Tower of the Arabs

Burj al-Arab (Tower of the Arabs) is a luxury hotel located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  It is the third tallest hotel in the world (although 39% of its total height is made up of non-occupiable space). Burj Al Arab is nestled in an artificial island 280 meters away from the beach, Jumeirah beach .

The shape of Burj al Arab was inspired by the sail of the ship to reflect Dubai′s seafaring heritage combined with a modern aspect moving forwards into the future.  The luxury hotel sits on a reclaimed land 280 meters offshore

The client wanted a building that would become an iconic or symbolic statement for Dubai; this is very similar to Sydney with its Opera House, London with Big Ben, or Paris with the Eiffel Tower. It needed to be a building that would become synonymous with the name of the country.

Fletcher Construction from New Zealand was the lead joint venture partner in the initial stages of pre-construction and construction. The hotel was built by South African construction contractor Murray & Roberts and Al Habtoor Engineering.

The building opened in December 1999.

The foundation was created on a reclaimed land by driving 230 concrete piles into the sand, each pile was 40 meters (130 feet ) The reclamation of the land from the sea took 3 years, as engineers created a ground/surface layer of large rocks. To avoid the risk of flooding, perforated concrete blocks were mounted on the bedrock in a honeycomb pattern designed to act as a giant artificial ‘sponge’ and reduce the wave impact. Burj Al-Arab experienced an unusual situation where they had to build the foundation without even connecting it to the bedrock. Engineers designed a foundation that relies on skin friction.


The façade is covered with two layers of architectural fabric, separated by 60 cm, in order to filter out excessive heat and sunlight.

Burj Al Arab holds only 28 double-storey floors which accommodate 202 bedroom suites. The smallest suite occupies an area of 169 m2 (1,820 sq ft), the largest covers 780 m2 (8,400 sq ft) . Each of the 202 hotel suites consists of two levels, with a curved façade and balcony on the upper floor. These were prefabricated and installed on site into the concrete structure. To achieve adequate stiffness, giant metal trusses with a triangular section, each measuring 85 m long, were used on the exterior side walls. These have the effect of diagonally bracing the two side trusses and the large concrete ‘mast’. These trusses can expand and contract by up to 5 cm in a day, and to accommodate this a special steering linkage rod had to be designed.

The hotel is also notable for its two distinctive restaurants. Al Muntaha (The Ultimate) is 200 m (660 ft) above the Persian Gulf, a C-section design that projects out at 30 m from each side of the central ‘mast’ column. This is supported by a cantilever extending 27 m (89 ft) from either side of the mast, and a series of 1.6 m thick steel beams that fan out from the column towards the restaurant edges.
The Al Mahara (Oyster) features a large seawater aquarium and is accessed via a simulation of a submarine voyage. The wall of the acrylic glass tank is 18 cm (7.1 in) thick to withstand the water pressure.The atrium is 180 m (590 ft) tall. As one of the most luxurious hotels in the world (the only one to have been given the unofficial commendation of ‘7 stars’ by the media), the interior was designed to be palatial  and eclectic 

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Zoning restrictions in Runda

Residents of the upmarket Runda estate in Nairobi have opposed the development of a multi-billion shilling luxury hotel associated with wealthy businessman Ahmed Jibril.

Officials of Runda Association (RA) claim the proposed 200-bed hotel and conference facility that Paddock Investments is developing in the affluent neighbourhood is in breach of security and requirements of controlled development.

“The proposed development is located in a gated residential community of single dwelling homes within Runda Estate. Each house sits on approximately 0.5 of an acre and the developments are controlled.

“The amalgamation and change of user is against zoning restrictions and is in breach of other applicable special conditions regulating the parent grant of Runda Estate,” the residents’ association chairman Isaac Gitoho said in a letter sent to Nairobi governor Evans Kidero, Nema director-general Geoffrey Wahungu and John Mwatu, the general manager, design and construction, at the Kenya Urban Roads Authority.

The letter says Mr Jibril, who is Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohammed’s brother, purchased 18 plots for which he sought amalgamation of (15 of the plots) and also sought change of user from residential to commercial (Hotel and Hotel suites).

“This negates all planning regulations, compromises security of the neighbourhood, will contribute to ground water pollution and cause degradation of the Runda residential roads,” said Mr Gitoho.

Paddock Investments plans to build the 200-bed hotel and a conference centre in Runda targeting business tourists and diplomats working in the neighbourhood such as the United Nations, the US and Canadian embassies.

Paddock Investments directors include Amina Mulik Ali, ARJ Capital Limited, Sudhir Jayantilal Patel and Billow A. Kerrow. 

Documents obtained by the Business Daily show that the Nairobi county government has cleared development of the hotel.

Runda residents have, however, maintained their opposition to the project questioning how the county government approved amalgamation of the 15 plots and change of user from residential to a hotel.

“We as an association make a resolution to petition the county government to stop construction of the hotel,” former anti-graft chief PLO Lumumba, who is a resident, said at a meeting held at Lord Eroll Hotel last week.

Mr Jibril, who identified himself as the chairman of Paddock Investments, however maintained that the planned investment is above board and would not breach the set standards as claimed by the residents.

“I have good intentions and the area needs such an investment. All the approvals have been above board,” he said, even as he disassociated the Foreign Affairs secretary from his investment activities.

He said the proposed hotel would eliminate the need to approve numerous medium-sized hotels and guesthouses that expose the area to serious security lapses.

Runda Association, however, says in a letter to the Ministry of Land and Mr Kidero that there was no public participation in approving the change of use for the plots purchased as required by law.

Houses in Runda: The residents argue that the proposed development would irreversibly alter the character of the neigbourhood

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