From Chess City to Smurf Village: The Gulf's craziest projects

Updated: We look back at some of the most outlandish projects announced in the region over the last few years
1 of 22
What? Vertical farms

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The plan was to have vertical farms in the style of skyscrapers which would act like massive towering glass houses and use seawater to cool the building and water the plants.

\nVerdict? The proposals started in 2009 but the downturn saw the plans scrapped, so they now look more like a pipedream. But with constant talk of food security in the Gulf things could change now that the economic climate has improved.
2 of 22
What? Sunny Mountain Ski dome

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? After the success of Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates plans emerged to build a full scale ski resort in Dubailand. Consisting of a dome - a steel structure - that will include a huge revolving ski slope, going through and around an artificial mountain range, the project was destined to include all kind of Arctic experiences, ranging from a Penguinarium, a winter aquaria, a snow castle, an ice-rink, Arctic animal statues, a cable-lift, a snow maze, polar bears and the usual hotels, restaurants and retail outlets.

\nVerdict? Plans emerged in 2006 and it was claimed that groundwork had started for the snow dome. No completion date can be found and any information on the project soon went cold.
3 of 22
What? International Chess City

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The plan was to create a city with 32 towers designed to look like the different pieces of a chess board. The tallest towers would be the two King towers standing at an altitude of 64 floors and the street plan in the traditional black and white of a chess board. The 64,000 square metre project was also to include three to seven star hotels and hotel apartments.

\nVerdict? Pitched in 2004, in association with the International Chess Association, nothing more has happened in the last decade other than the original press release.
4 of 22
What? Underwater tennis court

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? Pitched by a Polish architect who wants to build it off the coast of Dubai. “This will be something original. This should be somewhere where there is the tradition of tennis. Dubai is perfect for this idea,” said Krzysztof Kotala, who has a Master of Science in Architecture from Kraków Polytechnic and owns the 8+8 Concept Studio in Warsaw.

\nVerdict? The proposals started in 2015 but Kotala admitted he had no investors in place and it was still at the design stage.
5 of 22
What? Smurf theme park

\nWhere? Bahrain

\nPitch? The $5m theme park based on the popular Belgian children’s cartoon characters was reportedly set to be built on an 8,350 square metre site in West Riffa at the Prince Khalifa bin Salman Grand Garden. It was to include 30 Smurf houses measuring around 50 sqm, a 250 sqm Papa Smurf house and a 220 sqm castle, which would be home to the Smurf’s nemesis Gargamel. Plans were to also include a café, aquarium, stables and a souvenir shop.

\nVerdict? So far there has been nothing new announced since late 2012 so it looks like it remains on the drawing board.
6 of 22
What? Dubai Eye Ferris Wheel

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The 210 metre-high structure will overtake the new High Roller in Las Vegas (standing at 167.6m) as the world's tallest such attraction. The ferris wheel will include 48 luxury capsules capable of holding 1,400 visitors and offer views of Dubai’s iconic landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa, according to Meeras.

\nVerdict? Work has begun on the ferris wheel, which is part of the $1.6 billion Bluewaters Island development off the Dubai coast and is expected to be completed by 2016.
Burj Khalifa_wrap.jpg
7 of 22
What? Burj Khalifa reflective cover

\nWhere? Downtown Dubai

\nPitch? A Dubai-based think tank has proposed wrapping the Burj Khalifa in a super lightweight, reflective fabric, “complementing the structure's reflective facade.”

\nVerdict? Ahmed Salman, the founder and principal at OP-EN, told Arabian Business in February he was hoping to meet with Emaar soon to discuss the proposal.
8 of 22
What? Pamela Anderson Eco resort

\nWhere? Abu Dhabi

\nPitch? In August 2008 it was rumoured the former Baywatch actress was set to enter the UAE’s hospitality sector with plans to build an eco-friendly hotel in the UAE capital. "I'm building a hotel there. It is environmentally friendly. I went there with the Make a Wish Foundation and met some great people there. The royal family was really friendly," Anderson was quoted as saying at the time. "It's built with no fossil fuel at all... in Abu Dhabi - where they have all that oil,” she added.

\nVerdict? It seems Pamela’s plans have fallen by the wayside as when she was in Dubai for a niteclub appearance recently she said the plans had been scrapped due to the recession in the US.
9 of 22
What? Underwater TV station

\nWhere? Qatar

\nPitch? It was claimed in May 2015 Qatari officials are considering building an underwater broadcast studio for use during TV coverage for the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

\nVerdict? “The project we are in the process of designing for is an underwater broadcast centre [and] is quite a real possibility,” said Patric Douglas, CEO of Reef Worlds, the designer behind the project. He added that Qatar’s World Cup authorities “like the design” and “they like the notion of doing the World Cup underwater with sharks swimming around.”\nThe project is likely to cost around $30 million he said and he claimed the funding for it would be underwritten by broadcasters. A final decision on whether to green light the project will be made this summer.
Flower Tower.jpg
10 of 22
What? Flower Tower

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? A French architect is hoping to build the Middle East’s first skyscraper covered in trees and pot plants in Dubai. Dubbed the ‘Flower Tower’, the concept would create the impression that residents are surrounded by forest – bringing greenery to apartments tens of metres from the ground.

\nVerdict? The idea was presented at the Outdoor Design Build & Supply Show in March last year but nothing more has since been announced. However, there is one in Paris already so it is possible this project may blossom eventually.
11 of 22
What? Brad Pitt environmentally-friendly hotel

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? In the heady days of 2008, the Hollywood heartthrob was rumoured to be in talks to design a landmark environmentally friendly hotel and leisure project with Zabeel Properties. Zabeel apparently said Pitt would team up with an LA-based architecture firm to help design the 800-room five-star hotel. “Whilst acting is my career, architecture is my passion. Selecting this development as my first major construction project has been a simple decision," Pitt said in a statement.

\nVerdict? “We will be unveiling precise plans in the next few months, but you can expect something that is not only stunning to look at, but will also be an incredible attraction to visit or stay at," Pitt said in 2008. Months passed and nothing ever transpired.
12 of 22
What? Dubai Frame

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The project, shaped as a window frame, is sited near the Star Gate games and rides area of Zabeel Park. It will allow panoramic views of Old Dubai and the skyline of New Dubai from each side.

\nVerdict? Dubai's Municipality has confirmed that work on the $43.5 million Dubai Frame project is 75 percent complete, and on course to be ready by December 2015.
13 of 22
What? Rotating tower

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? In August last year plans for a rotating tower, to be named the Dynamic Tower, were revived, with the 80 storeys high building able to rotate 360 degrees every 90 minutes.

\nVerdict? This idea has been around for almost a decade and the new designs released last year did not come with anything substantial in terms of concrete plans. The Dubai tower is expected to cost in the region of £355m ($541m), according to a report in the Daily Mail newspaper, while the company is also hoping to build versions in Moscow, Paris, London, Milan, Rome, New York and Miami.
14 of 22
What? Herbie theme park

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? Abu Dhabi has Ferrari World, but one Dubai architect wanted to develop a theme park based around the famous Disney Volkswagen Bug car. The display was also set to include a consignment of the original Herbie cars, including the vehicles that appeared in the movies ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo’ and the 2005 movie ‘Herbie: Fully Loaded’, which starred actress Lindsay Lohan.

\nVerdict? When we spoke to the architect in the summer of 2012 it seemed HerbieLand was on hold and was more likely to happen in the US if it got the green light from investors.
15 of 22
What? Paris Hilton hotel

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The American celebrity heiress said in July 2008 she was looking forward to developing a hotel project in the emirate, or even a Paris Island on Nakheel’s The World off the coast. "I really want to get into real estate, so I feel like [Dubai] could be the hot place to do a Paris hotel," Hilton told "Paris Island would be pretty amazing," she added.

\nVerdict? Nothing has happened but we think the plans were pretty slim going on Hilton’s later comments. "I haven't been there, but I have heard it is incredible: the hotels, the islands, The World, the casinos and the shopping," she gushed. "I'd love to check it out and let everybody in America know it is the cool place to go." Off course, gambling is banned in the UAE. But the opening the Paris Beach Club in Paranaque City in the Philippines shows that her star power may not be totally dead and there are still people willing to through money behind her.
underwater hotels-8.jpg
16 of 22
What? Underwater hotel

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? The ‘Water Discus Hotel’ was announced in 2012 and is being developed by Drydocks World alongside Poland’s Deep Ocean Technology and Big Invest. Set to be built just off the emirate’s coast, the property will consist of several inhabitable discs, with the deepest being set 30m underwater. The module structure of the properties would allow them to be expanded according to their clients’ requirements.\n“[The project will] bring to its guests a deluxe hotel combined with a real marine adventure and breathtaking views found only in the heart of the ocean,” Drydocks World said in a statement. “The unique location in the heart of a vibrant coral reef will allow guests enjoy both the tropical weather as well as the colourful underwater world.”

\nVerdict? While last summer developers said work would begin “very shortly” it appears to have sunk without a trace and nothing more has been reported. The only positive move is that a prototype was reportedly being built in Poland and the design of the project is being backed by money from the European Union.\n
17 of 22
What? World’s biggest Irish bar

\nWhere? Ireland island on Dubai’s The World

\nPitch? In 2007, a team of Irish investors bought the Ireland island on the world for a reported $27m. Plans for “Ireland in the Sun” included turning it into an Irish-style theme park with villas and apartments but also the world’s biggest Irish bar and a full scale replica of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.

\nVerdict? Plans have fallen by the wayside and developers of the project were hit hard by the credit crunch with one of the backers reportedly taking his own life in 2009.
Westin Doha.jpg
18 of 22
What? Manmade city centre beach hotel

\nWhere? Doha

\nPitch? Sources told Arabian Business in 2012 the hotel will include a man-made beach, a wave pool, rivers, a waterfall and an 18-hole golfing green. "We don’t have a beach [at Ramada Plaza Doha], but we are going to rectify that with our new hotel. We are having a beach there in the middle of the city centre,” the source said.

\nVerdict? This one is going ahead and will be managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide as a Westin-branded hotel. The hotelier announced in January the 372-room Westin Doha Hotel & Spa will open in 2015.
19 of 22
What? Victoria Beckham fashion island hotel

\nWhere? The World islands

\nPitch? In 2010 it was claimed the singer-turned-fashion designer had been approached to design a luxury hotel in Dubai and would be located on a fashion-themed island called Isla Moda off the Dubai coast.

\nVerdict? This project was quickly quashed by the Dubai Media Office who denied the reports and said no invitation had ever been made by Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to Beckham, as some UK reports had claimed.
20 of 22
What? Flying airship hotels

\nWhere? The Gulf

\nPitch? In the 1930s, before the Hindenburg disaster, giant floating airships were becoming common place. While plans for giant flying Zeppelin airships sink like a led balloon, the Gulf could the next location to take advantage of their resurgence and a flying hotel wouldn’t be such a ridiculous idea. “There are some Zeppelins that can do some serious cargo movements, so you could in theory hang a hotel off it,” one Dubai-based expert told Arabian Business.

\nVerdict? “That idea is now much closer to reality,” a US-based expert working for a certified airship manufacturer told Arabian Business.\nIn addition, the former chairman of the UK-based The Airship Association told us he was “convinced that a niche market exists for airships which is not being adequately explored at present.” So watch this space as this one could actually be the next big crazy project set to take to the skies in the Gulf.
TAJ photo (high resolution).jpg
21 of 22
What? Taj Arabia

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? A 350-room hotel and serviced apartments that will be a replica of one of the original seven Wonders of the World, India's Taj Mahal.

\nVerdict? Reports in 2014 claimed construction would start soon for a 2017 opening. News on the project has since gone silent but online rumoured suggest the opening could be pushed in time for the Dubai Expo 2020.
dubai Burj al Alam-1.jpg
22 of 22
What? World Tower, aka the Burj al Alam

\nWhere? Dubai

\nPitch? A 108-storey tower in the Business Bay area of Dubai, it was designed to resemble a crystal flower and would have a 6-storey crown which would contain a Turkish bath, sky garden, and other club facilities.

\nVerdict?\nGroundwork began in 2006 but was halted when the financial crisis hit. Originally slated for completion in 2009, it was put on hold. Officially canceled in 2013, it was rumoured online this year it may be resurrected.