Dubai set to build $1.7b man-made islands

Global investment company Dubai Holding unveiled this week plans for Marsa Al Arab, a four million square feet pair of man-made islands either side of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the city’s iconic sail-shaped hotel.

The project, estimated to cost $1.72 billion, will add 1.4 miles of beach to Dubai’s coastline. With ground breaking scheduled for June, Dubai Holding say the islands will be completed late 2020.

Geared towards tourists, one island will include family-friendly resorts, a 2.5 million square-foot marine park and a custom built 1,700-seat theater, home to the Middle East’s first Cirque du Soleil show. It will also house 300 seafront apartments.

The second, private island is set to host 14- luxury villas and marina for residents, along with a boutique hotel.

Marsa Al Arab will add 2,400 hotel rooms to the Jumeirah Group’s portfolio. The group is part of Dubai Holding, which is majority-owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai.

Jumeriah Group have experience when it comes to man-made islands. They manage the Burj Al Arab, located 280 meters off Jumeirah Beach on artificial land first constructed in 1994.

Other artificial islands of grander scale and logistical complexity have followed the Burj, with varying levels of success.

Sea dredgers are used to create Dubai's artificial islands.

Palm Jumeirah, 9.6-square miles and constructed between 2001 and 2006, is now home to hundreds of family residences and at least two dozen hotels.

Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira are both set to eclipse the Jumeirah, but have suffered setbacks stemming from the global financial crisis of 2008. Construction of the former began in 2002 but it remains incomplete, while the latter, still in construction, has been scaled down and rebranded Deira Islands.

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Luxury 300-island system The World was constructed 2.5 miles off the Dubai coast between 2003 and 2008. Most islands were sold off to contractors to build private residences in 2008, but thus far the archipelago remains largely unoccupied.

Jumeirah Group will be hoping Marsa Al Arab will avoid this fate, positioning the project as a tourist-friendly locale happy to host the influx of visitors expected to descend upon the city for Expo 2020.

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