Is Dubai’s Wonder Of The World Broken Beyond Repair?
The Palm Islands off the coast of Dubai are supposed to be monuments for eternity – but as builders the world over will tell you: the bigger the job, the bigger the problems
How the Gulf emirate has frittered away $10 billion
As ideas go, it wasn’t a bad one: more beaches, more sunseeking holidaymakers! Dubai’s sheikhs had this lightbulb moment – and, in 2001, started work on an ambitious project: the Palm Islands, the eighth wonder of the world. The three artificial islands would extend the city’s shoreline by 400 kilometres and entice tourists with 5,000 acres of hotels, villas, apartments, shopping centres and amusement parks. The target: to triple the number of visitors to the desert emirate to 15 million per year. However, 15 years later, the end result is somewhat different…
Just one of the dream islands has become a reality: the Palm Jumeirah opened in 2008 with a celebration costing $26 million. But, just weeks after the festivities, the problems began – disgruntled homeowners, traffic chaos and ongoing environmental damage.
THE SMALL DESERT STATE ONCE AGAIN HAS BIG PLANS
Right now, Dubai is light years away from achieving its tourism target. Not least because the state construction firm Nakheel has experienced dramatic financial difficulties, meaning work on a second, twice-as-large archipelago called Palm Jebel Ali was
mothballed. Meanwhile, nobody talks about the once-lauded third Palm Island project any longer. Instead, focus has shifted to The World, a collection of islands in the shape of a world map.
Plans are also in place for another new mega structure – one that will even surpass the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt, the last surviving
wonder of the ancient world. At EXPO 2020, when the world’s gaze will be fixed on the second-largest state in the UAE, a new tallest building will be unveiled.
That title currently belongs to Dubai’s 828-metre Burj Khalifa, but the Tower at Dubai Creek will soar 1,000 metres into the sky – which sounds like a fresh lot of trouble.
BUILT ON SAND… With a desert right on your doorstep, you’d think it would be easy to pile up the 100 million cubic metres of sand needed to form the Palm Jumeirah. But desert sand is completely unsuitable – the grains are too round, too fine and don’t stick together. So the sand had to be either imported from Australia or dug up from the seabed 11 kilometres off the coast using special ships – at great expense. Today, erosion means it has to be continually replaced. DAILY TRAFFIC CHAOS 120,000 people have to share a single road that connects the crown of the Palm’s fronds to the mainland via a 300m bridge. It’s no wonder traffic jams are common. Things get particularly bad whenever the Atlantis hotel puts on one of its legendary concerts, which pull in over 30,000 extra visitors.
RECORD TIME The Palm Jumeirah took just seven years to build. The cost? A cool $13 billion. The Palm Jumeirah alone required 186.5 million cubic metres of sand and ten million cubic metres of rock. Another major project is currently under construction: The World (satellite images, left) consists of 300 islands in the shape of a world map and is supposed to be completed by 2020. 2000 2005 2010