From Palm Jumeirah to Burj Al Arab, these are Dubai’s most famous artificial islands.
Dubai has long been a hub for real estate development, with buildings like the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest free-standing structure), the Museum of the Future, and the Dubai Mall among some of its most innovative architectural projects. Equally fascinating are the city’s human-made archipelagos, all in various stages of development: Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Islands, Palm Jebel Ali, The World Islands, and Bluewaters Island.
The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (also the ruler of Dubai), is the mastermind behind these massive projects, which are meant to drive tourism and expand Dubai’s coastline.
The islands are made through land reclamation, a process that involves dredging sand from the Persian and Arabian Gulf’s floors. The sand is then sprayed and “vibro-compacted” into shape using GPS technology for precision and surrounded by millions of tons of rock for protection.
The process is labor intensive and expensive — hence why many of Dubai’s artificial islands aren’t completed yet. Here’s everything you need to know about the status of each project.
The Palm Islands: Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali
Perhaps the most recognized of the bunch, Palm Jumeirah is aptly shaped like a palm tree. It consists of a trunk and 17 fronds surrounded by an almost seven-mile-long crescent-shaped island. Real estate development company Nakheel Properties kicked off the project in 2001, and today it’s home to many of Dubai’s most luxurious residences and hotels including Atlantis, The Palm.
Travelers can access Palm Jumeirah from mainland Dubai by driving through an underwater tunnel that connects the topmost frond to the crescent, or by using public transportation like the Palm Monorail. Highlights include visiting The Palm Tower, which houses the St. Regis Dubai, The Palm, and an observation deck on the 52nd floor. The tower connects to Nakheel Mall, where you’ll find more than 300 shops, restaurants, and attractions. When it comes to appreciating the shape of the island from afar, there’s no need to settle for Google Earth views: thrill seekers can admire the handiwork while free-falling toward it at 120 miles per hour via a skydiving excursion.
Work on a second Palm island, Palm Jebel Ali, began in 2002 and is still underway. Nakheel has since reassured reporters that Jebel Ali is not canceled, but a “long-term project.” If and when the island is complete, it will be even larger than Palm Jumeirah and feature waterfront villas, marinas, sprawling boardwalks, and beaches that will add to Dubai’s lofty goal of having 65 miles of sandy shores by 2040.
The concept of Dubai Islands (previously known as Deira Islands) has been in the works since 2004, when Nakheel set out to create a third — and even larger — palm island. Over the years, the project has encountered its fair share of obstacles, but in 2022, Nakheel unveiled a new vision for the islands, which will align with the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan.
When completed, the artificial archipelago along the city’s northern coast will cover more than 4,000 acres across five islands featuring resorts, cultural hubs, golf courses, beach clubs, and more. A few properties have already opened, including the family-friendly Centara Mirage Beach Resort Dubai, which has a waterpark for kids. Looking for a sneak peek of the islands’ retail offerings? Take the boat across from the mainland to Souk Al Marfa, a wholesale market with more than 400 shops and kiosks offering everything from artisanal goods to traditional street food.
The World Islands
The World Islands, another Nakheel Properties project, kicked off in 2003 and consists of 260 small islands arranged to look like a world map. The World’s progress halted in 2008 due to the financial crisis, and by 2013, only a handful of the islands had continued development.
Over the years, some stakeholders claimed the islands were eroding back into the ocean, further stalling construction. Despite this issue, developer Kleindienst Group revived The World with the launch of The Heart of Europe in 2014. The project, set to be completed in 2026, features six islands (Germany, Sweden, Honeymoon, Main Europe, Floating Lido, and Switzerland), each providing a slice of (very high-end) European life.
For now, visitors can check into the first hotel, Cote d’Azur Monaco, which launched in 2022 on the island of Main Europe and features a French Riviera-inspired beach, live entertainment, and a climate-controlled street where sprinklers dispense artificial rain and snow. All of it is conveniently located just a 15-minute boat ride from The Palm Islands.
Giving Nakheel a run for its money is Meraas Holdings, thanks to its Bluewaters Island project that opened in 2018 after five years of construction. Its centerpiece is Ain Dubai, the world’s largest observation wheel at 820 feet tall. However, the record-breaking attraction closed in 2022 and has yet to reopen. Despite that, Bluewaters still attracts visitors thanks to its roughly 200 retail and dining options, beach clubs, and attractions like Madame Tussauds Dubai. The best part? You can easily reach the island by car or foot via a pedestrian bridge that connects to Jumeirah Beach Residence.
Burj Al Arab
Did you know that one of Dubai’s most iconic luxury hotels sits on its own artificial island? The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, standing at 1,053 feet (just a few hundred feet shy of the Empire State Building), is supported by 250 columns underwater and is held together by sand. The project was completed in 1999 following five years of construction, two of which were spent forming the island. Today, Burj Al Arab features a private beach for its guests, a helipad that can be converted into a tennis court or golf driving range for special events, and an outdoor terrace that juts out over the ocean.
Source : Travel+Leisure