While construction of these massive artificial islands has been an enormous task, they are moving ahead at great speed, according to Manal Shaheen, Director of Sales, Marketing & Customer Service for Nakheel, the projects' developer. Following is an overview of the progress that has been made on each of the island developments.
The Palm Jumeirah
When the Palm Jumeirah project was first announced in 2001, it seemed overly ambitious or even impossible, yet it is very much a reality, said Shaheen.
The Palm Jumeirah is now the largest man-made island in the world and can be viewed from outer space. Construction of the island, which consists of a trunk, a crown with 17 fronds, and a surrounding crescent that forms an 11 kilometre-long breakwater, required 94 million cubic metres of sand and seven million tonnes of rock.
The first phase of the Palm Jumeirah residences is already at an advanced stage, with 75 per cent of the 4,000 properties ready for handover. This includes all 20 Shoreline Apartment buildings on the trunk, which house more than 2,600 units. In late 2006, people began moving in, and Nakheel says some 500 families now live on the island.
A number of hotels are also being built on the island, including Atlantis, The Palm – a 1,500 room resort hotel and water theme park – which is expected to open by November 2008.
In addition, 28 beachfront hotels, located on the crescent section of the Palm, will be open by the end of 2009, with most of the word's top brands represented including Hilton, Radisson, and Movenpick.
Construction is also set to begin soon on the centerpiece of the island, The Trump International Hotel and Tower, which will be a luxury 61 storey mixed-use hotel and residential building located on the trunk of the Palm.
Another key feature of the development, the 5.4km-long Palm Monorail, the first of its kind in the Middle East, is due to open at the end of 2008.
Adding to the island's luster, the world's most famous passenger liner, the QE2, will be refurbished and berthed near the Palm Jumeirah, to become a luxury floating hotel, retail and entertainment destination, Shaheen said.
Construction of the island has not been without its controversies though. Initial work did not allow for sea flow, leaving water stagnating in between the fronds. Nakheel resolved this, but has faced criticism from environmentalists over the potential damage this – and the other man-made islands – are causing to local sealife.
Palm Jebel Ali
Work on the Palm Jebel Ali, which is located near the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border, began in 2002. The master plan for the island has evolved and is now integrated with the Dubai Waterfront project, which is a large collection of man-made islands, shaped in an arc, which will produce a shelter around the palm-shaped island.
When completed, the Palm Jebel Ali will be the centre of a completely new city, which will be home to up to 1.7 million people by 2020. It will offer 70km of beaches, luxury hotels, and a mixture of housing types.
Construction of the island is currently progressing on schedule, with primary breakwater work completed in December 2006, and reclamation of land from the original master plan now finished. Work on the island's infrastructure began in April 2007, starting with construction of six bridges that will connect the island to the mainland.
The first properties on the island are expected to be ready by the end of 2010. To date, all released properties have been sold with many experiencing premiums of 100 per cent. Further sales will continue in phases, to be announced based on demand. Construction on the residences will not begin until a large portion of the infrastructure is in place, Shaheen said.
The Palm Deira will be the world's largest man-made island when complete, eight times bigger in land mass than the Palm Jumeirah and five times bigger than the Palm Jebel Ali. It will stretch 12.5km into the sea, be 7.5km wide, and create a new city within Dubai for more than a million people.
To date, approximately 20 per cent of the land reclamation is complete. More than 200 million cubic metres of sand have already been used for reclamation, which is 80 per cent more than the total amount of sand used to create the Palm Jumeirah.
Due to its sheer size and scale, the development will be implemented in specific phases. The first phase, 'Deira Island,' will be connected by bridges with the current area of Deira, between the mouth of Dubai Creek and Port Hamriya, Shaheen said.
In May of this year Nakheel released a new masterplan for the project that reduced the length of the island that stretches off the Dubai coast by 3.5km. Palm Deira operations officer Abdullah bin Sulayem said at the time that the depth of the Arabian Gulf increases substantially moving further away from the coastline, therefore the design changes will result in considerable savings on construction time and sand volume. No timetable for the completion of the project has been given.
The World is a collection of 300 man-made islands in the shape of the world map located 4km from Dubai's coast. The development can only be reached by boat, seaplane, or helicopter.
About 320 million cubic metres of sand have been used to create the islands, which will range in size from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet, with the average island measuring approximately 300,000 square feet. The average distance between islands is 100 metres.Video: The World exclusive: from land sea and air
Land reclamation on the World is nearly complete and should be finished in 2008, when the first investors will begin constructing their developments. Most of the islands are now in place and these will add 232km of beachfront, albeit exclusive, to Dubai's coastline.
Sales of the individual islands are by invitation only. As of May 2007, 45 per cent of the World had been sold, including 20 islands in the first four months of 2007. The cost of an island ranges between $15-$45m.
A number of celebrities have been rumoured to have bought into the project, including former Motley Crue member Tommy Lee, who is reported to have purchased the island of Greece for his former wife Pamela Anderson. Reports have also linked UK celebrities Rod Stewart and David Beckham to the project, but neither of these has been confirmed.
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