About this Article
Written by: Kenya Collins
Written on: March 1st, 2014
Tags: building & architecture, mechanical engineering, civil engineering
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About the Author
Kenya Collins is a junior studying Civil Engineering at USC.
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Volume XVI Issue I > The Artificial Natural “World”
Dubai intrigues the world with its luxurious artificial islands. These man-made paradises display the innovative strategies of modern engineering as it involves the collaboration of the most notable engineering firms for land reclamation. The most famous island, Palm Jumeirah, attracts thousands of vacationers a day, and with this increase in tourism, the ruler of the Unites Arab Emirates hopes to see an escalating economy. However, environmentalists worry that the development of these islands could pose serious threats to natural ecosystems as the process of creating new land involves taking sand and rock from one region and moving it to another. In addition to the environmental concerns, the potential erosion of the islands has the public wondering whether it is realistic for Dubai to continue building artificial islands.
“And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry ground ‘land,’ and the gathered waters he called ‘seas.’ And God saw that it was good.” - New International Version, Gen. 1:9


Whether our beliefs come from religious texts or scientific theories, humanity has always wondered how the natural world came into existence. Both science and religion suggest that a force stronger than human beings was created the land on earth. As intellectual beings, human beings analyze the natural world, seeking to understand how it works and developing technology to populate it better. We made clothing for warmth, the spear for hunting, and the wheel for transportation. We built bridges to cross rivers and ships to cross the oceans. Though humanity did not create the earth, or the land that comprises it, we built homes to inhabit it and farms to cultivate it. Now, as engineering technologies progress, human beings are building the land itself.
In the early 21st century, developers in Dubai began using land reclamation to construct the world’s largest cluster of artificial islands, the Palm Islands (Fig. 1). In science, land reclamation is the process of creating new land from sediment in oceans, riverbeds, or lakes. Traditionally, countries use this technique to add to the existing shoreline or develop small islands; for example, the Netherlands used land reclamation to increase the size of the country by 35 percent [1]. Other nations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, use artificial islands for offshore oil drilling and military bases. In 1993, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) modernized the use of land reclamation by building a luxury hotel, the Burj Al Arab, on the artificial paradise island named Jumeirah [1]. The success of the Burj Al Arab was the initial catalyst that inspired the UAE to further develop their coastline.
Figure 1: A rendered image of one of the Palm Islands.
Dubai’s collection of manufactured paradises consists of Jumeirah Island, the Palm Islands, and the World Islands. Scientists refer to these chains or clusters of small islands as archipelagoes. The Palm Islands are the most notable addition to Dubai’s coastline. Each of the three archipelagoes – Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Deira – mimics the shape of a palm tree [2]. The World Islands consist of 300 islands that resemble the shape of an ovular world map and host private residences, shopping centers, and hotels. With access only by yacht or motorboat, these islands prove themselves as the ultimate luxury vacation spot [2].

Palm Jumeirah

The smallest of the palms, Palm Jumeirah, was completed in 2007 and is located approximately 23 kilometers southwest of the Dubai city center [3]. The island flaunts its 1,700 residential units with private docks, villas, and gardens. The trunk of the palm is composed of four thin islands that offer retail and hotels. There are 17 fronds that extent into the Persian sea, and a curved barrier reef with hotels surrounds the fronds. While this is the smallest of the archipelagoes, the ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, boasts that 800 football fields could sit on Palm Jumeirah alone [2].