February 23, 2020
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Palm-Top Isle

Palm-Top Isle
Beyond Dubai airport's plastic palm trees and duty-free porches, a very large hole is being dug in the sand. The hole, which will eventually become the site of a third terminal to be used exclusively by Emirates airlines, is one in a long list of headline-grabbing projects designed to transform this former pearling village into a major tourist and business hub. Off Jumeirah beach, the world's largest artificial island, in the shape of a palm tree, is gradually emerging from the sea. Most of the villas and apartments that will be built on its 17 fronds have already been sold and a second island is in the works. Beneath the waves that wash against the Burj Al Arab, reputedly the world's only seven-star hotel, another example of Dubai's marketing savvy—an underwater hotel—is being fiercely excavated from the sea bed.

These novelty projects are the most obvious examples of Dubai's and the Emirates' determination to ensure an economic future for itself once its oil reserves run out, which is predicted to happen as early as 2010. Several less glamorous initiatives are already up and running. Dubai Internet City has attracted tenants such as Microsoft and Oracle since it opened two years ago. Nearby, Reuters, CNN, AP and others have taken up residence in Dubai Media City. This may all be good news for Dubai's Crown Prince and prime mover in the push to diversify, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum; but for the tourists this city is so keen to attract the scale of the construction can be disheartening. Hotels that once offered the choice of sea or less-desirable desert-view rooms are now having to pacify irate guests whose balconies, rather than overlook the rolling dunes, offer the chance to sip a cocktail as the sun sets on the cranes and earth-movers filling the horizon.

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