Palm Jumeirah – The Palm Jumeirah is an artificial island created using land reclamation by Nakheel, a company owned by the Dubai government. It is one of three islands called the Palm Islands which extend into the Persian Gulf, increasing Dubai’s shoreline by a total of 520 km. The Palm Jumeirah is the smallest and the original of three Palm Islands (Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira) under development by Nakheel. It is located on the Jumeirah coastal area of the emirate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The Palm Jumeirah is in the shape of a palm tree. It consists of a trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometre long breakwater. The island is 5 kilometres by 5 kilometres and its total area is larger than 800 football pitches. The crown is connected to the mainland by a 300-metre bridge and the crescent is connected to the top of the palm by a subsea tunnel. Over the next few years, as the tourism phases develop, The Palm Jumeirah is touted as soon to be one of the world’s premier resorts. The Palm Island is the self-declared ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. The island will double the length of the Dubai coastline.
According to the developer’s publicity material, the Jumeirah Palm island will feature themed hotels, three types of villas (Signature Villas, Garden Homes and Canal Cove Town Homes), apartment buildings, beaches, marinas, restaurants, and a variety of retail outlets including:
Hotels proposed, under construction, or completed include:
• The Trump International Hotel & Tower
• Atlantis, The Palm Opened in September 2008.
• The Taj Exotica Hotel & Resort
• Palm Grandeur
• Ottoman Palace Hotel and resort. Expected to open in 2010.
• Essque Palm Jumeirah – Part of the Tiara Residence project. The Residence has been handed over. The hotel will open in 2010.
• Oceana Resort & Spa
• The Fairmont Palm Residence
• The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
• Royal Amwaj Resort and Spa
• The Dubai Estates Hotel & Park
• Hotel Missoni Dubai
• Radisson SAS Hotel Dubai, The Palm Jumeirah
• The Emerald Palace Kempinski, Dubai (Delivery Scheduled Mid 2011)
• Kempinski Residences Palm Jumeirah Dubai (Handing Over From 01/01/10)
Two F-100 Super Sabre fighter jets have been stripped and sunk near The Palm Jumeirah to create an artificial reef, intended as an additional attraction for divers.
On 18 June 2007, the Cunard Line announced that it had sold its former flagship, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, to Istithmar for use as a floating hotel at The Palm Jumeirah beginning in 2009. However, as at July 2009, it appears as if the ship will rather relocate to Cape Town for use in an unrelated Nakheel development.
Transportation – The 5.4 km (3.35 mile) Palm Jumeirah Monorail, connecting the Atlantis Hotel to the Gateway Towers at the foot of the island, opened on May 6, 2009.
Construction – Construction began on the Palm Jumeirah island in June 2001 and the developers announced handover of the first residential units in 2006. The island has been created using 94 million cubic metres of sand and 7 million tons of rock. The Palm Jumeirah was created by pouring sand fill onto the 10.5 metre-deep seabed using dredgers. Above sea level, 3 metres of the reclamation were achieved by a dredging technique known as “rainbowing”, in which the sand fill was sprayed over the surface of the rising island. Calcareous sand was used for the reclamation. The island includes a curved breakwater using natural rock, intended to encourage the creation of a natural reef and provide habitats for sea life. The land form was reclaimed by the Dutch company Van Oord, who are world experts in land reclamation. Total cost reached US$12.3 billion and maintaining the island is a costly expenditure. Approximately 40,000 workers, mostly from South Asia, have been involved in the construction of the island.
In early October 2007, the Palm Jumeirah had already become the world’s largest artificial island. Also at this time, 75% of the properties were ready to hand over, with 500 families already residing on the island. By the end of 2009, 28 hotels were opened on the Crescent.
Residents – The Palm Jumeirah has numerous A list celebrities as owners of the luxury residences that in 2010 were priced between 8.5 and 30 million AED. Celebrities include David Beckham, who was an original owner of a villa on the Frond now known as K Frond, widely considered the most exclusive part of the Palm Jumeirah. This area was offered to celebrities on launch which helped to drive attention to this project.
Controversy – The complexities of the construction have been blamed, in part, for the extended delays to the completion of the project, the date of which has been pushed back multiple times and is now nearly two years late. Further controversy was engendered when it was revealed that after launching the project, Nakheel increased the number of residential units on the island (with a concomitant reduction in the amount of physical space between individual properties) from the originally-announced 4500 (comprising 2000 villas and 2500 apartments) to an estimated 8000 without recompense to those investors who had purchased early in the expectation of greater separation between properties. This increase was attributed to Nakheel miscalculating the actual cost of construction and requiring the raising of additional capital, although Nakheel has never commented publicly on the matter.
Doubts have also been expressed about the quality of the construction and finishing of the properties on the island and the real ability of the infrastructure on both the Palm and the mainland to cope with the stresses of the sheer number of people leaving from and returning to the development every day once complete.
Furthermore, there are numerous concerns about the environmental impact of the Palm. As originally constructed, the breakwater was a continuous barrier, but it was realized that by preventing natural tidal movement, the seawater within the Palm was becoming stagnant. The problem was corrected by adding an additional gap in the barrier. As explained in the National Geographic Channel’s documentary Impossible Islands, part of its MegaStructures series, the breakwater was subsequently modified to create gaps on either side, allowing tidal movement to oxygenate the water within and prevent it stagnating, albeit less efficiently than would be the case if the breakwater did not exist. This same episode addressed the issue of marine life as well, but stated that the breakwater has actually encouraged marine life and that new marine species are moving into the area.
In a 2009 article describing the collapsing Dubai economy, The New York Times reported that the Palm was sinking and this has been confirmed now by geological surveys, at the moment it is 5 mm per year but this could increase rapidly. Furthermore there are many reported cases where people had bought houses before they were built and are furious about the space available now and the way they seem to be living on top of each other.
Nakheel refuted the claims by the New York Times who had quoted one small ground survey firm that the island was sinking. They defended the single claim by saying that here had been no reports of any structural problems on any of the buildings on the island which would be expected if there were any subsidence. Nakheel also outlined that claims suggesting Palm Jumeirah has sunk by 5mm, as detected by remote sensing (satellite) techniques, are not possible given that NASA’s laser altimeter satellites have an accuracy of only + or – 50 mm.