The Biggest Building Site on Earth
Byline: MICHAEL HANLON
THOSE looking for tranquil, unspoilt beaches, rustic charm and authentic maritime culture will probably choose to look elsewhere. But for the world's permatanned classes with bling to display and money to burn this extraordinary construction project in the Persian Gulf is an irresistible draw.
Begun in 2001, the Palm Islands are a 12-square-mile group off the shores of Dubai.
With 14,000 labourers toiling day and night, the first of three unfeasibly large, palm-shaped artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah, is nearing completion, and about to receive its first residents.
When the luxury homes on the Palm's 17 giant 'fronds' were first put on sale in 2004, the buyers - of what will become a cross between Las Vegas and Wilmslow-on-sea - included the Beckhams, who put a deposit down on a [pounds sterling]1.2million designer pad with two swimming pools, Michael Owen, Anthea Turner and Grant Bovey, and Gary Neville.
Prices start at [pounds sterling]100,000 for a one-bedroom flat with a shared pool and go up to [pounds sterling]3.8million for one of the 90,000 sq ft plots on the end of each frond - but this price doesn't include the villa. Michael Jackson is rumoured to have a financial stake in the project.
The islands almost defy description. They are huge artificial peninsulas, made from some 90 million cubic metres of sand dredged from the bottom of the Gulf.
The outer edge of this first Palm is a gigantic, 7mile-long breakwater built of 7 million cubic metres of rock brought from 17 different-quarries in the United Arab Emirates.
It will be able to withstand 12ft-high waves.
When the Palm Islands were first mooted, a decade ago, Dutch engineers were called in to ensure that the new land would be safe from winter storms and day-today marine erosion. …