It’s a fact that Disneyland fits inside Disney World’s parking lot. Now double up Disney World and you almost match the planned footprint of Dubaiworld. That’s unimaginable, and sure to haunt my dreams.
The largest collection of theme parks in the world is growing in Dubai, an enormous development of “pleasure zones” with no completion date in sight. They’re not short on money (having raised $55 billion in private investment for the first phase alone); the open end date is largely attributed to the park’s relentless ambitions to expand and develop.
It’s going to be a new city in the desert, a metropolis of actual and virtual fun-tastic amusements where you can live and work and play (and undergo surgery and food shop and be arrested).
The project was unveiled in 2003, with initial plans to spread six distinct “worlds” over 100 square miles. There is Attractions and Experience World, Sports and Outdoor World, and Eco-Tourism World, followed by Themed Leisure and Vacation World, Retail and Entertainment World, and Downtown World. In total, the complex promised 45 “mega-parks” and hundreds of lesser attractions.
Then, like Sleeping Beauty, it fell asleep.
The 2008 global money mess saw most of the projects shelved and the workforce fired. American entertainment giants including DreamWorks, Universal Studios and Six Flags dropped out of the project.
But Dubai development is relentless, and last September, Dubai Properties Group announced the revival of their Mudon residential project, estimating early 2014 completion.
Some construction resumed this year, with the 72,000 square meter Dubai Miracle Gardens opening last March. Four areas are now operational, but still undergoing construction:
Actual development has clearly scaled back. The reality, pictured below, is incompatible with artists’ renderings.
Attempts to find a formal assessment proved futile; it’s possible each development is being treated as a standalone project. But positive features promised by, say, “Eco-Tourism World” are surely be offset by the “Snowdome” that will house a mountain ski deck and snow play area, a toboggan run and ice rink, and something called a “penguin-arium”.
Author disclaimer: I’m allergic to theme parks. Scratch that: I hate theme parks. Revise that. I’d chew off my right arm rather than spend time in another American theme park, historically the world’s biggest and loudest and most crammed with overspent, overstressed families. But I have kids, there’s no escape.
The official tagline for Disneyland – I’m talking the original Pasadena park – is “The Happiest Place on Earth”, an ironic claim given the armies of crying kids and frustrated parents, standard ticket-holders every day I went.
What will Dubaiworld’s catchphrase be?