Say ‘Dubai’ and many people will automatically picture the palm-shaped island, Palm Jumeirah. This artificial island off the coast of Dubai can be seen from space and is one of the major tourist attractions of the United Arab Emirates. The project offers an unparalleled example of land reclamation possibilities.

At the end of the 20th Century, Dubai wanted to reduce its dependency on oil, and opted for the tourism industry as a new source of income. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum declared that Dubai should become one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the world. However, with a size of less than four square kilometers and an equally small coastline, the emirate didn’t quite have the characteristics of a major tourist attraction.

700 hectares of new land reclamation

The design and construction of some major and prestigious land reclamation projects changed that. The first project was the construction of Palm Jumeirah in 2001. The island has the shape of a palm with a trunk, a crown with 16 fronds and a surrounding crescent that acts as breakwaters. Palm Jumeirah extends five kilometres out of Dubai’s coast and has a width of approximately four-and-a-half kilometres. By choosing this remarkable shape, Dubai instantly added 72 kilometres to its coastline.

In accordance with a request from the Sheikh, Palm Jumeirah was built entirely from sand and rocks. No steel or concrete was used. The project included the dredging and relocation of 110 million cubic metres of sand with the help of cutter suction dredgers and trailing suction hopper dredgers built by Royal IHC, the creation of 700 hectares of new land and for the breakwater along the outer side of the crescent, 9 million tonnes of rocky material were used, obtained from 16 quarries in the hinterland. The land reclamation project began in 2001 and was finished in 2003.

With a number of hotels and resorts, shopping centres, theme parks and luxury homes, the island has become a major tourist hotspot. Palm Jumeirah is part of a larger scheme with a series of spectacular artificial islands in front of the Dubai coast. Other projects include the creation of The World, an archipelago of more than 300 artificial islands in the shape of a map of the world, and a second palm island called Palm Jebel Ali.

Palm Islands

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