In 1979, when Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum assumed power over the tiny trading city-state of Dubai-an unassuming outpost where pearl divers returned home to roofs of palm frond-none but he anticipated Dubai’s explosive rise to greatness in the following three decades. As he walked with his four sons along the modest coastline, he painted in their minds images of towering skyscrapers that would shimmer like the cerulean waters of the Arabian Gulf. And perhaps none but he could fathom the changes that his sons and his sun-scorched emirate would bring to the region and even to the sight of the globe from space. The story that would follow includes the creation of The World in the city-world of Dubai.
All 300 islands are fully complete and are ready to be handed over to private developers for the construction of the magnificent villas, hotels, and marinas to come.
On the First Day: The first command, “Let there be…”
Claiming but 37 miles of coastline, as Dubai grew, it yearned for more as towers packed the water’s edge, blocking out the sun. On May 6, 2003, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the first born of Sheik Al Maktoum, announced the beginning of the The World. The same corporation that coaxed The Palm, a constellation of man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree, out of the depths would embark on the grand adventure of creating The World. Measuring about five and a half miles by four and a half miles, the development will cover 9.34 million square feet, once three hundred islands appear out of the abyss just two and a half miles off shore.
On the Second Day: The second command, “Let there be a firmament to divide the waters above from the waters below.”
In Genesis, on this day the creator drew the boundaries of the earth, enclosing the land with the celestial sphere. In the correlating phase of The World’s development, the last stones of the breakwater were laid. The breakwater encircles the archipelago of man-made islands with sand and stone, protecting the development from rough waters and stormy seas. On January 10, 2008, the director of the project, Hamza Mustafa, laid the final rock, the last of 34 million tons. The protective barrier rises approximately 15 feet above sea level.
On the third day: The third command, “Let dry ground appear.”
In September 2003, the first sand was poured. But first, scores of divers plumbed the depths of the sea and charted the patterns of the floor. More than 418 million cubic yards of sand, which was collected from farther out in the Arabian Gulf, was poured and packed. With a process called vibro-compaction, the sand’s density was increased and it was made into solid ground. This terra-forming will continue, as the owners of individual islands have the option to reshape and subtly alter their private plots within parameters set by Nakheel to form private beaches, docks, etc. All 300 islands are fully complete and are ready to be handed over to private developers for the construction of the magnificent villas, hotels, and marinas to come.
On the fourth day: The stars are placed in the sky.
The stars of The World are already being formed in the minds of the ambitious investors who would aspire to own a piece of it. Nakheel Group, for example, is planning a luxurious resort named Coral Island that will inhabit the 20 islands that make up the North American part of The World. Investment Dar has purchased the 14 islands that represent Australia and New Zealand, and has plans to turn the land down-under into Oqyana, a resort that will include a yacht club, a resort village, a performing arts center, and a reef lagoon. Irish business consortium Larionovo plans to help the Emerald Isle evolve into an Irish-themed resort.
On the fifth day: The command, “Let the water teem with living creatures.”
Water is critical to The World. It forms its highways and roads, connecting the luxurious islands; the network of canals is the only link between the sandy new lands. Water taxis and ferries will handle a large portion of the transportation and will be used primarily by tourists and visitors. Yet, since plentiful marinas will dot the development, it’s assumed that the majority of private property owners will enjoy the use of their own yachts. Ships up to 200 feet will encounter no difficulty in the 50-foot deep waterways. The average distance between islands is 328 feet, and four main hubs will connect The World with the mainland, with the approximate travel time by sea set between four and 15 minutes.
The water also teems with new life brought to the artificial environment. Nakheel claims 31 different types of flora and fauna are busy increasing and multiplying beneath the sea. Colonies of pearl oysters are returning to the deep, and 15 species of migratory fish have explored the new coves under the waves. Curious dolphins have made their way to the development and can be seen from the breakwater, dancing and diving in the sea.
On the sixth day: The command to man, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
By January 2008, when the land reclamation and breakwater construction was completed and more than 60 percent of the islands were sold, the cost varied between $15 million and $50 million per island. Today, only a handful of islands remain for sale, with prices up into the neighborhood of $250 million. The directive to fill the earth is not aimed at all, however; sales are by invitation only. As they were sent out to businessmen and women, celebrities, and royalty from around the globe, only the very fortunate will populate The World.
The seventh day was the day of rest.
Though the development will be an opulent retreat for those most affluent and a world capital of relaxation, for the thriving developer, Nakheel, and the exploding nation, Dubai, there is no respite in sight. The first projects on The World promise completion as soon as 2010, as the second wave of developers swoop in to colonize the private islands. For the desert nation, the thrill of terraforming, the explosion of tourism, and the headlines development projects like this bring make it easy to look at The World and see all that they have made and call it very good.