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Gulf Dream: Desert Boom

Understated design is a practice employed by few real estate developers in Dubai.  It seems as though the objective of every project is to create the tallest, largest, or most unusual of its kind. The following are some of the most ambitious of these projects.

Burj Dubai

Upon its completion in 2007 or 2008, Burj Dubai (Arabic for Dubai Tower) will be the world’s tallest building. Representatives refuse to give an exact height, no doubt to frustrate those working on projects elsewhere in the world who are also aiming for the title of tallest. But it certainly will exceed 2,000 feet, placing it well above the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, the current record holder at 1,667 feet. Visitors to Burj Dubai will rely on double-decker elevators to reach the public observation deck and the private club planned for the apex of the tower. The ground level will be no less spectacular, with a man-made lake, a 60-acre park, six residential towers, and the Dubai Mall, which will include approximately 5.6 million square feet of retail space, an IMAX theater, an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, and one of the world’s largest aquariums.


The Dubai Mall developers claim that it will be the world’s largest mall, but at least two other Dubai projects are vying to claim that superlative. One of them is the Mall of Arabia, planned as part of the massive Dubailand complex. Described as a theme park, the 2 billion-square-foot, $4.9 billion endeavor will house 45 separate major developments and 200 different smaller projects under its capacious roof; six of these are expected to open by 2007. (Dubailand, given its size, will forever be refining its offerings, but construction will probably end by 2018.) In addition to the aforementioned Mall of Arabia, attractions will include the Sunny Mountain Ski Resort, which could become the Middle East’s first indoor ski facility. The $272-million project will enclose, under a dome, a 15 million-square-foot area that includes a revolving ski slope.



The Palm, Jebel Ali

The second of two palm tree–shaped, man-made islands off the Dubai coast will differ in a few key respects from the Palm, Jumeirah, which lies 13.6 miles away. The Palm, Jebel Ali (pictured) will be 50 percent larger and will incorporate six marinas and a sea aquarium. A string of water homes, so called because they will sit on stilts, is planned for the gap between the tips of the palm fronds and the halo of land that encircles them. When viewed from the air, the 1,060 homes will spell out a stanza from a poem by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai. When translated, part of the verse reads, “It takes a man of vision to write on water.”


The world’s first luxury underwater hotel will supposedly be open in late 2006. If so, the $500 million property will lie almost 1,000 feet from shore under 65 feet of water. The jellyfish-shaped complex will include more than 200 spherical suites, an underwater museum, a concert hall, a ballroom, a cinema, a marine biology institute, and a cosmetic surgery clinic. The facility will shield its guests from the punishing Middle Eastern sun with the help of a giant, surface-based fog machine that will generate artificial clouds.

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