Coming soon: man-made islands and exclusive resorts
Dubai’s economy has experienced a boost over the past few years, particularly after winning the Expo 2020 bid. Several mega-projects are underway to create new landmarks, attract visitors and promote Dubai as the burgeoning commercial and leisure hub of the region.
Tourism is one of the emirate’s biggest contributors to gross domestic product (GDP) and employs some 290,000 people, more than five per cent of its total employment base. Dubai is now aiming to attract 20 million tourists by 2020, and has embarked on building new airports, hotels and retail and leisure destinations.
Keen to diversify its economy – which is expected to grow by five per cent in 2015, Dubai is investing heavily in its infrastructure including a AED14.35 billion investment in its metro system and a AED12 billion Emirates Roads master plan to strengthen links with the other emirates and boost trade. Here are some of the other key developments in train.
1. Dubai Crocodile Park
While there are several crocodiles in Dubai’s aquariums, the emirate will soon house hundreds more in a park specifically built for the magnificent reptiles. The Dubai Crocodile Park, expected to open in the third quarter of 2016, is intended as a tourist landmark as well an educational tool to encourage conservation and enable schools and universities to conduct research. The park will be located about 10 kilometres from the airport and the natural habitat of the several species (including Nile crocodile) will be recreated to ensure their comfort.
2. Dubai Parks & Resorts
Where else can you find three different theme parks all in one place? The Dubai Parks and Resorts project will house a Legoland, Bollywood Park and Motiongate park over 1.5 million square metres of space in Jebel Ali.
The AED10.5 billion park complex is expected to welcome 6.7 million visitors annually once it opens in 2017. Within the park will be Riverland Dubai, a retail and dining space inspired by the likes of London’s Covent Garden and New York’s Times Square. Visitors will pass through this section on their way to one of the three theme parks.
Motiongate will consist of 27 rides and activities, Legoland will have 40 and another 20 water rides and the Bollywood Park will house 16 rides and activities. The resort is so vast it would take a visitor 18 hours to experience every aspect of it.
3. Thuraya Astronomical Observatory
In a nod to the Islamic tradition of astronomy, Dubai Municipality will build a AED20 million astronomical observatory, set to be completed in the second half of 2016. The project, named Thuraya, the Arabic word for ‘chandelier’, will be based in Mushrif Park, Mirdif. The observatory will be an educational and training platform for those interested in astronomy. It will be wholly compliant with green building standards, and will also be a major attraction for tourists.
The ground floor is set to comprise a lobby, galleries, main hall, cafeteria and shops, while the first floor will have exhibition halls, an open auditorium and offices. The second floor will house the telescope and moving dome.
4. Dragon City
Developer Nakheel is looking to expand DragonMart – already the largest Chinese trading hub outside mainland China – into a giant retail, residential and leisure destination called Dragon City with an extension of more than 600,000 square metres – the size of 17 football pitches.
A haven for goods made in China, DragonMart is famous for stocking anything and everything, from traditional Chinese herbal medicines to electronics and furniture. DragonMart is set to enjoy a 175,000-square-metre retail extension. Dragon City will have a two-tower residential component with 1,120 one- and two-bedroom apartments alongside a 250-room hotel.
5. Dubai Frame
Standing 150m high and 93m wide, the rectangular-shaped observatory, intended to look like a window frame, is Dubai’s latest drawcard. Located in Zabeel Park, Dubai Frame will offer visitors a panoramic view of Old Dubai and the record-breaking skyline of New Dubai. Made mostly of glass, visitors will also enjoy views of the city from a spectacular glass elevator. The AED160 million structure is expected to open by the end of 2015. Officials anticipate it will attract some two million visitors every year and become an iconic landmark for the emirate.
6. Deira Islands
No stranger to building man-made islands, Nakheel, the developer of Palm Jumeirah, is helping to bring Deira Islands – a four-island, waterfront city spanning 4.5 million-square-metres – to life.
Deira Islands will offer retail, residential and leisure facilities as well as a 157,935-square-metre communal parkland and 25.3km of coastline. Attractions will include Deira Islands Mall, a 250-room hotel, a 30,000 capacity ampitheatre and a marina. Another key attraction is the Night Souk with 5,000 outlets, as well as the Deira Islands Boulevard, a massive shopping and dining promenade with 120 outlets.
7. Bluewaters Island
The star attraction on this man-made island by Meraas Holding will be the world’s largest Ferris wheel. At 210m tall, the Dubai Eye 1.5 times the size of the London Eye and worth AED1 billion, offering views of landmarks such as the Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. The Dubai Eye will have 48 luxury capsules providing a “private oasis in the sky” with a capacity for 1,400 visitors at any onetime. There will also be an 80m digital screen for broadcasting, advertisements and interactive information.
The AED6 billion Bluewaters Island project will include entertainment, hospitality, residential and retail zones with an expected three million visitors every year once it opens in 2018.
8. Aladdin City
Inspired by the stories of Aladdin and Sinbad the Sailor in the Arabian traditions of One Thousand and One Nights, this project is part of a wider refurbishment of the Dubai Creek area. Comprising three connected towers shaped like genie lamps, the structure will span a distance of 450m and will consist of offices and hotels. Air-conditioned bridges will connect the towers, which are planned to be 34, 26 and 25 storeys high respectively. The Dubai Creek is set to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Aladdin City will be located just outside that zone.
9. Mall of the World
Even by Dubai standards, this ranks as one of the most ambitious projects to date. Mall of the World is not so much a mall as it is an entire city built indoors at a cost of AED25 billion. It is set to be the world’s first temperature-controlled pedestrian city with a retractable domed roof that will remain open during the winter months.
The 4.5 million-square-metre complex will consist of the world’s largest mall, and retail and leisure areas inspired by the world’s best shopping districts including London’s Oxford Street, Barcelona’s Las Ramblas and a theatre district based on New York’s Broadway. It will also have the world’s largest indoor theme park as well as a healthcare zone to tap into the health tourism from the region. The complex is set to open in time for Expo 2020.
10. Jumeirah Bay Island
Welcome: a man-made island shaped like a seahorse located off the coast of Dubai’s Jumeirah shoreline. Spread over 585,290 square metres, the purpose-built island will be home to a Bulgari resort, low-rise apartment buildings a marina with 50 berths, and a yacht club. It will have a direct access to Jumeirah Beach Road via a 300m bridge.
The 100-room, five-star luxury Bulgari Hotel will join existing Bulgari-managed properties in London, Milan, Bali and Shanghai and will have 20 holiday villas. It is due to open sometime between 2017 and 2018.
11. The Opera District
Located next to Burj Khalifa, the Opera District is Dubai’s newest cultural destination, due to open later this year. At its heart is the Opera House, a 2000-seat theatre that can be converted into a banqueting hall or exhibition space. Inspired by the sailing vessels of the region, the Opera House uses hydraulic technology to remove 900 of the seats when needed. Developer Emaar hopes to showcase performances from around the world including orchestras, musicals, ballet and dance performances. The District also comprises a 66-storey residential tower with two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments offering views of the Dubai Fountain.