In the Heart of the Gulf: A Guide to the Man-made Islands in Dubai

April 05, 2024

Although artificial islands are considered a modern concept, they have deep roots stretching back to the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Ireland, Scotland, and Mexico. Palm Jumeirah sets a precedent for such intricate engineering ventures in the Middle East region. Master developer Nakheel pitched the idea of the palm-shaped archipelago in 2001 to respond to Dubai's thriving tourism sector.

At present, the emirate is home to several stunning isles, while many are on the drawing board. Designed to offer exclusive and luxurious living experiences, the man-made islands in Dubai cater to affluent homebuyers and tourists seeking high-end accommodations, entertainment, and amenities. Here's a list of these one-of-a-kind developments in the city.

List of Dubai Man-Made Islands

Palm Jumeirah 

Palm Jumeirah is Dubai's first and most celebrated island, thanks to its iconic landmarks and tourist spots. It’s a part of the Palm Islands in Dubai, consisting of a trunk and 17 fronds, housing apartments, mansions, townhouses, hotels, restaurants, and other attractions.

Launched in 2001, Palm Jumeirah serves as the Nakheel Properties’s flagship group. To build the glamorous community, they used land reclamation techniques involving dredging sand from the floor of the Persian Gulf and spraying it onto the sea to form the islands. Moreover, it is home to a luxury-themed hotel inspired by the fabled lost city of Atlantis and the exhilarating Aquaventure Waterpark. 

Developer: Nakheel
Status: Complete

Palm Jumeirah

Bluewaters Island

Home to the world’s tallest observation wheel, Ain Dubai, Bluewaters Island is also a popular man-made island in Dubai. Positioned just off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence, this artificial island was developed by Meraas. Bluewaters Island comprises 10 mid-rise residential buildings featuring apartments, penthouses, and townhouses.

Launched in 2013, Bluewaters Island promises easy accessibility to key areas like Dubai World Central, Expo City, Downtown Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. This world-class destination is dedicated to delivering a unique residential and commercial experience suitable for all.

Developer: Meraas
Status: Complete

Bluewaters Island, Dubai

Burj Al Arab Island

With its renowned structure and coveted 7-star status, the 1,053-foot hotel is situated off the coast of Jumeirah, linked to the mainland by a private bridge.

It took three years to reclaim the land from the sea and three more years to construct the giant structure. The man-made isle, specifically crafted for the Burj Al Arab, features a private beach for guests, a helipad, landscaped outdoor spaces surrounded by the ocean, and state-of-the-art facilities, offering an unparalleled island destination.

Developer: Jumeirah International
Status: Complete

Burj Al Arab Island

Pearl Jumeirah

Pearl Jumeira is another waterfront marvel by Meraas, covering 8.3 million square feet. Located in Jumeirah 1, Pearl Jumeira hosts three Nikki Beach establishments: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Nikki Beach Residences, and Nikki Beach Restaurant & Beach Club. These glamorous venues exhibit a vibrant ambiance, attracting those seeking a chic retreat just minutes from Downtown Dubai.

Developer: Meraas
Status: Still Expanding

Jumeirah Bay Island

Designed as a seahorse, Jumeirah Bay Island graces the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf. The prestigious waterfront development is known for its luxury residences, hotels, and leisure facilities. This man-made island in Dubai is also known as the “Billionaires Island” and is home to Bulgari Resorts and Residences, a luxurious hotel and residential complex.

Meraas developed the residential enclave, comprising apartments, mansions, and penthouses across six standalone buildings. In addition to these exquisite residences, Jumeirah Bay Island offers gardens, pools, gyms, sports facilities, a yacht club, and a plethora of dining options. A 300-meter bridge from Jumeirah Beach Road to the island ensures convenient access to residents.

Developer: Meraas
Status: Still Expanding

Jumeirah Bay Island

Dubai Islands

Another notable mega-project by the Nakheel Group, Dubai Islands, formerly Deira Islands, is also amongst Dubai's three planned palm-shaped artificial islands. Once completed, it will be a glittering addition to the city’s real estate landscape, featuring various entertainment and retail centers, wellness hubs, resorts, parks, golf courses and marinas.

Developer: Nakheel 
Status: Complete

Dubai Harbour

Developed jointly by Meraas and Emaar Properties, this expansive 20 million sq. ft. man-made island will boast waterfront residences, villas, hotels, and offices. The area will also feature amenities, including retail centers, malls, yacht clubs, restaurants, and cafes. Moreover, the massive under-construction bridge connecting Dubai Harbour to Sheikh Zayed Road will increase its popularity. 

Developer: Emaar and Meraas
Status: Under Development

Dubai Harbour

The World Islands

This grand endeavor is one of the city's most ambitious projects, comprising a collection of 300 man-made islands fashioned into the shape of a world map. The most famous part of The World Islands in Dubai is often considered to be "The Heart of Europe." This section of the archipelago aims to recreate the essence and architectural styles of various European countries. The expansive project is located 4km off Dubai's coast and 21km northeast of Palm Jumeirah.

Developer: Nakheel
Status: 2026 (Expected Completion Date)

Palm Jebel Ali

The second largest amongst the three Palm Islands in Dubai, Palm Jebel Ali is set to be a pinnacle of luxury. Once completed, Palm Jebel Ali will surpass Palm Jumeirah in size by 50% and will boast world-class residential, commercial, leisure, and entertainment facilities. The island will offer 70km of pristine beaches, luxury hotels, six marinas, and entertainment attractions like SeaWorld Aquatica, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove.

Palm Jebel Ali will be an exclusive destination featuring picturesque homes built on stilts and boardwalks adorned with verses from a poem by Sheikh Mohammed himself. While the project is still in development, it is projected to accommodate over 250,000 residents.

Developer: Nakheel
Status: 2023 (Relaunched), 2027 (Expected Completion Date)

Marsa Al Arab

A project by Dubai Holding, Marsa Al Arab, is a remarkable man-made island project in Dubai. Marsa Al Arab will feature world-class facilities such as the new Wild Wadi Water Park, Marina Park, and a live theatre set to host Cirque du Soleil – a first in the Middle East.

This resort island will extend 2.2km along the beachfront, flanking both sides of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. The northeast sector, spanning 2.5 million square feet, will feature various entertainment attractions and a marine park, including the new Wild Wadi Waterpark. On the southwest side, covering 1.5 million square feet, a private island will house 140 luxury apartments, a marina, and a boutique hotel operated by the Jumeirah Group.

Developer: Dubai Holding
Status: End of 2024 (Expected Completion Date)

FAQs About Man-Made Islands in Dubai

Besides Dubai, which emirate is home to artificial islands in the UAE?

Like Dubai, there are islands in and around Abu Dhabi as well. Saadiyat Island, Yas Island, Reem Islands, and Nurai Island are some of Abu Dhabi's islands offering opportunities for living and high-end facilities.

How many Palm Islands are there in Dubai?

The Palm Islands consist of two artificial archipelagos, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali, located on the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Additionally, there is a planned project called Deira Islands.

Are Dubai Islands man-made?

Yes, many islands in Dubai, such as Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, Deira Islands, Bluewaters Island, and The World Islands, are man-made. These islands are constructed through land reclamation projects, where land is created by dredging sand from the seabed and depositing it to form new land masses. This process allows Dubai to expand its coastline and create new spaces for residential, commercial, and leisure developments.

Can you visit The World Islands in Dubai?

Currently, The World Islands are accessible solely via marine or air transportation, with visitors arriving by boat from The Palm enjoying a picturesque 15-minute journey.

Is the Dubai Pearl project canceled?

Construction was halted from 2006 to 2022. According to reports, demolition activities are underway as of January 23rd, 2023.

How Palm Jumeirah was built?

Palm Jumeirah was primarily created using sand dredged from the bottom of the Persian Gulf, while stones and boulders from the mainland were used to reinforce the crescent side facing the open sea. Construction commenced in 2001, and by 2004, the land and fundamental infrastructure were established.

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