20 September 2005

Cityscape 2005

Dubai property development is at its craziest at the moment, and right now there is no better place to see this than Citycape 2005, a property exhibition to end all property exhibitions. It is quite overwhelming. All the local developers show here, from Damac to Emaar, Dubai Holding to Nakheel.

When we first arrived and heard about the current building projects, we thought they were impossible to achieve, just lofty dreams: the Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residences, featuring 40 high-rises along the beach, are nearing completion; theBurj Dubai, with the Dubai Mall and Downtown, has already risen above ground level and is planning to complete a level a week of its undisclosed number of floors (it is planning to be the highest building in the World, at least until it is overtaken by Al Burj, part of the crazy Waterfront project); The Mall of the Emirates is about to open its long-anticipated ski slope with real snow (the advert claims that "this year Dubai will experience its first winter"); and the World islands development is already old news, having risen from the waters for the last year and sold to the likes of Rod Stewart and Elton John.



Models and reality in the Marina

Now that these unfeasible ideas are under development, and some are already inhabited (although famously thePalm Jumeirah has deferred occupation from this September), a whole new crop is introduced, these ones really impossible: Business Bay wants to extend the creek to curve round and end at Sheik Zayed Rd near the Burj Dubai, while building a huge business centre along this new riverway; the Waterfront project will add 375 km of beachfront to Dubai, curving round the still-planned Palm Jebel Ali (which is the third Palm island after Jumeirah and Deira, and includes a curve of stilt houses whose outline spells out a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed himself). It is joined to Arabian Canal, similar to Business Bay in that it channels water into desert areas, encircling the new Jebel Ali airport (transport concerns have never been the local developers' strong points).



Dubailand's lofty dreams

And then there is the development that creates the biggest stir here (although it's possibly enhanced by the large special entertainment budget including at human-size robot and a dinosaur guarding its eggs with ferocious growls). Dubailand, although badly named, seems to have serious thought behind it, its brochure full of graphs showing the increase in tourism and potential rates of return for investors (it is a plan by Dubai Holding, the government-owned group with 20 subsidiaries, including the Jumeirah hotel chain). The idea is to build a huge tourism destination out in what is nowhere right now, but due to the vast increase in housing developments along Emirates Road will soon be merely on the periphery of New Dubai. It includes such gems as Ski Dome (yep, another one, this one promises real penguins) and Falcon City with its Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Leaning Tower of Pisa hotels, all 1.5 times life size. Restless Planet is the reason for the dinosaur in the exhibition hall, as it's one of the many theme parks planned in the 3 billion square feet project. Dubai is planning on 15 million tourists by 2010 (up from 5.4 million in 2004), by which time phase one of Dubailand should be complete.

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