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Propsearch guide to Dubai real estate: Developments

World Islands

District, Dubai
World Islands Key Information
Location type
Under development

World Islands Overview

In May 2003 Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, unveiled ‘The World’ project, a group of 300 man-made islands to be created four kilometres out at sea off the coast of Dubai. The islands would be arranged in clusters to resemble a map of the world and encircled by a 27-kilometre breakwater to provide shelter from long and cross-shore waves.

The idea was driven by Dubai’s requirement for additional beachfront to support its burgeoning tourist industry.

The Heart of Europe comprises six islands that, when complete, will house private holiday homes, apartment buildings, hotels, floating palaces and various retail and entertainment elements.

Construction Updates

World Islands History

In September 2003 Nakheel, the company who built the Palm Jumeirah, began work as master developer responsible for delivering the archipelago. Over the course of five years 320 million cubic metres of sand were dredged from the sea bed and piled up to create the islands and 34 million tonnes of rock were dumped into the sea to create the breakwater, made up of an outer submerged reef and an inner wall three metres above water.

Invitations to ‘Own the World’ had been sent to potential buyers, with prices for the islands ranging from $15-50m (£10-36m). In 2006 Sheikh Mohammed gave one of The World islands to Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, no doubt to encourage others to come here.

In January 2008 The World’s breakwater was finished, encircling an area of more than 5,000 hectares, almost seven times the size of Venice. However, not all of the 300 islands were ready for development.

Owners received access to their islands from Nakheel in September 2008, one month before the full force of the financial crisis hit Dubai.

By the end of 2009 Nakheel, the master developer, claimed to have sold about 70% of the islands (ie 210 out of 300) at prices allegedly ranging from $20 million to $50 million.
In July 2009 the Dubai developer Seven Tides announced plans to start developing the ten islands it owns that make up the South America section of The World. Building was said to begin by the end of the year.

The developer intended to build chalets on the islands that would be linked logistically to the Royal Amwaj resort that the company was developing on Palm Jumeirah, an eight-minute boat ride away. Each island would have between 45 and 55 chalets built on stilts over the water. The islands would have swimming pools and tennis courts and be connected by walkways. They would be self-sufficient for water and energy, with their own power and water sources on one of the islands.

Development was to be phased, starting with three of the islands and followed, when those became profitable, by development of the other islands. (Fast-forward to 2017)

In December 2009 the Kleindienst Group launched its ‘Heart of Europe’ development - a six-island, 12-site luxury holiday destination. When complete The Heart of Europe would be home to 75 private holiday homes, six apartment buildings, six hotels, six lighthouses and six floating palaces, as well as a range of shops and entertainments. Construction was to begin on the island of Germany in the first quarter of 2010.

In February 2010 Kleindienst became the first company to break ground on The World islands project with its Heart of Europe development. Construction started on Germany Island one week after the appointment of Foundation Construction Group to begin soil improvement for the development.
Kleindienst had originally purchased eight islands for the Heart of Europe project, but decided to merge three of them into one large city-centre-style complex. Four of the islands were to have villas, with retail and office elements on the fifth.

The first trade licence for business operations on The World islands project was granted in May 2010 to Kleindienst Group. A hospitality and entertainment licence was also awarded to the company by the Dubai Government.

At the beginning of 2011 ground works began on Lebanon Island, on what was to become a small beach resort with palm trees.

At the same time it was reported that preparations were being made for work on Taiwan and Kazakhstan, which are made of up five islands.

In July 2011 the Heart of Europe project was put on hold owing to a $199m legal battle between Kleindienst and the master developer, Nakheel, for breach of contract.

In May 2013 a Nakheel subsidiary signed an out-of-court settlement agreement with Kleindienst Properties, allowing Kleindienst to continue with the Heart of Europe islands project.

In March 2014 Nakheel reported that all 300 World islands were completed and ready for development by individual investors. The islands between them represent 931 hectares of new land with 232 kilometres of beachfront to add to Dubai’s natural 67 kilometre coastline.

In September 2014 the idea was floated that, according to a study carried out by Austrian company Doppelmayer Cable Car, a cable car line linking The Heart of Europe islands to either Jumeirah Beach or Umm Sequim was the most feasible transport option to reach the manmade islands, about 4 kilometres off the coast.

By May 2016 only two of the 300 islands were being actively used, one being Lebanon island where a beach resort had been built, and the other being Sweden where the first of ten luxury villas was under construction.

In December 2016 an international film crew arrived in Dubai to document the construction of the Heart of Europe as part of a Discovery Channel series about the construction of unique buildings around the world. Filming began at the first two Sweden Palaces being built on Sweden Island.

At Cityscape Global in Dubai in September 2017 Kleindienst presented ‘The Floating Venice’, a Dhs2.5 billion floating resort to be built near The World islands. The project is essentially a ‘ship’ that’s also an island and also a resort split over four levels, or decks, one of which is underwater. The resort was said to be able to accommodate 3,000 guests daily. The main entrance of the floating resort was to be themed on Venice’s Piazza San Marco.

In September 2017 Emirati developer Seven Tides announced that it plans to complete a 100-villa resort on one of its 10 islands in the South America cluster by the end of 2018.

By the middle of 2018 just two of The World islands had been developed. One, Lebanon island is a beach resort catering for day trippers, and the other is Sweden island, part of the ‘The Heart of Europe’ cluster, on which the first of ten ‘palaces’ have been built.

In January 2018 Mean Girls star Lindsay Lohan announced that she is designing her own island, to be called ‘Lohan Island’.


Luis Ajamil, of the architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners, was responsible for masterplanning The World islands project. His zoning plan located the more public, resort-style islands closer to the mainland, and the private estates further back towards the Gulf. He says that sales really took off when they demonstrated how owners could re-shape their islands, carving coves, inlets and marinas to create more saleable areas.

Among the early schemes his practice worked on was a plan to divide Moscow into two linear islands, connected by a five-storey glass box called Red Square, which would have glowed red by night, and a scheme that split the UK landmass in two, with ‘an abstract interpretation of Tower Bridge’ connecting them.

The original premise behind The World is gradually being transformed from a group of exclusive desert islands, with a villa on each, into high-density resorts designed to ensure the maximum commercial return.

Among the early, pre-financial crisis, ideas were Karl Lagerfeld’s plans for a fashion-themed island, a rebuilt Giant’s Causeway on Ireland island, a mini Shanghai on China island, and Opulence Holdings’ plan to carve Somalia island into the shape of a seahorse.

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