UAE megaprojects: 30 developments across the country we can't wait for
From a train connecting the seven emirates, luxury residences, tall towers and more…
Think the UAE is impressive now? In a few years, several megaprojects across the UAE will be complete, and they are sure to drop your jaw.
From trains connecting the seven emirates to the tallest tower in Dubai, new museums, island projects and more…
Here are the stunning megaprojects coming to the UAE we are most excited about.
If you had to ask us, The Etihad Rail is possibly the biggest megaproject coming to the UAE. It has gained a lot of attention from residents with the most important question of course being, ‘When is it going to open for passengers?’. Well, UAE’s very own ‘Sanpiercer’ (not the official name) the passenger service will link 11 cities across the seven emirates by the year 2030. Stay tuned to whatson.ae as we are honestly as excited as you, and keeping a close eye on all the details.
Natural History Museum
Culture vultures, this one’s for you. Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island will be home to a Natural History Museum. It is due to open in 2025, but we are keeping our eyes peeled for any updates. The museum will brag engaging exhibits curated to illuminate the universe’s 13.8 billion year story and a scientific research centre.
Zayed National Museum
Once completed, the Zayed National Museum will represent nothing less than an architectural marvel, a fitting home for the inspiring story of our nation and its visionary founder. Located on Saadiyat Island, already the seat of so much cultural import, the breathtaking structure designed by Foster + Partners will include a 123-metre-high tower. The main gallery will be devoted to a collection of artefacts illuminating aspects of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the man, and his leadership journey the country’s unification, and beyond. There will also be gallery space devoted to exhibitions on Falconry and Conservation; Land and Water; History and Society; Science and Learning; Faith and Islam; and it will host the grand Sheikh Zayed Library. Work on the building began back in 2019, and we are just as keen as you are to know when it will be completed.
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum adds a rather cool element to the Saadiyat Cultural District skyline. True to the spirit of Guggenheim (and conceived in collaboration with Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation), the plans for the building — cut a contemporary, unconventional, but singularly beautiful design. Inside you’ll find 28 galleries across an 11,600 sqm expanse, plus an additional 23,000 sqm of exhibition spaces contained within the distinctive cones and terraces attached to the building. Work is expected to be completed by 2025.
teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi
Billed as ‘the home of infinite curiosity’, teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi has upshifted yet another gear, with 70 per cent of development on one of Abu Dhabi’s most highly-anticipated megaprojects now complete (as of January 2024). Created by globally acclaimed, Tokyo-based art collective teamLab, this multi-sensory exploration of experiential artworks will cover 17,000 sq.m, offering you inspirational spaces at a wondrous intersection of art and technology. Stay tuned for updates.
Abu Dhabi-based developers Al Qudra have unveiled plans to transform a 245,000 sqm stretch of Abu Dhabi’s W64 Zone overlooking the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque into a sophisticated blanched-wall leisure and entertainment complex. And looking at these Traditional Souk renders, the scale and quality of the concept give us legitimate cause for awe. From the patchwork-shaded alleyways of the UAE heritage-style marketplace to the leafy open courtyards, waterfront hotel and vibrant new restaurant district — it’s a project that’s somehow both in synergy with the neighbourhood it joins and yet something truly different.
Surf Abu Dhabi
Surf Abu Dhabi will be “the biggest and most advanced artificial wave facility in the world”, according to WAM, the Emirates News Agency. Set to open in early 2024, it’s just one crest of an expansive Modon masterplan for Hudayriyat Island which also includes a regional first velodrome, and the biggest urban park in Abu Dhabi (see below.) It’s been designed in partnership with an organisation fronted by pro surfing royalty (and World Surf League champion a record 11 times) – the Kelly Slater Wave Co. With the potential to host big tour competitions and offering up the artificial surfing world’s longest ride, biggest barrel, as well as the largest man-made wave pool, this truly is radical class water sporting. But it’s not just for seasoned surf bros, the facility will also offer thrills for newbies and aspiring Point Breakers with literally zero chance of you getting mangled on a sand bar. All of which will undoubtedly make this one of the best places for surfing in the UAE.
Velodrome Abu Dhabi
On track for opening in 2025 , Velodrome Abu Dhabi will roll out the first UCI Category 1 indoor cycling track in the region. This makes it capable of hosting international championships and peddling all sorts of track-based tournaments. Vital statistics and stand-out features include a rooftop track, with a 600-meter cycling incline rising along the external walls, showing off a picturesque 360-degree view of Hudayriyat and the jagged Abu Dhabi skyscraper skyline beyond.
Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences
Abu Dhabi will be home to the first-ever residential project to carry the Louvre name. The Louvre Abu Dhabi Residences by Aldar will be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts. Included within the structure will be Le Salon Détente — a lounge for residents that will feature art curated in consultation with the experts at Louvre Abu Dhabi; a 12-seater Cinema Privé for private theatre experience; a wellness centre – Spa Bien-être which will, of course, feature a gym, sauna rooms, spaces for yoga and meditation; and there will also be an indoor kids’ playroom, called, appropriately, the Creativité Room. It’s all part of Saadiyat Grove (see below), a 242,000 square metre, Dhs10 billion development which will also include retail and entertainment attractions, other residential properties, two news hotels and co-working spaces.
Nammos Hotels & Resorts
Nammos has become one of the biggest names on the global beach club scene. But now the Mykonos-born hotspot is expanding into hotels, with the launch of Nammos Hotels & Resorts. And best of all, it’s coming to Abu Dhabi, however, the location of Nammos’ Abu Dhabi is yet to be confirmed. According to the announcement, Nammos Hotels & Resorts will ‘provide an unrivalled and genuine hospitality experience that mirrors elements of the existing Nammos offerings, whilst evoking a true sense of laid-back luxury.’
Nobu Hotel and Beach Club
Another iconic brand coming to Abu Dhabi is Nobu. And no, we don’t mean the restaurant – residents of the UAE’s capital can look forward to a little more than fine Japanese fare as a beach club, luxurious hotel and chic branded residences will all open in Abu Dhabi in 2026. The Nobu Hospitality concepts will open in collaboration with Aldar properties on the scenic Mamsha beach on Saadiyat island, forming part of the cultural and culinary hub of Saadiyat Grove. Inside the breathtaking beachfront hotel, guests will be able to check in to one of 165 upscale and modern guest rooms and suites, with a VIP experience awaiting guests staying in the rooftop Nobu Villa. In the hotel, guests will be able to dine on chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s acclaimed Japanese dishes at Abu Dhabi’s first Nobu restaurant, plus three more restaurants and bars, and get pampered at a next-level wellness centre and an array of swimming pools. Guests will also be able to enjoy a luxurious daytime clubbing experience at Abu Dhabi’s Nobu Beach Club. It will become the UAE’s second Nobu beach club after Nobu by the Beach.
Saadiyat Grove will play a large part in the look and layout of Saadiyat Island island, a blended leisure, commercial and residential project that looks to be linking (or close enough) the individual culture mega projects and the beachfront entertainment district of Mamsha Al Saadiyat. There’ll be a ‘Town Square’, more than 70 retail stores, a gym, a cinema, offices, and 50,000 sqm of dining space. Once complete, there’ll be a residential complex of 400 apartments, with an iconic address, stunning ocean views and next-door-neighbour-status to one of the world’s most impressive collections of art and historical artefacts. An update on the completion date is to be announced.
Mina Zayed redevelopment
Mina Zayed, named after the UAE’s founding father, is a 40-year-old port-side community that was instrumental in Abu Dhabi’s meteoric growth as a trading hub. The three million square metre glow-up project aims to create a blended housing, tourism and entertainment destination, in addition to building on the reputation of the area as a colourful commerce hub. When the project is completed, visitors will be able to enjoy enhanced shopping experiences, such as a brand new fish market, seasonal market and redeveloped plant souq. The redevelopment includes the involvement of both Modon Properties and Aldar Properties, which means the concept and execution of the new set-up is in the very best hands.
The latest island confirmed to receive the mega project treatment is — Ramhan Island in Abu Dhabi. It’s located just to the east of Jubail Island, which is undergoing something of a dramatic cosmetic transformation itself. The island’s vital statistics include plans for 1,800 villas; a 120-key luxury hotel; 900 marina apartment residencies; a 1.7km retail store parade; 120 marina berths; there will be a wellness hub, restaurants, a beach bar on the community beach; green spaces; running tracks; nursery; mosque; school and more. Ramhan Island will offer some pretty incredible villa options with the top end serving up features like your own stretch of private beach. The residential component of the project will be divided into four communities — Marine, Breeze, Cove and Views. Then there are those ‘floating villas’ we mentioned — overwater living, with open sea views and adjacent sand bar. In addition to all the luxury amenities nearby (including an infinity pool, wellness centre and fine dining options) — it’ll all still sit just an energetic stone’s throw away from the mainland of Abu Dhabi.
LXR Hotels & Resorts
It’s not just Bond villains that enjoy an island lair, it’s a proven pick for sun-chasing holidaymakers too, which goes some distance to explain why LXR, the luxury indie arm of Hilton Hotels – has set its sights on Abu Dhabi’s Al Nawras Island with an ambition to transform the island into a one-stop leisuretropolis complete with its very own golf course. Expected to pop at some point in 2023, this Al Nawras Island resort has been designed to draw inspiration from the destination, with 80 expansive villas set between the beach and the water’s edge. Other features include three swimming pools, tennis and padel courts, a spa, two signature restaurants, two bars, a beach club, a kids’ club and an aquatic centre complete with splash pad.
Palm Jebel Ali
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai unveiled the masterplan of Palm Jebel Ali early in 2023. The new mega project will be twice the size of the original and is spread over some 13.4 square kilometres. With seven connected islands, Palm Jebel Ali will be home to no less than 80 new hotels and resorts. Although we don’t know much more than that yet, Sheikh Mohammed Tweeted that the mega project would feature “a wide choice of entertainment and leisure facilities.” The original plans featured six marinas, a water theme park, and even a ‘Sea Village’, where homes would be built over the water. We can’t wait to see what else gets announced.
Al Maktoum International Airport expansion
Plans have been announced to continue the expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC) in Dubai South, which will see it become the world’s largest airport. It currently has a five to seven million passenger capacity but upon completion, it will serve more than 260 million passengers. Its completion date is set to 2050, but plans are in place for Phase 1 to be complete by 2030 where it will support an annual capacity of 130 million. Phase 1 will include the completion of two more runways, Concourse 1 and the West Terminal building. The airport will also include a plethora of retail, food and beverage, relaxation and entertainment facilities.
Dubai Metro – Blue Line
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) November 24, 2023
Love the Dubai Metro? It’s a game changer for most of us who have to travel to and from work. There are still a few districts in Dubai that aren’t minutes from the Dubai Metro, but the Blue Line could change that for you. A Blue Line for Dubai’s Metro was first discussed back in 2006, along with other potential lines and expansion of the existing Red and Green lines. Plans changed amid the global economic slowdown, but by the looks of it, the Blue Line now looks like it might be back on track. The project has been officially approved by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and will cross Marsa, Dubai Creek, Festival City, International City, Al Rashidiya, Al Warqa, Mirdif, and urban areas such as Silicon Oasis, and Academic City. Read more here.
Set to make a wow-worthy impression on the city’s skyline, Dubai will soon be home to a new landmark architectural marvel: Burj Azizi. Scheduled to be completed by 2028, Burj Azizi will be home to a vertical shopping mall, a “seven-star” hotel, luxury residences, an observation deck, and several high-end restaurants. Read more here.
Franck Muller Aeternitas Tower
Dubai will soon be home to a stunning new residential tower. But it isn’t just a regular tower, it will be the city’s first residential clock tower. However, since this is Dubai, it is going a step further to make it the tallest residential clock tower in the world. The collaboration is between Swiss luxury watch manufacturer Franck Muller and UAE’s premium real estate developer, London Gate. The Franck Muller Aeternitas Tower will stand at a height of 450 meters adding another jewel to the (already) gorgeous Dubai skyline. It is set to the built in the Dubai Marina. According to a post on Franck Muller’s website, ‘The luxurious residential project will be officially unveiled in January 2024 and residents can expect a handover by 2026.’
Bugatti Residences by Binghatti
Bugatti and Binghatti, two visionary brands have come together for a ground-breaking real estate development in Dubai called Bugatti Residences by Binghatti. The Bugatti Residences by Binghatti is the first-ever Residences in the world and it will be located in the heart of Dubai at Business Bay. It will occupy the space right next to the stunning The Opus by OMNIYAT by Zaha Hadid. It will be home to a collection of 171 Riviera Mansions and 11 Sky Mansion Penthouses – each of which will have a unique and bespoke layout. Read more here.
During the COP28 summit at Expo City in December, HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s Crown Prince officially launched the landmark Dubai Reef project. First unveiled back in May 2023, the Dubai Reef project will begin to take shape in 2024 and is one of the world’s largest marine reef development projects. Spanning more than 600 square kilometres of coastline from the Palm Jebel Ali to the Dubai Islands (see below), its main goal is to highlight the importance of living in harmony with the ocean. The four-phase development will see the creation of over 400,000 cubic metres of coral reefs through the implementation of more than 20,000 reef modules. The hope is that this will increase the fish and biomass population by eight times during the next decade. It will also capture some seven million tonnes of carbon annually, the equivalent of 1.5 million cars.
Formerly known as Deira Islands, in August 2022 master developer Nahkeel revealed that this project off the coast of Deira will now be known as Dubai Islands. There are huge plans to transform the five-island development into a space that will redefine the concept of waterfront living. Each island will offer up something unique from innovative living experiences to cultural hubs, recreational sports beaches and beach clubs. The islands will be home to over 80 resorts and hotels. According to Nakheel, this includes ‘luxury and wellness resorts, boutique, family and eco-conscious hotels’ – all of which will help support Dubai’s tourism and hospitality drive.
There’s already a Riu and Centara hotel on the development, with plans in place to also add a Rixos hotel and residences. It also features 20 kilometres of beaches including a Blue Flag-certified beach – a recognised award given to beaches for following a series of stringent environmental, educational, safety, and accessibility criteria.
The World Islands
The World Islands was another ultra-ambitious island project that was launched in 2008. After more than a decade of being dormant, there’s now lots of movement at this offshore archipelago, with megaprojects popping up across the islands. You can already check in to Thai-born luxury hotel brand Anantara’s dreamy resort and voco Monaco Dubai (previously Cote D’Azur Monaco). On this same island, you’ll also find the raining street, the biggest swimming pool in the Middle East, and an additional selection of soon-to-open hotels, all designed to bring European charm to Dubai.
In 2025, joining their ranks will be Zuha Island, from the creators of Abu Dhabi’s amazing Zaya resort. The private island will be home to a collection of just 30, six-bedroom residential villas, plus a boutique retreat complete with 70 villas with private pools, a beach club and a serene spa and healing centre.
The Island by Wasl
First announced back in 2017, not much has been said about the development of The Island, located close to the Burj Al Arab, in recent years. However, according to Meed, developer Wasl awarded a contract for the construction of the island in November 2023, reconfirming that the project is still in the pipeline. As per Meed, Wasl has appointed China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build The Island, in an estimated USD1.2 billion (Dhs4.4 billion) deal.
An MGM earnings call from November 8, 2023 outlined details on what exactly to expect at The Island were revealed by MGM President and CEO, Bill Hornbuckle. Confirming that the luxury development was ‘under construction,’ he further added that the island would feature 1,400 hotel rooms from the MGM Grand, Bellagio and Aria brands. Project plans originally included a possible Casino, however as per a recent earning call with Hornbuckle, the USD2.5 billion project Dubai project has not received the green light, and will go ahead without a casino in it.
Emaar has unveiled the design of Dubai Square, a new retail and entertainment mall that will allow visitors to drive through it in electric cars. Located in Dubai Creek Harbour, Dubai Square will be connected to the iconic Dubai Creek Tower. The mall aims to set a new standard in retail and go beyond traditional shopping environments. The project will use breakthrough technologies such as AI and will introduce innovative dining, entertainment, and retail concepts to visitors. Read more here.
This Dubai mega project is by URB – the same team behind Dubai Reefs. By 2040, Dubai is going to be home to a 93km city-wide climate-controlled urban highway called The Loop, which will connect residents across the city. This means that year-round, you’ll be able to walk and cycle around Dubai. Goodbye summer sweat. That’s not all – this project will feature sustainable and eco-friendly technologies, urban agriculture, parks and amenities for surrounding residents, committing to being a sustainable and zero emissions transport system. The Loop is set to provide a primary mode of transport for over 80 per cent of the city’s inhabitants, as well as being a place that brings together communities and provides leisure and wellness facilities. This multi-functional utopia will include luscious parks and vertical farming projects that contribute to maintaining food security in surrounding areas. Sounds dreamy. Sustainability is at the heart of this project, with the 93km stretch of urban highway utilising state-of-the-art environmentally friendly technology to foster its upkeep. This includes 100 per cent renewable kinetic energy flooring as well as 100 per cent recycled water to irrigate its parks and vertical farms. The mastermind behind this project is URB, a global leader in developing high-tech sustainable cities.
Dubai Urban Tech District
Another green, futuristic development by URB, Dubai Urban Tech District will be developed on the banks of the creek in Al Jaddaf. Described by URB as a ‘living laboratory,’ this mini-city-within-a-city will be at the forefront of green urban tech and innovation. Spread over a 140,000 square metre space, it will create 4,000 jobs in its field, and come complete with facilities for conferences, training, research, seminars and business incubation. Additional facilities will include shared offices and restaurants. As part of the commitment to a greener future, the building will offset all its embodied carbon emissions from construction and operation.
Hatta has several megaprojects coming up, the latest of which was approved in January 2024 by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai. The ‘Hatta Beach’ development will include a human-engineered Hatta Beach ‘Crystal Lagoon’ system that will stretch across a 10,000 square metre expanse, bordered by a rich melange of leisure facilities.
Other developments on the Hatta Master Development Plan include the development of more eco-friendly hotels and luxury resorts; cable cars (which will take a scenic route over Hatta Dam); waterfalls; hiking trails; biking trails; the restoration of Wadi Lim Lake; enhancing UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Hatta tombs and the Falaj Al Shari’a (places of deep archaeological importance dating back to the Bronze and Iron Ages); Hatta Souq, which will be home to 70 commercial units; the residential and commercial development of Hatta downtown; new attractions at Hatta Heritage Village and the development of the Leem lake area.
Ras Al Khaimah
A slice of Las Vegas is headed to Ras Al Khaimah as Wynn Resorts plans to open its first integrated resort in the MENA region in the adventure emirate. The multi-billion dollar resort will be developed on Marjan Island, and feature more than 1,000 rooms, world-class shopping, a state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, an exclusive spa, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, extensive entertainment choices, a gaming area, and other amenities. The Wynn Resort in Ras Al Khaimah will be the first Wynn Resort in the world to be set on a beach and visitors can expect gorgeous Arabian Gulf views, sandy beaches, and even a marina to enjoy within the five-star facilities. Read more here.
When you think of Ras Al Khaimah, you may think of nature, adventure and leisure activities. But Marjan, a Ras Al Khaimah property developer has announced plans for a major commercial district in Al Hamra – RAK Central. It will include office spaces, more than 4,000 apartments and three hotels. It will also be home to several parks and green spaces, shops and entertainment areas.
Images: Supplied and socials