Where will it all end for Dubai?

JANE E FRASER
Last updated 09:17 13/09/2013
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You have to wonder where it's all going to end in Dubai.

Among projects slated for the superlative-hungry city are an oversized replica of the Taj Mahal, the world's largest ferris wheel, the world's biggest shopping mall (again) and dozens of new top-end hotels.

The city is already home to the world's largest man-made island, largest shopping mall, richest horse race, tallest building and most famous "seven-star" hotel.

Dubai is also on track to become the world's No. 1 international airport, having recently overtaken Paris Charles de Gaulle for the No. 2 spot behind London Heathrow.

Atlanta USA remains the world's busiest airport by total passenger movements, but Dubai, which recently completed the world's first purpose-built facility for the A380 aircraft, is fast gaining on the top spot for international traffic.

Dubai's international passenger traffic hit 32.6 million for the first half of this year, with Australia in the top five markets.

The commercial partnership between Qantas and Emirates and the launch of Qantas operations to Dubai has had a huge impact, with Australia recording the highest percentage growth of any market.

Not surprisingly, Dubai is also notching up records on visitor numbers, announcing its busiest half-year ever, with more than 5.5 million tourists for the first six months of the year.

Australian visitors were up almost a quarter, thanks to the Qantas-Emirates tie-up.

Qantas says it carried about half a million passengers to and from Dubai in its first four months of operations and many passengers are choosing to do stopovers en route to other destinations.

If you're thinking about a holiday in Dubai, don't hold off for the next raft of biggest and best additions, which are still some time away.

The biggest project, the Taj Mahal replica, was originally slated for completion sometime next year but has reportedly been put back to 2015.

Developer Taj Arabia says the complex will be the "jewel in Dubai's crown", incorporating a 300-room five-star hotel, residential apartments and commercial spaces.

The development is said to be four times the size of the original Taj Mahal and is part of the "Falconcity of Wonders" development that will also include replicas of the Grand Pyramid, Eiffel Tower, Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Great Wall among others.

The Taj Mahal replica is expected to become a major wedding and honeymoon destination, for those willing to part with plenty of cash.

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Already under construction is the development including the Dubai Eye ferris wheel, which will be 1.5 times the size of the London Eye, standing 210 metres tall.

The giant wheel - aren't we tired of these yet? - will be the centrepiece of "Bluewaters Island", which is being touted as a tourism mega-island off the Jumeirah Beach Residence coastline, combining retail, residential, hospitality and entertainment.

The first phase of construction, including the ferris wheel, is due to be completed within two years.

Meanwhile, Dubai is planning to build the world's largest shopping mall, despite already holding that record (using the definition of total area).

The existing Dubai Mall, which claims to be the world's largest and most visited shopping mall and entertainment destination, has more than 1200 retail outlets and more than 200 food outlets - so clearly what the city needs is more shops.

The new "Mall of the World" shopping centre will be part of a mega development, with plans including a theme park, hotels, art gallery, golf courses and a park bigger than London's Hyde Park.

Dubai is also racking up new hotels, with brands including Oberoi, Four Seasons and St Regis appearing on new properties this year, and Palazzo Versace to open next year.

Late last year, the hotel monitoring agency Top Hotel Projects counted 67 new luxury hotels in the pipeline for Dubai, amounting to about 26,000 rooms.

Dubai's real estate boom was "back on track", the agency declared.

The one thing Dubai can't solve with bucketloads of money is its cultural reputation, particularly in relation to women.

There have been many reports over the years of foreign tourists being arrested and even jailed for public displays of affection or other breaches of local laws.

Among the no-gos in Dubai are drinking in public, kissing in public, sex outside marriage, homosexuality, swearing and even holding hands.

The recent case of a Norwegian woman who was arrested and given a prison sentence (though later pardoned) for extramarital sex after reporting a rape has raised serious questions about the safety of women in Dubai and other parts of the Middle East.

Those who choose to holiday there are well advised to make sure they understand local laws and sensitivities.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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