Time seemingly stood still for much of the world at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
But in the UAE, the landscape continued to evolve with new developments coming to fruition.
Under-construction skyscrapers have become taller, plots of land have been cleared, and fresh projects have been announced.
The year is already shaping up to be one filled with mega-projects - and not just in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but the Northern Emirates, too.
Our slideshow above and list below shows what's in the pipeline or just opened. Original completion dates may be subject to change.
Mohammed bin Rashid Library
Books, books and more books. The Mohammed bin Rashid Library spans more than 54,000 square metres, with seven floors and nine thematic libraries.
It is located in Al Jaddaf, by the Dubai Creek, offering spectacular views of the waterway.
Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi
The Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi in March unveiled plans for a museum in the Cultural District on Saadiyat Island.
Named the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi, the project is under construction and is due to be completed at the end of 2025.
Its galleries will span a 13.8 billion-year journey through time and space, from the beginnings of the universe to a glimpse at its possible future.
Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences
Could there be a better address than this?
Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences will be within Saadiyat Grove and the development has an expected handover date of 2025. It will comprise 400 apartments - a mix of studios, one, two and three-bedrooms - and five penthouses.
The building is inspired by Louvre Abu Dhabi, with art and sculptures inside resembling those exhibited by the museum.
Saadiyat mixed-use development
Aldar in April said it had acquired 6.2 million square metres of land on Saadiyat Island as part of its plans to develop a Dh15 billion ($4bn) mega mixed-use project.
The integrated community will include nearly 2,700 residential units, most of which are villas, and will be home to more than 15,000 people.
Work on the four-year project is scheduled to begin in the second half of the year.
Sharjah forest community
A Dh8 billion Sharjah megaproject featuring a vast forested community and a host of leisure attractions is taking shape.
Masaar, which is being overseen by real estate developer Arada, will feature 4,000 villas and town houses split into eight gate districts with a 'green spine' of 50,000 trees across 19 million square feet.
The ambitious mixed-use scheme was launched in January last year and will be in the heart of Sharjah's Suyoh district.
The first homes are due to be handed over in the first quarter of 2023.
Abu Dhabi's Reem Island, a popular location for residents of the capital, will receive a new community featuring a man-made hill.
Q Properties' new Dh8 billion gated development, Reem Hills, has been designed with enhanced greenery “to encourage its residents to indulge their senses”, the company said.
As well as the man-made hill, the villa project will offer beach access, parkland, schools, mosques, a community centre and retail outlets.
Al Hamra's Dh1 billion project will be built within the Al Hamra Village residential community that also has a shopping mall, yacht club and hotels.
The Ras Al Khaimah-based developer is set to start construction in the next few months and will be completed in 24 to 28 months. It will have 501 villa units, ranging from two to seven bedrooms, with prices starting from Dh1.2m.
Abu Dhabi's ever-evolving Reem Island has one particularly large-scale project planned – Reem Mall.
The island already boasts Boutik Mall, but this will be on another level, meaning residents won’t necessarily need to island-hop over to Al Maryah, which is home to Galleria Mall.
Reem Mall will have more than 450 stores, a hypermarket, two food courts and a multiplex cinema, plus Snow Abu Dhabi, which is set to be about four times the size of Ski Dubai.
Royal Atlantis Resort
Why have one Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah when you can have two? This one doesn’t have the iconic arch of the long-time hotel at the tip of the island, but is does, according to its website, have “a playful contrast between fire and water”. The architecture is typically eye-catching, too.
The right wing of the Royal Atlantis in Dubai will house 231 residences, while the left will be made up of 795 guest suites. The two are linked by an infinity swimming pool that is 90 metres above ground.
The town of Hatta is to be transformed into a major tourism destination, with an inland beach, lake and cable-driven mountain railway.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, recently unveiled the latest vision for the town.
Hatta, near the border with Oman, has in recent years been transformed into an adventure getaway, with mountain biking and kayaking popular activities.
It may not be welcoming passengers just yet, but the Midfield Terminal is very much part of the Abu Dhabi landscape as you reach the outskirts of the city.
It will be able to process 8,500 travellers per hour once open and spans 742,000 square metres. No opening date has been confirmed.
Museum of the Future
The eye-catching structure on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road opened to the public on February 22.
The building's exterior is made up of 1,024 pieces that were manufactured by automated robotic arms and installed over the course of 18 months.
The Dh500 million museum's outer shell extends over more than 17,000 square metres and is covered in Arabic calligraphy illuminated by solar-powered LED bulbs at night.
It combines elements of exhibition, immersive theatre and themed attraction.
Expo 2020 Dubai site - District 2020
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has appointed a committee to oversee the development of the next stage of the site.
When transformed into District 2020, it will become the UAE’s first 15-minute city, a cycle-friendly, traffic-free suburb of the growing metropolis.
It will include an autonomous-vehicle route, a 10-kilometre cycling track, interconnected, wide pedestrian pathways and a 5km jogging track.
It will also have space for 85 start-ups and small businesses when it opens to its first corporate tenants towards the end of this year.
Meydan One Mall
Malls are not just about shops and restaurants these days, they are more a living, breathing experience. This one, located between the existing Meydan racecourse site and Al Khail Road, is certainly slated to have a little bit extra – including a 1km-long indoor ski slope and winter village, plus a 400-metre Central Canyon and football and cricket facilities.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held in March 2017.
Abu Dhabi's new waterfront entertainment complex is partially open with more to come. The 2.6km canal-side development features an aquarium, e-sports academy and adventure activities.
The centrepiece aquarium was the first project to open its doors at Al Qana. It launched in November, and is spread across 10 zones, and is home to 46,000 creatures and 300 species.
Fairmont Marina Abu Dhabi
Architecturally very similar to Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm, this Accor hotel now dominates Abu Dhabi’s Corniche skyline.
Initially anticipated to open in March 2020, the 39-storey building will offer a private beach, five swimming pools and watersports facilities. There will be 563 guest rooms, with King, Twin, Deluxe, Gold and Signature categories.
A haven of tranquillity, Jubail sits between Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island and Yas Island and is set to become an upmarket residential community.
The 45 million-square-metre island already contains a large mangrove park and the developer is planning to add restaurants, a beach club, a business centre, sports facilities, schools, clinics, nurseries and a community centre.
Homes for more than 5,000 residents are set to be built. A contract to build the first 300 villas was awarded to Arabian Construction Company in April 2021 and 60 per cent of the site's infrastructure was said to be already complete. The first villas will be ready by the fourth quarter of 2023.
SeaWorld Abu Dhabi
Construction on the tourist attraction has been gathering pace on Yas Island. It was said to be 40 per cent complete in October 2020, with work set to be finished by the end of 2022.
The 183,000-square-metre venue will boast purpose-built habitats and ecosystems housing a variety of species. It will be home to the UAE's first dedicated marine research, rescue, rehabilitation and return centre.
This pair of towers is located next to Dubai's Trade Centre and connected by a 7,700-tonne bridge.
Once completed, the buildings will feature luxury residences, a hotel, offices and retail spaces.
Tower A is 304 metres high and topped out in April 2021, while the 241m Tower B topped out earlier.
Parts of this project on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, such as the Etihad Arena and Hilton hotel, are already open.
There will be 15,000 residences and the new headquarters of TwoFour54, the media free zone that operates from Khalifa Park, which is expected to be ready this year.
It was said in September that the construction of Yas Creative Hub, Abu Dhabi’s newest hub for the media, gaming and entertainment industry, is 95 per cent complete.
The city already has the world’s tallest hotel - the 356m Gevora Hotel - but there’s set to be a new record holder.
Construction of Ciel tower in Dubai Marina is under way and it will eventually reach 360m according to developer The First Group.
It will have 1,209 luxury hotel suites and serviced residences spread over 82 levels, plus a glass observation deck with 360-degree views.
The first phase of Dubai's Dh3.2 billion e-commerce free zone has just been launched.
It is being built at the project in the Umm Ramool area of the city, close to Dubai International Airport.
The first phase will have a 'business cluster' with more than 95,000 sq m of offices and 50,000 sq m of logistics units and "multi-client warehouses".
Abu Dhabi Hindu temple
Construction is well under way at the Abu Mureikha site.
The UAE's first Hindu temple, it will be the largest centre in the country for people of all faiths to learn about Indian culture and the Hindu religion when it opens in 2023.
It will feature an amphitheatre, prayer halls, library, community centre, play area for children, parks, a visitor centre and food court.
Abrahamic Family House
Designed by the renowned British architect Sir David Adjaye, it will be a place for religious tolerance and education, with a mosque, church and synagogue on the same site on Saadiyat Island.
The vision for the Abarahamic Family House originated after the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb in February 2019.
The project is set for completion this year.
Sharjah’s east coast exclave is the focus of a major revamp, which will see the restoration of one of the emirate’s most historic houses, construction of a clock tower roundabout and the opening of a revamped Corniche.
Then there’s the Kalba Heritage Museum project - a sail-shaped museum to be built on the seashore.
The projects are expected to provide a big boost to tourism in the area.
Dibba Fujairah Sports Club Stadium
There’s a new sports stadium taking shape in the UAE.
The stadium in Dibba, Fujairah, will be able to host up to 10,000 fans and cost an estimated Dh100 million.
It meets the requirements of the UAE Pro League and the Asian Football Confederation to host regional championships.
The development of the railway service has been under way in the UAE for some time with the goal of connecting the country with the rest of the GCC.
Stage one is complete and operating along a 264km route from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais, transporting sulphur.
In January, it was announced tracks were being laid for the 139-kilometre stretch connecting Ruwais with Ghuweifat on the UAE border with Saudi Arabia.
It will eventually stretch for about 1,000km from Ghuweifat to Fujairah on the UAE’s east coast.
Freight is the focus but its mandate included a passenger element.
A launch date for the passenger service has not yet been announced but The National was granted rare access to part of the Abu Dhabi to Dubai line.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is on track to open its doors in 2025, according to the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.
Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who is also behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the UAE site is set to be the latest and largest outpost of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation’s list of international museums.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was first announced in 2006 and was initially meant to welcome visitors by 2012. The museum’s completion date was then pushed to 2017.
The museum aims to present global modern and contemporary art, said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT – Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia megaprojects
* This article was first published on April 22, 2021