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December 2004 - January 2005


Business Forum

Your Own Kingdom in the Gulf of Arabia

by Bhupendra Gandhi


It is every man’s dream to own a tropical island, to be a master, a King, a Maharaja or, to be more appropriate, a Sheikh. Now there is an opportunity to own an island in the Gulf - which is fast becoming a new playground for super-rich Westerners - and be a part of the community of entrepreneurs that considers the Gulf as the ultimate playground, the final challenge, the Shangri-La, the last frontier.

 

It seems human ingenuity knows no bounds. With the popularity of Gulf States, in particular Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman, which are fast becoming a favourite holiday destination for the super-rich as well as a short break, stop over place, a watering hole, an oasis of tranquility for ordinary people like us, it is no wonder that development is taking place at breakneck speed.
The Gulf States have, besides sun, sea and a wonderful warm and dry climate with hot days and cool nights at least nine months in a year, one of the finest infrastructures in the world, that includes ultra-modern airports, wide and well- maintained roads, duty-free shopping in ultra- modern malls to rival the best in the West.

 

The international four- and five-star hotels of the calibre of the Dubai Hilton, Jumaria Beach Hotel, the Ritz Carlton, Beit Al-Bahar and one of the best in the Arab world, Burj Al-Arab, built some one hundred meters offshore, in the shape of a “dhou”, an Arabian word for an old time sailing ship that used to plough the seas between India, Arabia and East Africa before the second world war.
The hotel is one of the highest buildings in the area, with a viewing platform that looks onto the ocean and the surrounding area as far as the eye can see and perhaps on a fine day, with the help of powerful binoculars, the shore line of India as well?

 

UAE (United Arab Emirates) also has political stability - a rare achievement in this troubled part of the world - and wise liberal rulers with an economic planning strategy to turn this oil-rich nation into a modern, well-developed country that could stand on her own two feet when the oil revenue stops flowing, as we all know oil is a wasting asset with a limited shelf life.

 

The revenue generated by the export of oil is used wisely to greenify and industrialise the country to rival Singapore, the island nation which is fast becoming renowned as the best managed, best ruled country in the world, a shining example and a beacon of hope, economic progress, prosperity and above all a safe, crime-free environment in which to live and work, the success every tiny nation wants to emulate and surpass.

So often a totalitarian nation with a wise ruler at the helm is more successful making rapid economic progress than a democratic nation, especially with illiterate people living below the poverty line and corruption at every level. Sheikh Mohamed Al- Maktoum, the progressive, moderate and Western- educated Crown Prince of Dubai has come up with the novel idea of constructing a group of artificial islands, some three to five miles off the coast of Dubai, with a sandy beach, palm-fringed modern villas in an ideal setting that would turn this part of the world into a floating garden of Eden to rival the South Sea paradises of Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii and the Samoan islands.

The Sheikh Al-Maktoum has already constructed a vast artificial island, appropriately named “The Palm”, with 5000 villas which are selling like hot cakes to buyers like sports personality David Beckham and his wealthy teammates. But this project is a mere drop in the ocean compared with the “The World”, recently unveiled by the Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman of the major gulf developers Nakheel.

The developers plan to create some 300 tiny islands, no bigger than ten to twenty acres, with a villa and covered with palm trees, desert pine, acacia and various types of desert cacti along with sweet smelling and colourful flowering plants such as Camomile, Daisy, Evergreen (Barmasi) Jasmine, Michelia or Magnolia ( Champo), Pink Rose (Keran) Night Queen (Ratrani) and many more that have no English name, at least not to my knowledge.

These islands will be built on millions of tons of rocks and sand, retrieved from the desert as well as dredged up from the sea bed, the group of islands resembling the world map, in the shallow continental shelf off the coast of Dubai, at a cost of some two billion pounds, with a massive breakwaters to protect these shallow islands against rough seas as well as rising sea level that may result due to the melting of the ice in the Antarctic, a by-product of the mad rush to economic progress at any cost.

The islands will only be accessible by air or sea, which will safeguard against terrorism. This project will also include the building of massive infrastructure on the mainland to support and supply these islands with running fresh water, electricity, sanitation, power and daily necessities, entertainment and health products.

 

The project is already six months underway, with a completion date in 2008. Super-rich buyers that include film and pop stars, sports personalities and business tycoons are already queuing up to buy a unique piece of history with a price tag of between ten and fifteen million pounds, a part of Great Britain in the foreign sea, a retreat fit enough for a king or rather a Sheikh.
Not surprisingly the island representing UAE will be the first to emerge from the sea. If successful, such breathtaking projects could take place in other parts of the world, notably in the shallow waters of the archipelagoes of the Seychelles, the Maldives and Lakshadweep islands in the Indian Ocean, Hawaii and Polynesia in the Pacific.

 

It seems no project is beyond human ingenuity if there is a desire to succeed. But it is surprising and pleasant to note that the tiny Gulf State of UAE is leading the world in this thought provoking adventure. This is indeed oil revenue well spent.

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