Palm Jumeirah: from construction to world-class destination in 21 years

The planet's biggest man-made island spans the equivalent of 600 football pitches

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There was a time when people might have scoffed at the idea of creating an island in the shape of a palm tree. Now, bird's-eye views of Palm Jumeirah are commonplace in media across the world, and no one's laughing at the success this development has achieved.

In June 2001, developer Nakheel began construction using the master plan drawn up by American architectural firm Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock.

It took about six years to complete the world's largest man-made island, which altogether spans 5.72 square kilometres, equal to 600 football pitches.

Atlantis, The Palm was the first hotel to open at Palm Jumeirah, in 2008, and the monorail opened the following year. AFP

The island's first residents began moving in from 2007 and by the end of the year about 500 families called Palm Jumeirah home. Today, the 17 fronds boast some of the UAE's most luxurious residences and mansions (David Beckham and Shah Rukh Khan are only two of the celebrities said to own properties here), not to mention some of the highest rents, and estimates put its population at about 80,000.

After the homebodies moved in, then followed the hotels, trickling in at first, then coming in droves.

Atlantis, The Palm, nowadays arguably one of the most famous hotels in the world, was the first to set up shop, in 2008, when it had a glamorous opening party attended by thousands. It also marked Kylie Minogue's debut performance in the Middle East.

After the hotels, in 2009, the Middle East's first monorail opened, offering Palm Jumeirah residents and visitors a unique way to get around, as the driverless transport spans almost 5.5 kilometres and connects them to the Dubai Metro.

Globally renowned hotel brands have since opened on the island and today you can find Sofitel, W, Fairmont, The St Regis, One&Only and many more with luxurious resorts visited by well-seasoned travellers, not to mention world-famous celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Priyanka Chopra Jonas, all year round.

The much talked-about Atlantis The Royal, designed by the same people behind Hudson Yards in New York City or Victoria Dockside in Hong Kong, will soon follow, adding yet another distinctive architectural work of art to Palm Jumeirah's ever-expanding portfolio.

Some of the nation's favourite restaurants also reside here, with major dining and retail projects such as Palm West Beach, The Pointe, Golden Mile and Club Vista Mare marking the area out as a must-visit destination for foodies and leisure seekers.

Scroll through the gallery to see more of Palm West Beach, Palm Jumeirah's newest destination:

The Pointe is also home to the world's largest fountain, consisting of two floating platforms that cover 14,000 square metres, raising 105 metres into the sky, and lighting up with 3,000 LED lights. It also dances, a bit like the Dubai Fountain at The Dubai Mall, to hit sounds from across the world daily from sunset to midnight.

Let's not forget the beaches, either, as, whether public or private, they're some of the best and well-maintained around. They're also a great spot from which to do some superyacht-spotting, the marinas being one of the most clear-cut demonstrations of how far Palm Jumeirah has come.

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Updated: June 10, 2022, 6:01 PM
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