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The Palm Jumeirah is the largest archipelago of artificial islands in the world

Dubai boasts numerous impressive engineering projects, with the Palm Jumeirah standing out as one of the most iconic. Construction of the palm-tree-shaped archipelago of artificial islands started in 2001 and has since become a prominent landmark in the city.

How was the world’s largest artificial set of islands created, adding 56 kilometers (35 miles) to Dubai’s coastline? There is a significant amount of dredged-up sand and rock present.

The project opted for natural resources instead of traditional building materials such as steel and concrete commonly found in the city. The Hajar Mountains yielded over 7 million tons of rock, while Van Oord, a Dutch company, dredged up approximately 120 million cubic meters of sand from the Persian Gulf.

One might question the choice of not utilizing desert sand, given the abundant availability of such sand in the vicinity of Dubai. Ali Mansour, a project collaborator, informed CNN Travel that desert sand liquifies upon contact with water. Given the intention to accommodate numerous residents and multiple hotels on the islands, opting for non-liquefying sand was the more favorable choice.

However, sand can also undergo liquefaction through other processes, like earthquakes. To address this issue, engineers utilized vibrocompaction to compact the sand, aiming to stabilize the material and prevent its water-like behavior. The process involved using a large vibrating tool to compact the sand particles efficiently.

Additionally, the archipelago boasts another significant protective feature. The islands are encircled by an 11-kilometer-long breakwater, built from a substantial quantity of rock. The structure was created to shield the inner fronds from potential harm caused by waves or sand erosion.
Regrettably, the absence of waves resulted in stagnant water, which was not the sole consequence of the project. Although the palm appears impressive, studies have revealed that its development has resulted in shoreline erosion in other areas, the degradation of coral reefs, and increased temperatures.
Nevertheless, the archipelago also offers a sense of escapism. After more than two decades of construction, the area now boasts numerous high-end hotels, aquariums, malls, and beautiful beaches. There are plans to open one of the world’s highest infinity pools later this year.

Although the Palm Jumeirah is the largest artificial archipelago globally, it does not host the largest artificial island. Flevopolder in the Netherlands is the top contender for that title. Constructed in 1968, the island spans 972 square kilometers (374.5 square miles) and serves as flood protection and extra agricultural space.

The Palm Jumeirah is not intended to be the largest artificial archipelago; that distinction was meant for the Palm Jebel Ali. The project commenced in 2002 but was halted due to financial challenges. However, there were renewed efforts last year to revive the project.

Currently, the Palm Jumeirah is situated atop a substantial amount of sand and rock.

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