Dubai was until comparatively recently, less than 200 years ago, a fishing village, and then a small, largely two-story town. Its fate changed in the 1960s following the discovery of oil fields in the United Arab Emirates. In the 1980s the country’s rulers decided to transform this commercial port into a luxury tourist destination. Dubai literally grew before everyone’s eyes in just 30 years.
Today the city is called the conservation centre of modern architecture. Dubai is in actual fact an experimental platform for ambitious developers, a city of skyscrapers and fascinating buildings designed by the best architects. We will tell you here about the most iconic buildings in Dubai.
Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world, with a total height of 829.8 metres (163 floors). The construction of this super skyscraper took five years and was completed in 2009. Construction costs equalled approximately USD 1.5 billion. Known as Burj Dubai until 2010, at the inauguration ceremony, the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, renamed it in honour of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was the President of the United Arab Emirates at that time.
The skyscraper is located in downtown Dubai – the busiest tourist area of the city. Burj Khalifa is multifunctional: it boasts observation decks at 452 metres and 555 metres above the ground, the world’s highest restaurant At.mosphere, offices and Armani Hotel Dubai, with its interior designed by Giorgio Armani, as well as approximately 900 flats. The residents of the luxury flats and hotel guests enjoy access to swimming pools, gyms, steam rooms, spas and other amenities.
New buildings in the UAE
Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab skyscraper is known as a “7-star hotel”. Nevertheless, there is no a 7-star rank in the standard rating system, thus the Burj Al Arab is officially classified as a “5-star deluxe hotel” according to it.
It is the world’s fourth tallest hotel with a total height of 321 metres (60 floors), 14 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The building is shaped like the sail of a ship. Thanks to the distinctive design, Burj Al Arab has become one of Dubai’s iconic landmarks.
Construction of the skyscraper began in 1994. It took two years to create the artificial island on which the Burj Al Arab stands, and another three years to build the skyscraper. More than 250 designers from Dubai, the USA, and Britain worked on the project.
Burj Al Arab guests are treated to stunning views of the Persian Gulf from the duplex suites. Meanwhile, the Presidential Suite includes a full-size Jacuzzi, TV room and even a private library.
Museum of the Future
The ultramodern Museum of the Future has pride of place in the centre of the city. The building is 78 metres high, with a very complex torus-shaped top, whose creation is the result of innovative solutions. The museum's 1,024 composite panels of the façade are clad in 2,400 diagonally intersecting steel profiled sheets. Assembled, they create the Arabic script. The facade is adorned with a poem penned by Dubai’s ruler. One of them reads, "We may not live for hundreds of years, but our creativity will remain for hundreds of years."
The museum’s windows blend with the Arabic script: during the day they cast unique lighting on the interior of the museum; at night they are illuminated by bright and vivid LEDs. The architects presented the builders with a difficult task: owing to the complex geometry and the calligraphy-shaped windows, they had to manufacture every fibreglass panel of the facade individually and only then add the stainless-steel finish and glazing.
The Museum of the Future displays a collection of interactive exhibits enabling visitors to learn about the latest achievements in artificial intelligence, robotics and other advanced technologies. The museum also has a library and research centre.
Dubai World Trade Centre
Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) is also known as Sheikh Rashid Tower. It is one of the oldest landmarks in the city: DWTC was built back in 1979 with a view to developing business tourism and trade in Dubai. The tower is located in the centre of the business district near Sheikh Zayed Road and serves as a venue for exhibitions and conferences. You can also rent a flat there.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Jumeirah Beach Hotel is a wave-shaped building, with a total height of 104 metres. It was designed by WS Atkins and built in 1997. The hotel has 26 floors, 528 rooms, over 20 restaurants, four swimming pools, seven tennis courts, and a 900-metre-long private beach. All the rooms offer spectacular views of the Persian Gulf.
One of the tallest residential buildings in the world, with a total height of 307 metres (75 floors), the tower was designed by architectural, urban planning and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The Cayan Tower is unique due to its twisting design – each floor rotates 1.2 degrees clockwise against the one below. As a result, the whole building twists a full 90 degrees from base to top. The unconventional shape of one of the tallest residential buildings in Dubai has a practical benefit – it protects the flats from direct sunlight and reduces the wind load. The Cayan Tower was one of the most popular buildings in Dubai. By the time of its completion in 2013, 80% of the flats in the residential complex had been sold.
The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall, situated in the centre of Dubai, is one of the world's largest shopping and leisure centres, with a total land area of over 1,200,000 square metres and 350,000 square metres of retail space. With access to over 1,200 shops (including popular fashion brands), shoppers can explore within the Dubai Mall a dedicated zone of 220 jewellery stores known as The Souk and designed to replicate a traditional Middle Eastern bazaar.
You will also find in the Dubai Mall the region's largest theme park VR Park Dubai, an Olympic-sized ice rink, a 22-screen cinema complex, and one of the world’s largest aquariums containing over 30,000 of fish and marine mammals.
Built by Emaar Properties, the Dubai Mall opened in 2008 and has been ranked the World's Leading Shopping Mall by the World Travel Awards annually since 2016.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Jumeirah Emirates Towers is a building complex consisting of two structures of differing heights which operate as an office building and a hotel, connected by a 9,000 square metre two-storey shopping centre. The higher tower rises to 355 metres, while the lower tower reaches 309 metres. The skyscrapers are located in the city's business district near the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
The construction of the complex started in 1996 and was completed in 2000. Intriguingly, the towers have a similar number of floors despite the difference in height . The taller Emirates Office Tower contains 56 floors, while Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel has 54 floors. This is because the individual floor heights of the Office Tower are greater than those of the hotel.
Dubai Opera Tower
The ruler of the emirate announced plans to create Dubai Opera in March 2012. In 2016, the opera opened with a performance by Placido Domingo. Developed by Emaar Properties, Dubai Opera is the centrepiece of the Opera District project. It sits next to the famous Burj Khalifa skyscraper and is opposite the dancing Dubai Fountain.