Floating home spurs interest in The World
Underwater bedroom of the Floating Seahorse at The World islands in Dubai.
Dubai - The Floating Seahorse villas feature submerged bedrooms whose curtains open up to the waters of the Arabian Gulf
DUBAI - Surrounded by 300 man-made islands, Dubai's newest real-estate wonder has all the amenities of a luxury hotel - plus views of the bottom of the sea.
The Floating Seahorse villas feature submerged bedrooms whose curtains open up to transplanted coral and the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Wide-mouthed groupers and other fish dart past its over 9-centimeter-thick (3.5-inch-thick) acrylic windows.
But the Seahorses, part of an ambitious larger hotel development called The Heart of Europe - which will be built on reclaimed islands - have an even more impressive aim. They want to provide a major development that jump-starts building on The World's other sandy islands.
"We wanted to be the first one. We always knew it's a risk and a chance," said Josef Kleindienst, the chairman of Kleindienst Group, which is building the Floating Seahorses and the Heart of Europe.
He added: "The World has started to move."
Dubai is already home to the world's tallest building, an indoor ski slope and man-made islands viewable from space.
In a statement, Nakheel, the builder behind both projects, said: "We continue to see a renewed interest in The World, and have reached settlement agreements with third-party developers on payments worth over Dh1 billion ($272 million), allowing work there to recommence.
Some construction material and machinery can be seen entering The World by boat from Dubai's coastline. Earth-moving equipment rattles over the sandy dunes of one of the first islands after The World's circular breakwater, which offers the project its globe-like shape and stills its currents.
The development is run by Kleindienst, a former Austrian police officer who has written about making his fortune in stocks.
At the dock, a sign painted in black, red and yellow announces in German: "Welcome to Germany: Passport Control." Behind it, the initial cement-block frames of two planned Bentley-branded villas stand on Sweden island. Plans call for 10 similar villas to be built there, as well as hotels, restaurants, bars and other attractions on empty surrounding islands as part of The Heart of Europe development.
The real star, however, is the Floating Seahorse anchored alone in a nearby channel.
Weighing 240 tonnes, the villa on the sea smells of the Myanmar teak adorning its walls. A wet bar on its top floor is both open-air and air conditioned, with a hot tub. Below, the glass walls of its living room and dining room open out on blue beach chairs and netting allowing a look at the water below.
Below deck, automated curtains in the bedroom open out onto an under-the-sea view. Coral transplanted from the site of the Burj Al Arab, Dubai's iconic sail-shaped luxury hotel, sits on the lip of the Seahorse under shade, drawing the sea life.
"It's amazing. It attracts a lot of fish," said Gianni Malerba, the director of hospitality operations for The Heart of Europe. "It fits very well with the 'wow factor' of Dubai.
So far, Kleindienst said his organisation has sold Floating Seahorses to both people who will use them and others who will rent them out as part of the planned hotels at the site. The latest models of the Seahorses have a list price of Dh12 million ($3.2 million).
Kleindienst said they plan to open the heart-shaped St Petersburg island by October, with dozens of Seahorses connected to water, electricity and other utilities on the island via gangplanks.
For now though, the area runs off a generator and the model sits alone, drawing curious customers. Dubai's skyscrapers are visible on the horizon.