Like much of modern Dubai, the marina is a mishmash of the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Many of the high-rises are of minimal architectural distinction, and all are packed so closely together that the overall effect is of hyperactive urban development gone completely mad – the result of unregulated construction during the massive real-estate boom in Dubai, which coincided with the marina’s creation. The whole area feels oddly piecemeal and under-planned, while the lack of pedestrian facilities (excepting the pleasant oceanfront promenade and Marina Walk) means that you’re unlikely to see much more of it than can be glimpsed while speeding down Sheikh Zayed Road by car or metro. It’s weirdly impressive, even so, especially by night, when darkness hides the worst examples of gimcrack design and the whole area lights up into a fabulous display of airy neon (or, if you prefer, a display of a high-rise ecological catastrophe waiting to happen).
Dubai Marina is Dubai’s brand-new city-within-a-city, built at lightning speed since 2005 and now very nearly finished. There’s no real precedent anywhere in the world for urban development on this scale or at this speed, and the area’s huge new residential developments and commercial and tourist facilities have already shifted the focus of the entire emirate decisively southwards, and may in time perhaps even eclipse the old city centre itself.