The construction of the Palm Islands in the United Arab Emirates

Even though we have seen many new and exciting property projects around the world there can be nothing to compare it with the ground work and construction of the Palm Islands in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This has been by far and away the largest project of its kind anywhere in the world and will take between 10 and 15 years to complete. So what are the Palm Islands and what will they do for the United Arab Emirates?

In simple terms they are man-made three “islands” which have already increased the profile of Dubai enormously since their inception in early 2000. As the name suggests each island is in the shape of a palm tree with a central access point and numerous branches creating the palm tree effect. Even though the project is not yet finished many celebrities and property investors have already expressed an interest in acquiring homes in the region and demand is still fairly high even in today’s current climate.

The idea for the Palm Islands

While the venture is being managed by Nakheel Properties the venture was actually commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as a means of increasing Dubai’s exposure to the international tourism market. To say that the venture has been a success already is no understatement as it has quite literally grabbed the attention of property investors and tourist from around the world.

There are three islands by the names of Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira which make up the whole complex and between them they will add around 520 km of beach area to the city of Dubai. The islands are located in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah was the first of the islands to begin construction and consists of a main backbone down the middle and a crown with 17 branches stretching out from the centre. There is also a crescent island around the development which acts as a water break from the surrounding sea. The island itself is 5 km by 5 km and out of the total of 520 km of extra beach space added to the area it will add 78 in its own right. The first of the residents began moving on to the “island” in 2006 when phase 1 of the project was completed.

Phase 1 has seen the construction of 1,400 villas and 2,500 shoreline apartments within 20 buildings on the east side of the island’s “trunk”. However, this is only the start of the venture which will see more and more people join the party over the next few months and the introduction of 32 hotels in total as well as literally dozens and dozens of entertainment venues.

Palm Jebel Ali

Palm Jebel Ali is the second of the islands to be constructed and work on this venture began in October 2002 with a first phase completion date in 2008. However, the project should be completed in total by 2020 and see accommodation for more than 1.7 million people. This island is 50% larger than Palm Jumeirah and will include six marinas, theme parks, sea village and a number of “luxury” homes which will be built on stilts above the sea.

As phase one of Palm Jebel Ali nears completion there has been a marked reduction in demand and some quoted property prices on the island have fallen by 40% of late. Whether this offers an interesting short-term opportunity for those with enough money to invest for the medium to long term remains to be seen, but there are great hopes for the region and the leaders of the United Arab Emirates are very firm in their backing.

Palm Deira

Palm Deira is the largest of the man-made islands making up the Palm Islands and is due to be finished in 2015. The project began in October 2000 and is due to house more than 1 million people, is eight times larger than Palm Jumeirah and five times the size of Palm Jebel Ali. Initially there had been plans to build the island with dimensions of 14 km by 8.5 km but due to concerns about the depth of the sea in some areas this has been revamped at 12.5 km by 7.5 km.

There has also been a substantial reduction in the number of branches from the main through way to the island with the original 41 “fronds” now reduced to just 18. However, this still leaves by far and away the most land of the three islands.

Construction issues

When you consider that between the three islands there will be over 1,000,000,000 m³ of rock and sand used it can be quite difficult to get an angle on exactly how large the three islands will be. However, considering there will be over 100 luxury hotels, exclusive beachside villas and apartments, marinas, theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls and sports facilities the size and nature of the project becomes a little clearer.

There is no doubt that the Palm Islands will be the centre of the United Arab Emirates tourist industry for many years to come and will probably go down as one of the great wonders of the world. The cost is astronomical and very difficult to predict bearing in mind the length of each separate venture as well as the adding of entertainment, accommodation and restaurant facilities.


In the overall context of the Palm Islands the figures which you see on the site before you do not do justice to the complexity and quality of the venture which is set to change the local tourist market forever. Perhaps the difference between the likes of the United Arab Emirates, were oil money is still very prevalent, and western governments is the ability to commit to such ventures where wide variations of cost may come into play.

Demand for housing may have fallen of late but overall it has been one of the greatest success stories in the international property market to date. Those who were willing to take a chance in the early days will now be sitting back and looking at substantial paper profits as more and more people clamour to gain a foothold on the ladder.

To think this venture will add over 500 km of beach area to Dubai alone should give a useful example of the size of the combined the islands.

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