Mega-Projects in Dubai

Over the last years, Dubai has attracted the world’s attention through many enormous construction projects. The tallest building of the world, an underwater hotel, man-made islands, etc… nothing is impossible for the sheiks with their oil dollars. We’ll take a closer look at these projects and show what it takes to create a global city in the middle of the desert.


Dubai is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. It is located south of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula. Although Dubai always was an important trading hub thanks to its port, the real economical boom came in 1966 when oil was discovered. The city of Dubai expanded 300% in a short time and attracted lots of foreign workers. Today, Dubai has emerged as a global city and a business hub. Although Dubai's economy was built on the oil industry, currently the emirate's model of business is changing to tourism, real estate and commercial projects.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa, formerly known as Burj Dubai, is the world’s tallest building. The Arabic meaning for the word ‘Burj’is ‘tower’, this gives Burj Khalifa the meaning of ‘Khalifa Tower’. The original design was the design of Australians ‘Grollo-Tower’in Melbourne, but the tower was redesigned and now resembles a desert flower with six petals which is indigenous to Dubai. The tower is arranged around a central core and rises from a flat desert base. The building gets smaller in an upward spiraling pattern. The floor plan is Y-shaped which allows optimal views of the Persian Gulf.

Burj Khalifa under construction
Burj Khalifa under construction (Photo by aheilner)

Construction has started in January 2004. Over 45,000 m3 (58,900 cu yd) of concrete were used to construct the concrete and steel foundation, which features 192 piles, buried more than 50 m (164 ft) deep. Burj Khalifa's construction will have used 330,000 m3 (431,600 cu yd) of concrete and 39,000 tons of steel. In November, 2007, the highest reinforced concrete core walls were pumped using 80 MPa concrete from ground level; a vertical height of 601 meters. This was also a new world record. The concrete pressure during pumping to this level was nearly 200 bars. The tower was opened officially in January 2010. Topped out at 828m (2,717 ft), the Burj Khalifa is not only the tallest building in the world; it is also the tallest structure ever built surpassing the Warsaw radio mast (646.38 m/2,121 ft). Numerous other records like highest swimming pool, highest and fastest elevator and building with most floors are also held by this skyscraper.

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa (Photo by

The tower is the center of a whole new city district which includes a lake (with off course the biggest fountain in the world), parks, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, exclusive apartment and office buildings and a 2.2 mile boulevard. Burj Khalifa has an observation deck on the 124th floor. It’s open from Sunday trough Wednesday from 10AM till 10PM and from Thursday trough Saturday from 10AM till 12 AM. During Ramadan these hours of operation can change. If you book your tickets in advance they cost 100AED ($27). When you buy your tickets on site, this becomes 400AED ($108). You can book your tickets for Burj Khalifa here.


Hydropolis is planned to be the world’s first underwater hotel. This mega-project is definitely unique. The hotel will be built on the seafloor 66 feet below the surface. It will consist of three elements: a wave shaped land station, a transparent tunnel 1690 feet (560m) long and the underwater hotel in the shape of a jellyfish. Just like the World of Warcraft subway, guests can take the train from the land station through the Plexiglas tunnel to the underwater hotel. The hotel will have 220 bubble shaped luxury suites with clear glass walls. It also features two translucent domes that break the water’s surface and have retractable roofs. There are even plans for installing a cloud generator to protect the guests from the desert sun. A ballroom, a museum, restaurants, a spa and a pool will keep the guests entertained. For all of this luxury, future guests will have to pay $6000 per night.

Underwater hotel room
Underwater hotel room (Photo by Hydropolis)

The hotel was first scheduled to open in 2006; however, due to engineering and environmental difficulties of constructing an underwater hotel, the project was delayed and as of August 2010, no construction has been planned yet. We will keep you informed as soon as construction starts.

Man-Made Islands

Currently Dubai features two types of artificial islands: the Palm Islands, and The World. They are constructed by Belgian and Dutch dredging companies, the world's leading experts in land reclamation. When the islands are finished, commercial and residential infrastructure will be constructed on them.

Island under construction
Island under construction (Photo by brokenhearted18)

The palm islands have the shape of a palm tree, and will add 520 kilometers of beaches to the city of Dubai. Two out of the three planned palms are already finished. Each palm consists out of 100 million cubic meters of rock and sand. The third palm was planned to be composed of 1 billion cubic meters of rock and sand, but since the 2009 financial crisis the project has been delayed and downgraded. The World is a collection of numerous small islands constructed shaped into the continents of the Earth. They are constructed from 321 million cubic meters of sand and 31 million tons of rock. The World will have a total size of 5.4 miles (9km) in width and 3.6 miles (6km) in length. The purchasing price of an island is an estimated average of 25 million dollars. You can reach your island only by boat or helicopter. The World adds another 232 km (144 mi) of extra shoreline to Dubai.

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Dubai Waterfront

Another mega-project is the Dubai Waterfront. It is the largest waterfront development in the world. It will be twice the size of Hong-Kong and home of approx. 1,5 million people. 42 miles of canals will be created through the desert and arc-shaped artificial islands are built around the Jebel Ali Palm Island. It’s the last part of Dubai’s natural seashore that can be developed. In fact, Dubai is building a whole new city from scratch.

Dubai waterfront model
Dubai waterfront model (Photo by brokenhearted18)

Dubai Waterfront will have an integrated transportation system and is also located near to the new Al Maktoum airport. Dubai Waterfront is open to foreign investors and the first private properties were sold for 3.6 billion dollars. The exact completion date is unknown, but 80% of the ground moving works and 30% of the land reclamation works are already complete. If you want to see the biggest construction site in the world, this is the place to be.

Al Maktoum international airport

When you have the biggest building, the biggest fountain, the biggest land reclamation works and almost an underwater hotel, you also want the busiest airport to bring in tourists to see all these things. Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International will be growing into a mammoth transit hub of five parallel runways capable of handling 160 million passengers per year. As of now only one runway has been built as part of the $820 million investment made in the new airport. The following years the four other runways 4.5 kilometers (2.8 mi) in length, each separated by a distance of 800 meters (2,600 ft) will be added. The large runways and the distance between would allow simultaneous take-offs and landings.

Al Maktoum international airport today, four runways will be added
Al Maktoum international airport today, four runways will be added (Photo by fatma3298)

If you’re about to spend all your money as fast as possible, Dubai is the place to be. There are plenty of expensive shopping malls and hotels (Dubai has off course also the world’s most expensive hotel) and everything is shiny and new. Even the police cars are BMW 5 series sedans. Be careful with kissing in public and alcohol consumption tough, it’s prohibited and they can send you to jail for it.

destination, asia, dubai