Dubai’s Coronary heart of Europe megaproject nears first stage completion

Dubai (CNN) – What stands out as the shuttle boat approaches the $ 5 billion mega-resort being built off the coast of Dubai is its audacity.

Almost two decades in the making, the heart of Europe is only part of the world – a huge collection of man-made islands roughly shaped like an atlas – but when it’s complete it will be the opulent centerpiece.

Still, in the midst of a pandemic, recreating the European continent for upscale vacationers unwilling to take the hike could prove to be an ingenious work.

In the midst of a global travel downturn caused by Covid, this is also a huge leap in confidence in Dubai’s long-term appeal.

After a four-kilometer boat trip from the mainland, the 300 man-made islands of the world rise like inverted golf bunkers from the Arabian Gulf.

Most of these have been vacant since the project began in 2003, and the subsequent global financial downturns did little to encourage developers.

And then the Heart of Europe (HoE) comes into view.

No fewer than 15 luxury hotels, vacation homes and billionaire mansions are now or are beginning to appear on these waterfront properties. Most are not finished yet and are waiting for the finishing touches to meet the first completion dates at the end of 2020.

Six themed islands form the heart of Europe. Travelers can choose between locations designed to recreate Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Venice, the Côte d’Azure, and others.

The concept is that upon arrival, guests should be able to convince themselves that the often oppressive Arabian heat has transported them to less arid climes.

Snowballs in the heat

On the Swedish island, “palaces” are being built under roofs that resemble upturned Viking boats.


On the Swedish island, the surreality of this concept can literally hit you in the face like a snowball.

The island’s huge $ 21.8 million show mansion – one of 10 rooftop “palaces” resembling upside-down Viking ships – has a basement with kitchens, a gym, spa and sauna … and a snow room .

White flakes are delivered on request against an alpine backdrop by machines powered by the same Arabian sunshine that heat the infinity pool upstairs.

The mansion’s epic size and unbridled but tasteful opulence are breathtaking.

The six-story, boutique-hotel-sized houses are surrounded by non-Scandinavian lush jungle and have an elevator and a private beach.

The exclusive furniture of the high-end automaker Bentley includes comfortable seating for lavish dinner parties at a table the length of a limousine, a round bed with a sea view and a huge marble tub.

Sweden Beach Palace has a snow room.

Sweden Beach Palace has a snow room.

Francois Nel / Getty Images

Further up, a vaulted party lounge, which is larger than many bars, has space for 300 guests – ideal for post-pandemic celebrations.

They’ll be able to toast their neighbors in Germany – an impossible gesture in the geography of real life, but doable in the heart of the European Atlas.

The design of the 32 futuristic beach or lagoon apartments on the German island is inspired by the Bauhaus, but is more like a lunar colony. Only one of these was unsold at the time of writing, priced at $ 7.89 million.

World novelties

Portofino - DD

The Portofino Resort has colorful, Italian-style facades.

Courtesy David Dunn

The Portofino Resort on Main Europe Island has a colorful Italian facade, like the famous coastal enclave it is named after.

Arrivals here are checked in by Italian-speaking staff who work on watches that are set to the Italian time zone. You can spend euros here – again surreal for a resort, just a few minutes by boat, helicopter or seaplane from mainland Dubai.

“When you come here, forget that you are in Dubai and that you feel like you have reached Europe,” says Josef Kleindienst, the Austrian chairman of Kleindienst, the real estate group that is developing the islands.

“You should get the impression that you came to Italy and then you go and come to Spain and France and London.”

Portofino’s colorful demeanor extends to the boutique hotels in the Côte d’Azur region on the island of Main Europe. These are named after the playgrounds on the French Riviera in Monaco, Nice, Cannes and St. Tropez and are manned by French-speaking employees.

Germany villas - DD

On the German island, the villas are inspired by Bauhaus designs.

Courtesy David Dunn

Here developers promise more world firsts, including the largest sustainable swimming pool, which is fed with solar energy, desalinated sea water and nature-friendly filtering.

Main Europe is also home to Rainy Street, a thoroughfare that is air-conditioned to 27 ° C to mimic a European summer climate where rain showers fall on demand and a snow spot causes icy thunderstorms.

In a country where natural rainfall rarely occurs, these quirky concepts are likely to be appreciated by guests from the UAE.

Floating police station

Ivory Coast outdoor pool and facade plaster (1)

A resort, Côte d’Azur, should be reminiscent of the French Riviera.


The heart of Europe has already proven popular with the citizens of the region. According to Kleindienst, most of its youngest real estate investors are from the United Arab Emirates.

The first phase of the project should be completed by the end of 2020. All three phases should be completed by 2023.

By then there will be The Floating Lido – a Venice-inspired resort that includes a hotel, the world’s first underwater spa and gym, and a floating beach.

The completed project includes Switzerland with 77 mountain chalet-inspired villas.

There will also be a floating police station and a circus with hologram animals.

Other hotels are named after places like Marbella and Ibiza in Spain, Munich in Germany, Ikaria in Greece and London.

Honeymoon island and swimming seahorse by day (angle 2)

The heart-shaped “Honeymoon Island” is for newlyweds.


And there will be a special wedding hotel – St. Empress Elizabeth – and a heart-shaped honeymoon island where newlyweds can relax on the beaches set by sunrise and sunset.

While the idea of ​​man-made islands laden with resorts may seem like an excess exercise in a travel destination with hundreds of hotels already, Kleindienst emphasizes efforts to improve or preserve the environment.

At the Coral Institute at Portofino Resort, several aquariums and tanks are displaying a breeding program that focuses on 50 local species, including carpet sharks.

The sharks, which are not considered dangerous to humans, will ultimately live on the islands as part of the developer’s “Seahabilitation” program to “expand the marine ecosystem and restore balance underwater”.

In the meantime, native and migratory birds are already discovering extensive greenery that has been introduced into the landscape.

Hanging gardens on hotel facades and carefully relocated Spanish olive trees between 100 and 1,500 years old seem to be thriving.

“Wealthy Environment”

The soaring seahorse bird's eye view photo digital

It is planned to create 147 “Floating Seahorse” villas.


The Coral Institute maintains 20 local species of live coral that will eventually enrich at least 500,000 square feet of reef with 100,000 corals per year.

These will be especially visible to residents of the futuristic floating seahorse villas, individual apartments with rooms above and below the waterline, some of which are currently for sale.

“This is her village,” says Kleindienst’s head of marketing. Delphine Cazals, as nimble schools of fish examining existing corals beyond the subaquatic window of one of the world’s first three-level floating villas.

Ultimately, there will be 147 floating seahorse villas anchored in three “colonies” around HoE.

Floating seahorse aquarium in the bedroom Photo digital (5)

View below deck into one of the floating seahorse villas.


At sea level, a Swish lounge and dining area, also furnished by Bentley, opens up onto a sun terrace, while an open-air top floor offers further entertaining space with a mini kitchen, seating and a whirlpool.

As with the rest of the mega-project, the Seahorse villa’s design and construction follows the directions of world-famous Feng Shui master Victor Li Dexiong – promoting a “prosperous and happy environment” aimed at attracting Chinese buyers.

Unusual structural circumstances have created challenges throughout the Heart of Europe project.

For Kleindienst, this included the need to strengthen the surface of islands to ensure the durability of the surface, and sourcing appropriate building technologies to meet the stringent environmental guidelines that were written in The World’s vision from the start.

Tourism mix

The building in the heart of Europe, which could be seen here in July 2020, was hardly affected by the pandemic.

The building in the heart of Europe, which could be seen here in July 2020, was hardly affected by the pandemic.

Francois Nel / Getty Images

Those close to HoE emphasize that the completed resort won’t be a cultural theme park, but rather an upscale second home and vacation destination.

In addition to real estate investors, it is aimed at international tourists looking for alternative hospitality experiences and UAE residents looking to expand their horizons.

Given the pandemic that will affect the economy and international tourism in the coming months, Kleindienst expects fewer foreign tourists to be offset by the local market, which will ultimately result in a 50/50 mix.

He says the heart of Europe has been geared towards domestic traffic from the start, with the “flight without a plane” scenario.

It remains to be seen whether the completion of this mega-project will kickstart the owners of the world’s remaining islands, which are yet to be developed 12 years after emerging from the sea.

Kleindienst believes they are watching his progress.

“Sure … other island owners want to see if you make money, if you make money they will move too,” he says.

Because HoE was separated from the mainland, it was also able to remain Covid-free when 1,200 island-based construction workers and other staff, including the chairman, were voluntarily isolated for two months during the first wave.

While much of civilization came to a standstill, construction boomed when the crews decided to work longer hours to make extra money while they stayed there.

“They were happy, we were happy,” says Kleindienst, confirming that HoE was originally touted for completing Expo 2020 in Dubai – now postponed to October 2021.

“We wanted to finish it much earlier – now we’re catching up pretty well.”

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