Dubai // Sheikh Zayed Road and Downtown Dubai //

Business Bay

Dubai’s last big hurrah before the credit crunch hit town in 2008, the vast new Business Bay project was originally intended to comprise a swanky new high-rise district mixing offices and residential towers around a man-made extension of the Creek, although the entire scheme has got stuck in what is beginning to feel like a perpetual limbo. The Creek extension and a fair number of buildings were completed as planned before the crunch bit, but many others are struggling to get finished (or, if finished, tenanted) and the whole area is still very much a work in progress.

For the time being, it remains one of the largest building sites in Dubai, and a reminder of the Wild West days of the mid-noughties, when large swathes of the city looked a lot like this. In the meantime, a few completed (or almost completed) buildings are worth a look. Exiting the metro, and heading right at the first main intersection brings you to the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai hotel, opened in late 2012 and currently the tallest hotel in the world at a cool 355m (having taken that particular record off the nearby Rose Rayhaan hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, which in turn took it off the Burj al Arab). The hotel occupies one of a soaring pair of identical blue-glass-clad towers whose strangely contoured outlines appear to be modelled on the trunk of a palm tree, each topped with a spiky little crown.

Opposite the Marriott, you can’t fail to notice the unfinished Iris Bay, an extraordinary crescent-shaped building (like an eye turned sideways – hence the name), while back down the road, next to the intersection opposite the metro, stands One Business Bay tower, like an enormous popcorn carton made out of shiny black glass. From here down the road ahead in the distance your eye is drawn to the funky O-14 tower, popularly known as the Swiss Cheese Tower thanks to the undulating layer of white cladding which envelops the entire structure, dotted with around 1300 circular holes. It’s said to have been inspired by the Arabian mashrabiya (traditional, elaborately carved wooden screens) but actually looks like nothing so much as an enormous piece of postmodern Emmenthal.

More about Dubai

20% off ebooks

Subscribe to the Rough Guides newsletter and get 20% off any ebook.

Join over 50,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month.