Dubai is living in a world of its own

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In last week’s article I talked about how amazed I was at Buckhead’s proposed park over Ga. 400. And I was – until an architect friend of mine told me of his recent trip to Dubai.

I had heard of Dubai. A city in the Middle East with a lot of money, the world’s tallest building, and something about man-made islands in the ocean. My conversation with my friend led me to some late-night reading on what exactly is going on in that city. Just a warning here: those of you who attend local city council meetings to fight any project you consider as high-density, or to fight any project that you feel impacts Atlanta’s rivers, streams or retention ponds, the words you are about to read might disturb you.

You see, in Dubai, they have little scruples for these things and enough money to make it insanely apparent to the rest of the world.

I have often joked that The Beltline created ocean-front property around intown Atlanta. I obviously meant that figuratively. In Dubai, there is nothing figurative about it. They wanted more ocean-front property, so they built more ocean-front property. The Palm Jumeirah was built around 2001 and is an artificial island made up of 7 million tons of rock and stretching 3 miles by 3 miles just off the coast of Dubai. It was kind of made in the shape of a palm tree. While visually pleasing from an airplane, the “branches” coming off the main trunk actually serve as roughly 16 peninsulas large enough for a road with ocean-front housing on either side. More than 20 hotels and resorts have been built on this island. And this is the first of three just like it.

About 15 years ago, Dubai leaders decided they needed a central business district. So they built one called Business Bay. To stay true to the name, the city had to create a bay for this inland city-within-a-city to be built along. So they built a canal for an existing saltwater creek so that instead of just heading inland, it curves back around into the Persian Gulf where the other end started. At its farthest reach inland, the creek swells to create the bay in which the new city is being built along. It should be noted that a wildlife sanctuary also sits along this new bay. I could not find out whether or not this wildlife sanctuary was man-made, but it is known as a great birding site. As for Business Bay, when completed, it is expected to have upwards of 240 commercial and residential buildings. It will have a residential population of about 191,000.

If you are a density fanatic, looking for a city council to go argue in front of, you would serve yourself well to move to Dubai. The world’s tallest building is there – the Burj Khalifa. It sits at 2,717 feet, which is 700 feet taller than the second-tallest building in the world, and 1,000 feet taller than the United States’ tallest building, One World Trade Center. (Chicago’s Willis Tower is now the world’s 16th tallest building). Dubai is home to 11 of the world’s 50 tallest buildings. But it’s tallest buildings are yet to come. It currently has three towers under construction that will surpass the world’s second tallest building in Shanghai, one of which will take the place as the world’s tallest building. The Tower at Dubai, when completed in 2020, will stand about 3,045 feet tall. Some of these buildings in Dubai will have populations larger than many medium-sized cities. Another story would be to study where these people are all coming from and what they are doing in Dubai. It’s an economy built on oil that has transitioned into tourism and high-end, luxury business dealings like diamond trading.

I’d go more into that, but I have not even mentioned the indoor ski slope! In 2005, Ski Dubai was completed. It has a 275-foot indoor mountain covered in snow with a roughly 1,200-foot ski run.

So if you are looking for a place where you can visit the world’s tallest observatory, get in some snow-skiing among penguins, then retire to your man-made ocean-front property, book a flight to Dubai.


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