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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThere are very few landmarks, in Dubai, which epitomize United Arab Emirate’s penchant for superlatives, quite like Palm Jumeirah. The world’s largest man-made island, designed and constructed to less than ideal perfection, is one of the most sought-after addresses in the whole city, be it both for expats who live and work here, and for tourists popping over for a quick visit. Home to dozens of luxury hotels, resorts, shopping venues, and residential abodes, The Palm, as it is more commonly referred to, can certainly be regarded as a holiday destination in its own merit.
The feasibility of the project, and convenience of living here, are rather debatable. Not only is it blatantly lacking basic services one would expect (like schools, hospitals, or even decent supermarkets) but the exorbitant construction costs means that any hope of breaking even could not be contemplated for decades. Or, if the dramatic downturn in Dubai’s economy is anything to go by, even centuries. Yet fear not, for these are not concerns which trouble the fleeting visitor. For them, Palm Jumeirah is just an opulent place in which to spend a few days.
History and Controversies of Palm JumeirahThe problems for The Palm started almost as soon as construction began in 2001. Between architectural and environmental concerns, the 12 billion USD project has been subjected to intense scrutiny since its first inception. One of an expected total of four man-made islands to be built, it was created on top of reclaimed land about 5kms south of the famous seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab. The Palm, with its 4km trunk flanked by high-rise buildings, a total of 17 fronds brimming with opulent villas and resorts, and an 11 kilometer-long crescent, is certainly an ambitious feat of engineering, troubles notwithstanding. Jury is still out as to whether or not it is sinking, ever so slightly. Knowing Dubai, however, there’s little doubt that a solution would be found, should this prove to be the case.
After a colossal miscalculation by the developer, who discovered halfway through construction that the project would necessitate more funds, residential villas and apartments were almost doubled in numbers, and nearly halved in size. Not only are the super-expensive abodes said to be squeezed in every direction, but the resulting urban crush is said to be the biggest deterrent for residents.
Many refer to Palm Jumeirah as the ‘Eight Blunder of the World’ yet in this case, the criticism falls mostly on the aesthetic aspect of the place. Impossibly to discern at road level, the ‘palmy’ aspect looks fantastic from the air but much less so at eye level. The architecture is rather bland, especially when one considers how well decorated most other landmarks are in Dubai.
TourismUnless you plan to move here permanently, Palm Jumeirah is a fun place to discover, if merely to ‘tick that box’ and experience yet another opulent side to Dubai. There are a total of 39 hotels, resorts, and self-catering accommodation options on the actual Palm, with the following being the most revered.
Anantara Dubai Resort & SpaLuxury doesn’t come much better than in the Anantara , a superb-looking resort which comprises 239 rooms of varying sizes, three swimming pools, seven restaurants, a Thai-inspired beauty spa, and its own stretch of private beach. From romantic, beachside candle-lit dinners, to a plethora of activities for young and old alike (kid’s club included), Anantara can be considered a fantastic all-rounder.
Kempinsky Hotel & ResidencesKempinsky has always been synonymous with old-school elegance and luxury, and its Palm Jumeirah branch is certainly no exception. Much like Anantara, it also boasts a private beach, well-rated spa and included activities. The Kempinsky Hotel also offers free shuttles to the Mall of the Emirates as well as several in-house boutiques. If you prefer classic swish rather than modern flair then this is the place for you.
Waldorf Astoria DubaiThe beach at the Waldorf Astoria is over 200 meters in length and every suite in its wave-shaped hotel building offers superlative views over the coast. Much less ‘palatial’ than the Kempinsky, and perhaps less intimate than Anantara , the Waldorf is quite spectacular in its own right. Revered for the food on offer, the Waldorf offers six restaurants and bars, one of which is overseen by a Michelin-starred chef. Two oversized pools and a kids’ club make this a popular choice for families.
Fairmont The PalmThis very modern-looking, palatial complex offers everything you’d ever need in a resort and is home to a fantastic Brazilian restaurant which attracts visitors from all over Dubai. This resort is located on the trunk of The Palm and is the closest to the mainland. This is a particularly peaceful spot, although it is mainly geared at families and provide much in terms of kids’ entertainment.
Hotel SofitelThe Sofitel is probably the most exotic-looking of the lot, with its manicured gardens, seafront set-up, and extensive services making it a hit with return visitors. Considering Palm Jumeirah has relatively little to offer visitors outside of resort or hotel compounds, the 15 restaurants and bars, nightclub, three pools, huge spa, private beach, and kids’ club at the Sofitel certainly has plenty to keep one busy.
Bonus Extra: The AtlantisAtlantis, The Palm is like something out of a movie, colossal in size and incredible in location, it stands as an absolute vision on the very last crescent of The Palm. When you look out of your private balcony here, all you’ll see is utterly uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf .
The underwater aquarium and Aquadventure Park at The Atlantis are by far its most revered features and the absolute highlights of Palm Jumeirah. You are free to visit both even when you are not a guest of the hotel.
Aquadventure ParkThis is the Middle East’s largest and most famous water park and comprises 17 hectares of thrilling water rides. There’s a zip line course for those who want a bit more of a challenge and plenty of activities for younger tots as well. More importantly, the park also boasts a stunning beach so spending an entire day here is extremely easy.
Hotel guests enjoy unlimited access to the park, while day visitors pay 250 AED.
Best View of Palm JumeirahIf you’re going to the effort and expense of visiting and staying on Palm Jumeirah, you may as well splurge in one of two activities which are guaranteed to enhance your trip. Skydiving and helicopter rides in Dubai are very popular, both offering outstanding views over the bay and
Palm Jumeirah in particular. Although both are bound to be adrenalin pumping, there’s no doubt that skydiving over The Palm is unbeatable when it comes to thrills and unforgettable bucket-list points.
Skydive Dubai offers jumps both over the Palm and over the desert for 1999 AED, including photos and video.
The Atlantis Resort offers private helicopter rides from its property, which can range from a quick 15-minute overview to an amazing 60-minute spectacular. A 15-minute ride costs 795 AED per person, but do make sure to search online as some sites offer discounts on selected days.
How to Get TherePalm Jumeirah is connected to the mainland by monorail, the first to be built in the Middle East. It runs the length of The Palm’s trunk and ends just short of the Atlantis Resort. If staying in a resort or hotel on any of the fronds, you’ll need to jump in a taxi, as there is no public transport within The Palm itself. Alternatively, arrange pick up from the airport for greater convenience.
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Feb 12, 2015