Haute Living has been following the evolution of The World development in Dubai. We first covered the project, which consists of a man-made series of islands in the shape of the world made from reclaimed sand off the coast of Dubai, in our July/August 2006 Miami edition. The article wrote:
- “The World covers an area of approximately 20-plus square miles about two and a half miles from Dubai’s coastline, adding yet another hundred-plus miles to the coastline. It is so large, it will be visible to the naked eye from outer space. Each island is built of sand dredged from the Gulf’s shallow sea floor, while the 15-mile breakwater barriers are built from 37 million tons of rock found in local quarries. No artificial or chemical materials are used throughout the entire process.
Islands will range in size from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet, with the average size coming in at about 300,000 square feet with approximately 20 feet of it surrounding waters (buyers can buy additional water rights). The average distance between islands is roughly 165 feet to 330 feet, with an average depth of the surrounding waters about 25 feet to over 50 feet.”
The World is by far the most ambitious undertaking in construction history (perhaps with the exception of the Egyptian pyramids). But this week’s article in the London Times says that a credit crunch signals end of The World for Dubai’s multi-billion dollar property deal. The article’s dramatic opening line sums up the current situation: “England is deserted, Australia and New Zealand have merged, and the man who bought Ireland has killed himself.”
- Mile after mile of breakwater built from boulders brought hundreds of miles by ship has been laid, but inside its man-made lagoon, work has completely stopped. The expected map of the world of 300 islands is instead a disjointed and desolate collection of sandy blots — a monumental folly just out of sight of Dubai’s shore.
This is the result of the credit crisis that faces the city-state, and while there are many other stalled projects jutting out of the desert sands, this is by far the most striking and the most embarrassing for Dubai, which at one time was a gleaming beacon of high-end living at its finest.
However, the World’s end has not been confirmed. In a rare appearance in front of the media this week, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler and the UAE’s Prime Minister, vowed to steer the emirate through its troubles and pledged to further rein in extravagant developments. Officially, however, not a single project has been cancelled — just delayed.