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

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - Contents -

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.


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

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