There will be 14 hotels, each inspired by different European cities, underwater villas and even snowy streets…

The World Islands is one of Dubai’s most ambitious and extravagant projects, and it’s had several setbacks – but one part of the manmade ‘world’, The Heart of Europe, is now well on its way to its 2020 completion date.

And here’s what it looks like right now:

What is The World Islands, you say?

The World Islands consist of 300 manmade islands

Well, here’s a little recap…

The 300-island development spans approximately 9 kilometres in width, 7 kilometres in length, and is 4.5 kilometres away from the Dubai mainland coast (about 20 minutes by boat). It is visible from space.

Although the project was announced back in 2003, it’s faced several setbacks, but around 70% of the islands are now sold, according to developer Nakheel.

Lebanon Island is the only one open to the public, and it runs as a beach club and restaurant.

And what about The Heart of Europe?

Each island in The Heart of Europe has a distinctly European flavour

The six island, Dhs7 billion development was announced by Kleindienst in 2009. After the project faced a number of delays, it re-booted again at the end of 2013.

Since then, solid progress has been made.

Each of the six islands is inspired by a picturesque European destination, and will feature cobbled streets, bustling plazas, and grand architecture when completed in 2020.

The biggest island, Main Europe, will feature elements of Vienna, Rome, Andalusia, and the Cote d’Azur, while separate islands will take their cues from Monaco, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and St Petersburg. Each comes with references to its namesake: including climate-controlled streets (yes, that means snow in Switzerland, and no doubt rain in London), trees up to 1,500 years old imported from Andalusia, and distinct architectural styles.

In total, there will be 14 hotels across the development, each offering something unique. You’ll be able to take your four-legged friends to the pet-friendly Amsterdam hotel, see the future at the tech-driven Munich hotel, experience 7-star luxury at the Tzar hotel and party hard at the beachside Cote d’Azur resort.

Also within the development are the Floating Seahorse villas. The 3-storey villas, which have a price tag starting at Dhs10 million, come complete with an ocean view bedroom. And when we say ocean view, we actually mean inside the ocean. The ground floor of each of the villas is underwater.

While the majority of the villas will surround St Petersburg island, a few will be dotted around the other islands, as per the requests of their buyers.

The recently announced The Floating Venice, also by the Kleindienst group, will sit adjacent to The Heart of Europe.

So, what does it look like right now?

We headed over to The Heart of Europe to take a peek at the progress, and it looks like things are ticking along well…

The view from the pool on Sweden Island, looking out towards St Petersburg Island

The first of the six islands is Sweden Island. Comprising of 10 4-storey, 7-bedroom ‘palaces’, some of which have been designed by Bentley Home, keys should be handed over to their proud owners later this year.

The extravagant homes come complete with infinity pools, their own private beach and a glass-roofed rooftop nightclub.

The first of the homes has one floor complete (and we got to take a look around): it comes with a study, kitchen and open-plan living room that opens out onto the infinity pool, and an elevator that takes you to the upper floors, or down to the lower ground floor where you’ll find the cinema, gym and sauna.

The lush living area of the Sweden Palace

The next island planned for completion is the Maldives-inspired St Petersburg, which was reshaped into a heart in 2016. The honeymoon island will become an idyllic couple’s retreat and will connect to 102 Floating Seahorse villas, which will be positioned around the island. It expects to welcome guests as early as next year.

It will also be home to a 200,000-square-metre coral nursery, that will house over 100,000 pieces of coral when completed.

“We’re wanting to create as many natural habitats as we can around the development,” explains Adrian Evans, the project’s marine biologist, who advises us that the construction of the reefs has just begun. Using an innovative method called mineral accretion, the team are creating corals that grow up to eight times quicker than they would normally.

A birds-eye view of St Petersburg Island

Progress has also been made on Germany Island, where 32 villas will boast beachfront or lagoon facing views.

The project’s senior architect Marco Bolzoni adds that they are currently in the process of building prototypes and showrooms of several of the development’s hotels, including a bedroom from the family-friendly five-star Portofino hotel.

Ground has been broken on both this hotel and the Cotes d’Azur resort, which will be built around a show-stopping party pool.

“Every project here on this island requires a lot of non-traditional solutions and non traditional structures that you would not face on land,” explains Bolzoni, “but we’re still going at a fast pace and we are learning day-by-day, so the speed of the progress is constantly improving.”

What the ‘party pool’ at Cotes d’Azur resort will look like

Snow in Dubai, on the street…

Bolzoni also tells us about a particularly groundbreaking aspect of the project, the climate-controlled streets which will create a snow plaza on Switzerland Island and rainy streets in Europe.

“We have shortlisted different companies that can provide the technology we need for the snow and rain, and we will shortly build a 30-metre long experimental street on the island to test them,” he explains.

“Of course, between the start of the project and the 2020 deadline, the programme is scheduled in different phases, and the 6 islands are all at different levels of progress, but next year Sweden Island will be open and ready to use and the other islands will follow.”

So, what are Marco’s hopes for the finished product?

“The idea behind this development is to offer our guests an authentic taste of the best of Europe’s food, architecture and culture. It won’t be a replica, but a re-interpretation that gives you a true European experience.”

We can’t wait to see how it continues to take shape…

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Images: Supplied/What’s On