The story of Dubai's major landmarks is, in many ways, the story of the city itself. They are a collection of global, very modern firsts. The Dubai Mall is the most-visited lifestyle destination on earth. The Burj Al Arab has a number of world-records to its name, including the tallest hotel atrium.
They, like the city, are also known for succeeding against tough conditions. An entire artificial island had to be constructed to house the Burj Al Arab. The Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, emerged as the centrepiece of a new district, breaking a slew of its own world records as it did so.
Another project at the heart of the city's identity is the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island that now houses some of the city's most famous hotels and valuable homes. Recently, one of its mansions sold for $82 million, the most expensive house sale in the city's history.
By some measures, the Palm Jebel Ali, an echo of the other manmade island further up the Dubai coast, has had to overcome an even greater challenge, with the site laying dormant for the past few years. After more than a decade on hold, work might be about to restart on its development.
Developer Nakheel has said it is revisiting its plans for the island. Evidence to back up the decision is strong. At the heart of Nakheel's plans are rising Dubai property prices. Dubai Land Department recorded August as the best performing sales month in 12 years, with a total value of around $6.6 billion. High-end beachfront properties are leading the charge. Real estate agents are reporting a 300 per cent rise in their value. The design of Palm Jebel Ali provides the opportunity for thousands more.
Its older sibling is also known for tourism, particularly the many hotels that line the outer ring. That sector is seeing strong growth, too. Recently, a host of new hotels in the UAE have been announced and room occupancy as well as flight sales continue to grow in popularity.
Faisal Durrani, partner and head of research at real estate consultancy Knight Frank, said plans to restart the Palm would go deeper than business.
“The Palm Jebel Ali’s rebirth could result in the emergence of Dubai’s much needed seventh city centre, following on from Deira/Bur Dubai, Downtown, Dubai Creek Harbour, The Palm Jumeirah-Dubai Marina-JLT, Dubai South and the recently relaunched Dubai Islands.”
It is important to remember that the possible revival of the project is still in its very early days. If it is confirmed, infrastructure would need to be planned and it will take at least a few years before the first property is built. Experts predict that the earliest could open is three to four years from now.
All this would take place in a global economy that is struggling. But the fact that amid this uncertainty, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, UAE developers still have the confidence to float ideas as grand as these, shows that much like its skyline, Dubai's economy has developed.
It will take some time before this project can be delivered, but in the interim investors can look to stories such as these as a sign that the country's post-pandemic recovery is continuing at pace.