Public can finally pay a visit to club on man-made islands
Cruising towards The World is the first time you can really get your head around what the development actually is. It’s fine to talk flippantly about a conglomeration of 300 artificial islands a few kilometres off the Jumeirah coast, but it’s not until you’re in a speedboat facing towards them that you realise they’re exactly that: lumps of naked sand jutting from the blue ocean; in short, deserted islands. Deserted because despite construction being finished by state-owned developer Nakheel back in 2008, The World’s completion faltered in the midst of the largest global recession since the Great Depression. Gradually, we drifted from waiting with bated breath for the first opening to, well, forgetting all about them.
Nakheel is understandably private about how many islands have been sold, but cruising in between the sandy shallows the situation becomes clear. Aside from one hulking, tree-lined, privately-owned regal development somewhere towards the North Pole, no island has been inhabited. Until now. Described quaintly as a ‘boutique island’, the tiny isle named Lebanon has been transformed into a fashionable beach club, which is set to open any day now.
Stepping ashore at The Royal Island Beach Club, my immediate impression is a sense of rock-star exclusivity, as picture postcard palm trees loom over golden sands and crystalline blue waters. It feels rather like the end of a Bond film, when 007 finally tracks the villain to his luxury retreat.
‘We’re looking for the ultimate relaxed, chill-out vibe,’ says Reza Sinnen, the softly-spoken, smartly-dressed operations manager who greets me from the boat. ‘Sit here and within five minutes you’ll be asleep – I guarantee it,’ he adds, staring out over the 5km of sea that separates the island from the mainland.
Wandering between the lazy beach loungers, I notice music being piped through the rocks. To the north of the island stands a row of eight private beach cabins, complete with private washing and lounging facilities, but no beds (it doesn’t have a hotel licence, so you’re not allowed to stay the night). Further back is a glittering blue pool and the large restaurant room. The development represents a brave stab in the dark by Indian entrepreneur Wakil Ahmed Azmi, who has invested more than Dhs200 million in realising his dream. ‘He was the first buyer of an island – he was standing at the door saying, “Take my money,”’ laughs Reza, 46. ‘He has completely developed it on his own, which is very brave – it looks very risky to most people.’
Reza’s story is unique in itself. Having moved to Dubai from his native Sri Lanka 20 years ago to work as a dishwasher in Jumeirah Beach Hotel, he slowly rose through the ranks to became an operations manager 15 years ago, a role he only gave up six months ago to manager the Lebanon club. ‘I said, “I like a challenge, I’d like to take this – to make it the first to open, the first to make it work, and run it in the way that it needs to be run,”’ he explains.
A club this exclusive comes with high costs, of course, but prices are nowhere near as prohibitively expensive as revellers may have feared. Meals in the restaurant will cost around Dhs80 to Dhs100, while drinks prices will be comparable to a lounge bar on the mainland. ‘A lot of people tell us we’re going to make a killing,’ says Reza, ‘but we’re not pricing anything above the five-star hotels. Obviously we can make a killing if we want to.’ Throughout the week visitors will pay a set fee of about Dhs200 to step ashore, while Saturdays will cost about Dhs700 with an all-inclusive brunch in the middle of the day.
For many Dubaians, the most likely introduction to The World will be Friday club night Stranded (see what they did there?), which is likely to be priced at around Dhs250 for entry and transport (see ‘Getting there’, right). Run by local soulful house promoters MustHaveSoul and Alex Bracken (the man behind 360° and, more recently, gastropub The Stables), it’s likely to be a classy house night to rival the best in town (see our Music & Nightlife section in future weeks for more details). But there are practical considerations to a night out on The World: fall out with your mates and it’s a bit harder to jump into a cab home.
However, the greatest fear for this club is that it risks being the victim of its own success. Right now the Royal is an idyll precisely because it is the only inhabited spot for miles. But neighbouring islands are just a stone’s throw away, and if the Royal Island Beach Club is any good, more ventures will surely follow. It may therefore be a while before the club’s exclusive vibe is marooned for good. But whatever the future holds, this will always be the club that conquered The World first.
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A P Jan 01, 2013 05:10 pm
Wow, This is pathetic. Who would want to go to an artificial island to stare at a dirty nasty city, please. I live in the "islands" and this is just ridic. I'll take my days bartending in Tortola making shit money over this superficial mound of soulless nothingness. Beauty comes from nature, not man.
maryam Nov 22, 2012 10:26 am
how can i go there !!! contact details please
V Aug 20, 2012 11:22 am
Phil, well spotted, this is a skimmer pool rather than an infinity. Much cheaper to build, looks like some thing from the 70s.
Debbie, very true, very sterile. Looks like the whole place has 2 and a half palm trees. Had they told me, I could have gone them containers after containers of coconut palms from Sri Lanka for literally coconuts and made the place look like a real tropical island.
The landscape architect!!!! sticks a classic looking roman looking fountain right in the middle, in what is supposed to look very minimalistic, cool and trendy.
On the positive side, well done for providing us some thing else to do here in this wonderful city. Kind of fed up with the mall and Imax. Cant do it any more.
Phil Jul 27, 2012 04:45 pm
I just read it cost AED 60M for the island and to furnish it ... and it looks like it ... looks like they got a deal at Dragonmart. The sand looks like gravel, and the other islands surrounding it look like, well dirty gravel. And the pool is not an infinity pool, I guess the person writing the 'About' doesn't know what an infinity pool actually is. Oh well. One day 'The World' will be amazing, but not for a while yet.