Work to create Dubai’s iconic man-made archipelago, The World, has been completed, developer Nakheel announced yesterday.
The first phase, which included four years of reclamation and dredging to create islands in the shape of the world map, finished with the laying of the last stone on the protective breakwater.
The announcement heralds the next phase of the project, which will see the islands handed over to developers for construction and building of infrastructure and resorts, the company said.
Almost half the 300 islands that make up The World have so far been sold. The project sold at least 30 islands last year, double the number sold the previous year, a Nakheel spokesperson told Emirates Business.
Prices for islands on The World range from $15 million to $45 million (Dh55m to Dh165m). Once bought, however, the cost of developing an island is much higher as the new owner is expected to meet all infrastructure requirements, such as electricity, gas, water and sewerage.
Land reclamation for the project required 320 million cubic metres of sand to be dredged from the sea to create the artificial islands and the breakwater that surrounds the nine-kilometre by six-kilometre mega project.
The last rock, laid by the project director Hamza Mustafa, was one of 34 million tonnes of stone used to construct a 27km breakwater, which rises about four metres above sea level, Nakheel said.
The development – four kilometres offshore from Dubai – covers about 931 hectares and adds 232km of beachfront to the emirate’s natural 67km coastline. The World can only be reached by boat, seaplane or helicopter and the main mode of transportation for visitors and residents is expected to be by boat.
The project has come under fire in the past from conservationists, who have argued it poses hazards to marine life in the Gulf.
However, Nakheel is the only developer in the region with an in-house environmental team and has invested in more than 20 research projects for environmental conservation. The company has also said its 30-metre deep breakwater creates 350 hectares of artificial reef, which will attract marine life.
Each year since reclamation began in 2004, Nakheel has invited 50 people – mainly celebrities, business elite and royalty – to view The World and buy into the project.
The unusual sales process was started to regulate the type of developments made on the islands by the buyers and to preserve the exclusivity of the property as a luxury product, the spokesperson said.
Many companies have also announced plans to purchase islands on The World. The latest investment came earlier this week, when investment firm Dubai Infinity Holdings announced plans for a mixed-use island development, which will aim to establish Dubai as a global “fashion hub”.
“Isla Moda”, to be developed into the world’s first fashion island, is expected to combine high style and luxury to attract the world’s fashion elite. The island’s first set of villas will go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year, said DIH’s chief executive Samira Abdulrazzak. Other confirmed island sales include the island of Shanghai, which was bought for $28m in October by the president of Zhongzhou International Holding Group. Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong have reportedly also been bought by unnamed Chinese companies.
The island of Greece was sold for $15.5m in August to an undisclosed buyer. Nakheel said at the time the buyer was not Mötley Crue singer Tommy Lee, who was rumoured to have purchased the island for ex-wife Pamela Anderson.
A group of investors from Kuwait-based Investment Dar have also purchased the islands making up Australia and New Zealand, to be developed into a reported $3.5bn resort called Oqyana (Arabic for Oceana). And Irish estate agent and international property developer Larionovo is set to develop the island of Ireland into a 225,000 sq ft Irish-themed resort called Ireland in the Sun.
The success of The World project has partly been built on its association with celebrities and big-name corporations, not all of whom have actually taken the step to buy one of the man-made islands.
Recent rumours of a Scandinavian shipping magnate buying an island are untrue, said Nakheel. Speculation Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had purchased Ethiopia have also been denied. Sir Richard Branson, who appeared at a media conference on the Great Britain island in 2006, sparked rumours he had snapped up one of the islands.
Singer Rod Stewart is another name connected to Great Britain. Nakheel said only one person had bought the island of Great Britain. A purchase by David Beckham also remains unconfirmed.