Burning a hole…

With the rapid increase in the price of oil over the past 18 months, the oil-rich Gulf states have found themselves blessed with the resulting windfall and are trying to outdo each other in spending it in the daftest manner possible. As The Economist reported last month:

Artificial lagoons and landfills, spiked with villas, hotels and apartment towers, are growing all over the Gulf. The world’s would-be tallest building is already under construction in Dubai, whose latest fantasy development, City of Arabia, with no fewer than 35 skyscrapers, promises to house the world’s largest shopping mall. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are embarking on lots of similar projects. Even sleepy Oman, a relatively poor cousin, has plans to convert a few miles of Indian Ocean beachfront into Blue City, at a cost of a mere $15 billion.

It must be said, the construction projects underway in Dubai are impressive – although those guests who have paid to stay in a 5-star beach resort may not be so impressed when they find their hotel only yards from a dozen skyscrapers under round-the-clock construction. The latest white-elephant to add to Dubai’s approaching property bubble is described in today’s Gulf News:

Saudi Arabia’s Al Sharq Group will invest Dh7 billion [$1.9bn] in an eight million square foot development in Dubailand, named Aqua Dunya, that is expected to become the region’s largest theme park.

Construction of Aqua Dunya, which will be equivalent in size to 150 football fields, will begin next January.

The centrepiece will be the world’s largest cruise ship, the Desert Pearl. Berthed at its own Dubailand oasis, the ship will contain a climate-controlled indoor element of the theme park, and a 330-stateroom luxury hotel.

The world’s largest cruise ship which doesn’t actually go anywhere? They’ll be better off with a monorail (which would be of considerable benefit to Dubai).

The project is is one of the 19 confirmed ventures in Dubailand, and it is among one of the first 10 projects that will coincide with its Phase 1 opening in early 2008.

Phase 1 will include Aqua Dunya, Desert Pearl Hotel, a traditional souq and port district, conference centre, 170 vacation apartments and 3,400 residential apartments for sale.

Future development will include a second theme park, two more themed resorts and a golf course.

So that’s 3 themed resorts, to add to the several dozen already under construction. And that’s not all:

Aqua Dunya is the second project announced in the last three days.

The Dh5.5bn [$1.5bn] Falcon City of Wonders – which features replicas of architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and , the great pyramids of Giza and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – was announced on Saturday.

Sounds like money being well spent. Far better than, say, making the tap water drinkable.