Dubai City is considered to be the world's fastest-growing city with more than $90 billion in projects under construction at the moment. It's hard to go anywhere without seeing building cranes—15% of the world's tower cranes currently are located in Dubai. There are numerous tall buildings under construction in the downtown area—too many to list here, and the building architecture is mostly modern and attracts world-class design firms.
The majority of growth in Dubai City has occurred within the past 15 years, with all seven of its tallest buildings constructed in the past eight years. More are planned, including the possibility of the next “world's highest building” following the completion of the Burj Dubai. Concrete plays a significant role in these projects, especially high-rise construction.
In 1971, Dubai gained its independence from Britain, joining seven other cities in 1972 to form the United Arab Emirates. Dubai City was originally a small fishing town, gaining wealth as an international trading area. When oil was discovered in 1966, the wealth of the country increased but the reserve wasn't considered large by Arab standards and only accounts for 3% of Dubai's revenues today. Under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, a long-range plan was initiated to make the city a center for international business and tourism. His goal is to attract 15 million tourists by the year 2010—a concept of growth similar to that of Las Vegas, but on a grander scale
Today the population of Dubai is 1.3 million people, with 80% being expatriates from both Arab and non-Arab countries. Dubai's ruler sees its future as an international cosmopolitan place; a center for finance and global economy located at the crossroads between East and West.
Here's a small sampling of some of the more spectacular projects and developments completed or in progress.
- The Burj Dubai. Expected to become the world's tallest building. Construction will “top out” in late 2007 with tenants taking occupancy in 2009.
- The Burj Al Arab Hotel Completed in 1999, it's the world's tallest hotel building. Many also consider it the most expensive hotel at $2 billion dollars. And some say it's the world's most beautiful hotel. The design resembles the sail of a dhow, or Arabian vessel, with two concrete masts coming together in the shape of an upside down “V” to support the structure. The building is 1053 feet tall and is located on a small manmade island about 900 feet from the Jumeirah beach. Room rates start at $1000 per night
- The Palm Islands There are three of them: the Palm Jumeirah, Jebel Ali, and the Deira. With construction starting in 2001, they will be the largest manmade islands in the world. When completed, the Palm Jumeirah alone will feature more than 100 luxury hotels, 4000 residences, 1400 beach-side villas, 2500 shoreline apartments, marinas, restaurants, shopping malls, sports facilities, and health spas.
- The World Islands Construction started in 2004 on this manmade archipelago of 300 islands in the shape of a world map, which is now 90% complete. The $14 billion project is located near the Palms Islands and approximately 2½ miles offshore. Each “country” or island is for sale for development.
- Dubai World Central International AirportThe estimated price tag is $82 billion dollars—the single most expensive project in the world. When complete, it will be the world's fourth largest airport in land space handling 120 million passengers (approximately 50% more than Atlanta, the current busiest airport) and 12 million tons of cargo (three times more than Memphis, the current record holder). The first runway will be completed in October 2007 with the entire project completed in 2017.
- The Mall of Arabia When all phases are completed, this mall will have 10 million square feet of leasable space, becoming the largest shopping mall in the world.
- The Dubai Marina Entirely man-made and located in the “new Dubai,” the project will be the largest marina in the world, taking the title from Marina Del Ray in Los Angeles. The plan calls for the construction of 200 high-rise buildings, several falling in the super-tall classification. The first phase of the project is complete.