The Building of Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah has become the 8th wonder of the world, who would have ever imagined that there would one day be a man-made island, home to thousands of residents and visitors alike, that would be shaped like a giant palm tree of the coast of the Persian Gulf?

This incredible feat of engineering has a staggering story and for anyone that preaches that Dubai has no soul or no history, we urge you to look a little deeper and reconsider for this incredible emirate is creating its own history and hundreds of years from now our great, great, great, great grandchildren will be telling their children about how in the early noughties an outstanding vision became a reality.

Palm Jumeirah is essentially an artificial archipelago, created by land reclamation by Nakheel, a Dubai government owned company who also own this spectacular island. It was developed by Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock/Architects, Inc and is one of three palm islands of the coast of this rapidly growing country; Palm Deira and Palm Jebel Ali, in fact Palm Jumeirah is the smallest of the three islands and the only one to currently be developed.


Construction began on Palm Jumeirah in 2001 and the first residents descended some five years later.

Early construction began with divers surveying the seabed before a crescent-shaped breakwater blasted from mountain rock was constructed. The crescent of Palm Jumeirah stands at just over 13 feet above low tide sea level and sits in 34 feet of water at its deepest point. The lowest layer of the breakwater is made up of sand covered by an erosion-preventing weather-permeable geo-textile to ensure that the sand particles stick together and do not disintegrate in the water. One-tonne of rocks cover the sand and two layers of large rocks weighing up to six tonnes each cap the structure.  Soon after the construction began a problem occurred in that it was noticed the water in-between the fronds (the branches of the palm) was becoming stagnated by lack of movement, a solution to add openings on each side of the breakwater at some 328-feet each eliminating this problem allowing the water to flow efficiently between the 17 fronds. After all residents living at the world’s most sought-after address don’t want to be looking out onto murky, green water. The breakwater is believed to protect the palm from the weather in the gulf, even being built to weather an enormous storm that happens in the region every few years.

The Palm Islands themselves are all constructed from sand dredged from the sea floor. Palm Jumeirah is made from 3,257,212,970.389 cubit feet of ocean sand vibro-compacted into place. Vibro-compaction increased the density of the loose sand by saturating it with jets of water and then vibrating it with probes. This ensures that the sand remains solid enough to build on and with yet more construction including a mega-mall with deep foundations currently being built, it seems to thankfully be holding up.

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To ensure the shape of the Palm was exactly how it should be, designers and contractors used DGPS, Differential Global Positioning Systems that allowed them to plot the exact shape of the Palm to within 0.39 of an inch leaving no room for error. The only way to fully see the emerging shape of this first-of-its-kind island was by using satellite.


Today, Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest inhabited man-made island made up of a two-kilometre long trunk and 17 branches or ‘fronds’ and a surrounding crescent. It boasts a monorail spanning the spine of the Palm, several luxury residential developments including Oceana Residences, Shoreline and Marina Residences as well as signature private villas, home to many a global celebrity, along the fronds. There are many 5 star hotels including The Fairmont, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Sofitel The Palm and most famously, Atlantis which crowns the very top of the Palm, an icon of Dubai.



Ambitious plans were recently announced by Nakheel to add more than 11,000 hotel and hotel apartment rooms to The Palm Jumeirah by 2020, with expected number of rooms to reach 15,000. Currently, The Palm boasts around 3,500 rooms across eight resorts, with several hotels such as The Viceroy which is set for completion later this year, the W Hotel and The Langham Hotel all under construction.

Of course, one thing that The Palm has been lacking is leisure facilities with many a resident moaning that there is little in the way to do and limited access to proper shopping and dining facilities. Nakheel have taken this on board and right in the middle of The Palm a giant mall is currently rising from the sand expected to be completed in 2017. Also, soon to be opened is the much anticipated Golden Mile retail development which is set to open in just a couple of months with Spinneys supermarket taking the helm.


Another ambitious project that will transform this already fascinating tourist destination is the 1.2 kilometre Pointe walkway which is set to be The Palm’s second largest tourist attraction after Atlantis. The Pointe is expected to open in 2016 and will be a dining and entertainment destination which is already two-thirds leased with outlets such as Leopold’s of London and Olive Garden already signed up. The construction  of the AED800 million promenade project is only around 30% complete so expectations of it opening early 2016 look unlikely.


One thing is to be said for Palm Jumeirah it’s an astonishing feat of human vision and engineering that has put Dubai and indeed, the UAE firmly on the map.

Try telling them that it isn’t history.

Watch the building of The Palm Jumeirah yourself with The Discovery Channel’s ‘Megastructures’. Click here


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