Editorial Feature

Building the Palm Jumeirah


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The Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago in Dubai. Construction began in 2001 and the first residential units were handed over in 2006. It was created through a range of innovative engineering techniques to 'reclaim' habitable land from the sea. It is one of three man-made islands known collectively as the Palm Islands. These artificial islands extend into the Persian Gulf and increased Dubai’s shoreline by a total of 520 km (320 mi). 

The Palm Jumeirah is the smallest of the three islands developed by Nakheel, one of the world's largest state-owned real estate developers. It is located on the Jumeirah coastal area of the emirate of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Designing the Palm Jumeirah

The Palm Jumeirah was designed and developed by the US architectural firm Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock. The palm shape was chosen as a tribute to the national tree of UAE – the date palm tree, often referred to as the 'bride of orchard'. Its geometric design also creates maximum beach frontage.

The Palm Jumeirah consists of elements including a trunk, a crown with 17 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 km long breakwater to protect the structure from wind and wave erosion and long-shore drift. The crown is connected to the mainland by a 300-m bridge, while the crescent is connected to the top of the palm by a sub-sea tunnel. In total it covers 560 ha of land created through land reclamation.


The island helps stimulate marine life by using nutrient-rich materials and a sub-sea structure designed to help biodiversity. Two independent oceanographic experts from California, Professor Joseph Valencic and Jim Miller, were invited to research the sea life around the location of The Palm Jumeirah before, during and after reclamation.

Over 100 studies relating to transportation, marina design, water supply, technology, and civil works were conducted to assess and ensure The Palm's feasibility and long-term viability.

Construction of the Palm Jumeirah

Construction of the Palm Jumeirah began in 2001 when land reclamation commenced. The island required 94,000,000 m3 (3.3×109 ft3) of sand and 7 million tonnes of rock. The Palm Jumeirah was created by pouring/depositing dredged sand onto specific locations in the 10.5 m-deep seabed using dredgers. This process was handled by the Belgian company, Jan De Nul and the Dutch company Van Oord. The sand was sprayed by dredging ships guided by DGPS, onto the required area in a process known as rain-bowing. Calcareous sand was mainly used for the reclamation.

The main idea behind constructing the curved rock breakwater or 'Crescent' was to withstand a 4m tidal wave (a potential risk in this area in winter) and to promote a natural reef system to increase biodiversity around the Palm. The Crescent is built from the bottom up with first sand, then geotextile fiber, followed by small rocks, and then medium-sized rocks. Divers were employed to examine the placement of rocks underwater to ensure correct positioning.

Aesthetic Components of the Palm Jumeirah

Apart from the shape of the Palm Jumeirah, the island has over 12,000 Palm trees that were initially grown in a nursery in Jumeirah, Dubai. The Arabian Gulf is rich in marine life from varieties of shellfish to corals, crabs, and fish. Two F-100 Super Sabre fighter jets were stripped and sunk near the Palm Jumeirah to create an artificial reef to promote marine life which also acts as an underwater attraction for recreational divers.

Accommodation and Facilities in the Palm Jumeirah

The Palm Jumeirah is a world-famous residential, tourism and leisure destination. The three main areas in this island are the trunk, crescent, and the fronds. The fronds form the head of the Palm Jumeirah and house several luxury beachfront villas. The entire structure is designed for about 8000 permanent and temporary residents.

The Palm Golden Mile is a strip of land located along the center of the trunk. It officially opened in 2008 and is home to the Shoreline Apartments, which are a range of standard and luxury apartments, penthouses, and townhomes. 

A six-lane sub-sea tunnel connects the trunk to the crescent. The tunnel is 1.4 km long, 40m wide and 25m below sea level. There is a 5.4 km (3.4 mi) monorail called the Palm Jumeirah Monorail connecting the Atlantis Hotel to the Gateway Towers at the foot of the island. The Monorail has been operational since May 2009. There are three stations on the monorail.

Interesting Facts about Palm Jumeirah

The following are some interesting facts of the Palm Jumeirah:

  • The Palm Jumeirah is a man-made structure that can be viewed from space with the naked eye.
  • The first phase of residential complexes at the Palm Jumeirah was ready at the end of 2006. It is reported that all 4000 first phase properties sold out within 72 hours of the initial sales release.
  • The Palm Jumeirah is home to more than 70 different nationalities.
  • Reports state that if all of the materials used to build one of the Palm Islands were placed end to end, a wall 2m high and half a meter thick could circle the world three times.
  • It is claimed that more than 800 football pitches can be fitted into the Palm Jumeirah.

Sources and Further Reading

This article was updated on 7th February, 2020.

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