Downtown Dubai. View of the Adress Hotel, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain and Business Bay canal | ©elisasophia / Flickr
Downtown Dubai. View of the Adress Hotel, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain and Business Bay canal | ©elisasophia / Flickr

Dubai: A Poster City For Landmarks & Mega Projects

Picture of Jessica Milek
Updated: 11 June 2018

Dubai’s futuristic and glitzy landscape is home to innovative structures as well as the tallest buildings in the world. This is everything you need to know about the top landmarks and mega projects in Dubai.

Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa | ©Smarko / Pixabay

View of the Burj Khalifa (center), Dubai Fountain (front) and the Dubai Mall (right) | © Smarko / Pixabay

Standing approximately 2722 feet (830 meters) tall, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world. It can be seen from 60 miles (97 kilometers) away. It is so tall that from the base of the building to the top there is a 6-degree temperature drop. Once known as being a city in the sky, the Burj Khalifa was originally intended to be mainly used as a residential tower. The building is home to 900 residential apartments, 163 floors and 57 elevators.

The Burj Khalifa was built by the real estate development group Emaar in the hopes of creating an icon that would propel Dubai’s tourism economy. Built by the chief architect Adrian Smith and chief engineer Bill Baker from the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill firm., the Burj Khalifa was designing with the tubular system in mind, invented by Fazlur Rahman Khan, which allowed the building to be made with less steel than otherwise possible.

Originally named Burj Dubai during construction, the name changed after the 2008 crash put Dubai into debt and the Abu Dhabi government swooped in to help. The Burj Khalifa was named in honor of the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Located in the upscale area of Downtown Dubai, the Burj Khalifa stands next to the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, and the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain.

Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab | Pixabay

The Burj Al Arab | © CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay

Dubai was on the rise to becoming a household name after the completion of the Burj Al Arab in 1999. Designed by the consultancy firm Atkins and led by architect Tom Wright, this unique icon is shaped like a sail and sits on its own man-made island. Even though 5 stars is the highest official rating it can achieve, the Burj Al Arab is internationally recognised as the first 7-star hotel in the world.

Although the 7-star myth was initially sparked by a journalist, the saying has become synonymous with this hotel because of the high-class service that it offers. In Britain, the main awarding organisation of stars is the AA, which awards 5 stars to a hotel that has: a range of alcoholic drinks available; a bathroom in every room; breakfast with fresh produce and homestyle cooking; an excellent quality bed, furnishings and decor; a range of facilities and public areas; a lobby with a welcoming concierge; valet service; and a basic range of utensils and cookware. The Burj Al Arab ticks all of these boxes and also includes: 24k gold leaf interiors; a helipad and 24k gold iPads for guest use; butlers on every floor; signature cocktails and gourmet food; and multiple level suites with dining rooms, living rooms and multiple bathrooms. The Burj Al Arab is also home to the highest Atrium in the world, a dancing fountain, cascading fountain and a built in fire display.

The Tallest Block

'The Tallest Block' in Dubai Marina. Located in the center is the Princess Tower and located on the far right is the Cayan Tower | © Steven Straiton / Flickr

The Tallest Block. Some of the world’s tallest buildings in the world. Princess Tower (center), Cayan Tower (far right) | © Steven Straiton / Flickr

The Dubai Marina is home to innovative architecture and residential towers that have beaten world records. Known as the tallest block, the Dubai Marina is home to 14 out of 20 of the highest towers in the world.

The Cayan Tower (formerly known as the Infinity Tower) curves around itself like a spiral. Standing at 306 meters tall (1,004 ft) and 75 storeys, the Cayan Tower is the tallest tower in the world with a 90 degree twist. This tower was built by Cayan Real Estate Investment and Development and was designed by the same group that imagined up the Burj Khalifa, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill SOM architectural group.

The Dubai Marina is also home to the second, third, fourth, fifth, eighth and ninth tallest residential towers in the world, including, The Princess Tower, 23 Marina, Elite Residence, The Marina Torch, Ocean heights and Cayan Tower, respectively.

The Princess Tower was the largest residential tower in the world for two years before being surpassed by 432 Park Avenue in New York City in 2014. The Princess Tower gained fame again when it hosted Dream Jump as part of the Dream Walker Around the World In 80 Jumps expedition. Dream Jumps are a way of experiencing free fall without the recoil of bungee jumping. This stunt included the world’s largest urban zipline as well as 558 BASE jumps in just a few days. Check out the video below to see the action that took place at the Princess Tower in 2015.

 Mega Islands

The Palm Jumeirah | ©Zicarlo van Aalderen / Flickr

The Palm Jumeirah | © Zicarlo van Aalderen / Flickr

Dubai has grown from having a population of 183,187 in the 1970s to 2.71 million in 2017. Dubai continues to grow exponentially in population and in development. The expansion of urban Dubai stretches in all directions, including the waters of The Gulf.

Coined as the 8th wonder of the modern world, Dubai’s coast is now home to an artificial island in the shape of a palm tree. The Palm Jumeirah is the largest man-made island in the world and stretches the Dubai coastline by 520 kilometers (320 miles). After construction began in 2001, the island received its first residents in 2006. Besides having thousands of homes and apartments, the Palm Jumeirah is also home to luxury resorts like Atlantis The Palm and Jumeirah Zabeel Saray. The real estate developer Nakheel plans on having 32 hotels and 15,000 hotel rooms and hotel apartments on the island by 2020.

Also included in Nakheel’s plans: two more Palm Islands, Jebel Ali Palm and the Deira Island; the Dubai Waterfront, a crescent-shaped island; the Universe, designed to look like the milky way and the solar system; and The World Islands, an artificial archipelago of 300 islands that together look like the global map. Many of these World Islands are still under construction or have not been developed yet. Islands are available to buy. But if you don’t have millions to spend, Lebanon has beaches, bars and rentable villas that are open to the public.


The Dubai Creek | ©Roderick Eime / Flickr

The Dubai Creek is located in the heart of Old Dubai and is a historical icon to the city. The Creek separates the two areas that were once the main hubs of the city–Deira and Bur Dubai. First settled by the Bani Yas tribe in the 19th century, establishing the Al Maktoum dynasty that is present today, The Creek served as the only port in Dubai. It was a trading outpost and acted as the main source for Dubai’s income–pearls and fishing. During the 20th century, The Creek was dredged several times to allow larger vessels in. Nowadays The Creek still acts as a port, but it is also a tourist attraction. Heading into the new millennium, The Creek is now a part of the extraordinary megastructures club in Dubai.

The Dubai Water Canal links The Creek and the artificial Business Bay Promenade back around to The Gulf. This 2.7 billion mega project was a joint venture between the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Meydan and Meraas. Besides the waterway construction, bridges, walk ways and a mechanical waterfall have also been built. The complete circuit stretches 27 kilometers and currently has 9 public transportation stations that will soon service 42 marine stops in Dubai. Full circulation of water from the head of The Creek (Shindagha) to Jumeirah takes 180 days.

The Full Landscape

Check out the video below to see the architectural wonders of Dubai in their surrounding landscapes.