Not the end of The World: the return of Dubai's ultimate folly

Underwater bedrooms, ‘Lohan Island’ and snow all year round – a decade after it was scuppered by the financial crash, the fantasy archipelago of 300 artificial ‘countries’ is back in business. Has anybody learned anything?

I had the whole of Palestine to myself that day. It was only a short swim from Lebanon but, as I waded ashore out of the shallow, soupy water, it became clear that I was the only visitor the island had seen for some time. Clambering to the top of the hill, over a lunar landscape populated by the occasional piece of driftwood and the odd discarded beer bottle, I could see the sandy mounds of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia beyond, rising out of the sea like bobbing croutons. The gleaming spire of the Burj Khalifa twinkled through the haze on the distant horizon.

A decade since it was dredged from the seabed, The World is a forlorn sight. It was the most ambitious plan of Dubai’s pre-crash bubble, topping the creation of peninsulas shaped like palm trees and the construction of the tallest building on the planet, dreamed up as the ultimate trophy project to trump them all. In pursuit of the world’s attention, the oil-rich emirate would remake the world itself. “The Palm puts Dubai on the map,” proclaimed the marketing material at the time. “The World puts the map on Dubai.”

I'm out Trump-ing Trump with the name Lohan!

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