, which is shaped like a heart, promises to be the world’s most luxurious honeymoon destination, that will be one to look out for if you’re looking to spend a romantic escape in the city of superlatives.
Bluewaters, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Giving Nakheel a little competition in the man-made island building front, is Meraas Holdings, with its Bluewaters development that commenced in 2013. Set to open by late 2018 or early 2019 with an observation wheel, called Ain Dubai, that will make the London Eye look miniscule — yes, surprise, surprise, it will be the world’s largest — Bluewaters is targeting to develop Dubai’s family-friendly travel hotspot. The island will be fragmented into regions, featuring over 200 retail and dining selections, apartment multiplexes, townhouses, and hotels with prime beach access.
Burj al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Did you know that one of Dubai’s most talked-about structure is placed on its very own man-made isle? The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, standing at 1,053 feet is maintained by 250 pillars underwater, held together by sand. Accomplished in 1999, including two full years to retrieve its land, the Burj features a secluded beach for its guests, its own helipad, and a new outdoor terrace that extends out over the ocean, all incentives of having an island all to itself.