Look up through the heat haze to the highest point in Dubai and you can just make out the tip of a crane 2,130ft above.
The Burj Dubai will be the world’s tallest skyscraper when it is completed this year, stretching more than half a mile into the desert sky.
'The scale of building projects in Dubai is breathtaking'
The developer, Emaar, will not say exactly how tall the tower will be but rival builders have already unveiled plans for an even taller one nearby.
The scale of building projects in Dubai is breathtaking. A quarter of the world’s cranes are there, whirring day and night to create a Xanadu-style pleasure dome for 1.5 million residents and seven million annual holidaymakers.
Twenty years ago Dubai was little more than a trading post in the desert based around a single creek. Today there are 51 shopping malls, 319 hotels, an indoor ski slope and more new skyscrapers than any other city on Earth.
An economic miracle or financial madness? The global downturn brings into question Dubai’s long-term viability, with several huge masterplan communities set to be scaled back.
Yet developers remain upbeat. For example, Peter Riddoch, the boss of Damac Properties (www.damacproperties.com), says: “Look at the figures. Between 25,000 and 40,000 visas are issued here each month requiring up to 108,000 homes a year. In 2008 only 40,000 were developed. It will be 2011 before supply and demand catch up with each other.”
And up to 800 people a day are coming to live in Dubai. Kushi Sharma, 27, left Ealing two years ago to live there and loves the lifestyle. “It’s a pressure-free life where the sun always shines,” says Sharma. “The only downside is the traffic.” Which anyone who has experienced the frustration of sitting in a mile-long traffic jam in a country with too many cars and too few roads, will confirm.
As for that sun - well you only have to ask yourself why so many Emiraties make their way to London in July and August.
But it suits expats Philip Evans and Julie Shields. They have been in this theme park for grown-ups for three years with their children, aged 10 and seven. “There is no crime, excellent international schools and a real can-do attitude,” says Shields. Even the downsides of killer traffic jams, constant construction and high living costs don’t deter them.
What Dubai property costs
Prices on the secondary market have dropped recently to about £250 a sq ft, putting a spacious two-bedroom apartment in a prime location at £500,000. But UK firm Hampstead & Mayfair has flats in Jumeirah Village from £150,000.
“The rental market remains strong in Dubai so though the sales market will slow substantially it should still outperform most of Europe,” it says. “Buyers should plan to buy to hold. Property is not a commodity but it has been treated like one here.”
Buying in Dubai
After opening up the property market to foreigners in 2002, further laws in 2006 have made the system more streamlined. About 100,000 people buy property in Dubai each year and rarely experience problems.
Foreign investors are entitled to a residence visa, and Dubai has no income or capital gains taxes. There are no purchase taxes, with the exception of a 1.5 per cent land registry fee on completion.
“The buying process in Dubai is simple,” says Andrew Hawkins of Chesterton International. “Owners have absolute freehold title and can sell to anyone, and also let out their property without restrictions.”
Culture Village is a vast development in the oldest part of Dubai. Along with schools and restaurants it will soon have an opera house and the largest modern-art museum in the Middle East. Dubai Properties (00 971 4 360 2006; www.dubai-properties.ae) has studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments there from £206,000.
Chesterton International (020 7201 2070; www.chesterton-international.com) is selling apartments in Skygardens, a 37-storey skyscraper at the entrance to Dubai Financial Centre, from £383,500. This is a mile from the sea beside Sheikh Zayed Road and the first residential high-rise in the business district.