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The World (pictured 2018) is a man-made archipelago consisting of some 300 islands off the coast of Dubai. Construction work for the islands was completed in 2008, but later the financial crisis struck, putting on ice nearly all development projects for the best part of a decade.
Google Earth
Real estate company Kleindienst Group is one of the few developers who have left their mark on The World. Its $5 billion, six-island mega-project The Heart of Europe is still under construction, but certain properties are already nearing completion. The company says it plans to hand over the first units in 2019.
Google Earth
Sweden Island: The six island complex will have 13 hotels and resorts and more than 4,000 holiday homes when completed. Sweden Island is the most developed of the islands, with 10 private luxury "palaces," one of which is already finished.
The Heart of Europe
Sweden Island: The four-story villas are being positioned as ultra-high end second homes, with the first villa completed in August 2018. Sweden Island will also feature a floating restaurant.
The Heart of Europe
Sweden Island: Each villa has seven bedrooms, a gym, spa, exterior pool deck and a private beach. They also contain a "snow room" which can generate snow and reach temperatures as low as -5 degrees Celsius.
The Heart of Europe
Sweden Island: Five of the properties have been furnished by Bentley Home, a branch of the luxury auto maker. The rest will be tailored to their individual owners.
The Heart of Europe
Sweden Island: The roof of each villa is modeled on an upturned Viking ship, and features translucent sections with views across The World. Kleindienst report that all 10 properties have already been sold.
CNN
St Petersburg Island: St Petersburg Island, pictured in October 2018, is billed as a honeymoon island and will combine Russian and Maldivian stylings.
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St Petersburg Island: A rendering of what St Petersburg Island will look like when completed. Residents won't sleep on the island, but on Floating Seahorse villas surrounding it.
The Heart of Europe
Floating Seahorse: First unveiled in 2015, the Floating Seahorse villa has captured headlines around the world and featured in an award-winning photography series.
The Heart of Europe
Floating Seahorse: Each villa's party piece is the large acrylic window in its underwater bedroom, with views of the Arabian Gulf.
The Heart of Europe
Floating Seahorse: The underwater level also contains a bathroom so you can bathe with the fishes.
The Heart of Europe
Floating Seahorse Signature Edition: A larger version of the floating villa dubbed the "Signature Edition" has also been unveiled, spread across three floors with 4,004 square feet of space, including two underwater en suite bedrooms. Yours for 12 million dirham ($3.3 million).
The Heart of Europe
St Petersburg Island: Kleindienst say the island will feature Russian-themed cultural events throughout the year including the White Nights Festival, featuring ballet and opera.
The Heart of Europe
St Petersburg Island: The island's large infinity pool will contain semi-submerged dining chairs and dry lounge areas with the water at eye-level.
The Heart of Europe
An aerial shot of the development from October 2018 shows Germany Island (left) and Sweden Island (right) in the foreground, with Monaco Island, Switzerland Island, Main Europe Island and St Petersburg Island in the distance.
CNN
Germany Island: Construction is well underway on 32 villas on Germany Island. Kleindienst say there will be 15 six-bedroom villas with their own exterior pools and private beaches, along with 17 four-bedroom villas based around a central lagoon.
The Heart of Europe
Germany Island: The developer says the villas were designed by European architects and were inspired the Bauhaus movement (celebrating its centenary in 2019).
The Heart of Europe
Germany Island: Germany Island, Sweden Island and the Floating Seahorses off St Petersburg Island are considered "Phase One" of The Heart of Europe. In December 2018, the developer said it had sold 85% of the properties scheduled for this first phase, which is due for completion in 2019.
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Main Island: If Kleindienst's plans come to fruition, the central hub of The Heart of Europe, Main Island, will contain multiple resorts and boutique hotels. They have been designed to reflect everything from Mediterranean holiday spots through to Scandinavian boltholes. Pictured is the proposed design for the Cote d'Azur resort.
The Heart of Europe
Main Island: The developer says the five-star resort will contain 839 suites and deluxe apartments.
The Heart of Europe
Main Island: The Portofino resort mimics the warm colors of the Italian fishing village after which it takes its name. Its developers aim for it to become the first five star family-only hotel in the United Arab Emirates.
The Heart of Europe
Main Island: The Portofino resort will have 450 rooms say Kleindienst, with plenty of sea views.
The Heart of Europe
Main Island: A "Ladies Club" spa facility has been outlined as part of the Portofino Resort.
The Heart of Europe
In a publicity stunt last July, Kleindienst created snow during the height of summer, a precursor to the "climate controlled streets" it is developing for Main Europe -- a world first, it claims.
The Heart of Europe
The Floating Venice: Dubai's The Floating Venice is planned for phase three of The Heart of Europe, and will rest in an area previously occupied by Monaco Island.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: The resort is designed to bring the spirit of Venice to the Middle East -- staging Dubai versions of traditional festivals such as Carnivale di Venezia.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: It will be split over four decks -- one of which will be submerged under the sea and feature an underwater lobby, bedrooms and restaurants -- all offering spectacular views of marine life.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: The replica of the celebrated Italian city will have a luxury sub-aquatic twist.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: The resort will have 12 restaurants and bars, three of which will be underwater. Some of the resort's pools will have acrylic bases, offering views of the coral reefs below.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: The resort will technically be classified as a boat -- and developers aim to use the same technology as the Floating Seahorse, Dubai's underwater living experience.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
The Floating Venice: "Our aim is to enhance the landscape of real estate and hospitality and deliver a new iconic experience," says Josef Kleindienst, chairman of developers Kleindienst, in a statement.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
A Floating Seahorse pictured from Sweden Island. After years of inactivity other areas of The World are planning to develop their islands with resorts and private properties.
The Heart of Europe
Global Gateway

$5 billion Dubai megaresort rises from The World

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(CNN) — Four kilometers off the Dubai coastline lies Europe. Or a version of it, at least.
Comprising six man-made islands styled after a mix of European countries and cities, when completed this $5 billion megaproject will be able to accommodate 16,000 tourists in the height of travel luxury.
In this Europe the sun nearly always shines, the ocean's warm and white sands are never far away. There's Venice and St Petersburg, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and more. And, if you have the money, it could be yours for a vacation or a lifetime.
Called The Heart of Europe and currently under construction, it's the latest chapter in one of Dubai's grandest -- and most eyebrow-raising -- enterprises: The World.
The six-island resort The Heart of Europe, pictured in construction last year.
CNN
Construction of The World began in 2003. A huge archipelago of 300 artificial islands in the shape of a world map, it was pitched as a playground for the rich and famous.
To make the islands, 34 billion tonnes of large rocks and 320 million cubic meters of sand were deposited in the sea over millions of square feet. So vast was the project, astronauts were able to track its progress from space.
The archipelago was completed on the eve of the global financial crash in 2008 and as a result The World -- with very few exceptions -- remained undeveloped for many years.
The project has been labeled a "spectacular white elephant()." But against all odds, one corner -- The Heart of Europe -- is readying itself for guests.

A $5 billion mega-project

Construction cranes line the Dubai skyline as the city rapidly builds ahead of World Expo 2020. While residential real estate prices have declined since 2014, demand is expected to pick up at the start of the expo, according to John Lyons, head of sales and leasing at Dubai real estate agency ESPACE.
Kleindienst, the developers behind The Heart of Europe, seek to capitalize on this.
A "palace" on Sweden Island, seen from the air.
The Heart of Europe
The Heart of Europe covers 13 hotels and resorts and more than 4,000 holiday homes. Featuring climate-controlled streets and underwater bedrooms, the complex spans six million square feet and will be able to accommodate up to 16,000 people at any one time when completed, say Kleindienst.
The first phase of construction includes 10 waterfront "palaces" on Sweden Island, 32 villas on Germany Island and 78 floating homes dubbed "Floating Seahorses" surrounding St Petersburg Island.
The heart-shaped St Petersburg Island.
CNN
On land, one Swedish "palace" is already finished, with Scandi-influenced design throughout and a roof shaped like an upturned Viking ship. The other nine are 70% completed, say Kleindienst. The heart-shaped, honeymoon-themed St Petersburg is fully formed and Germany's Bauhaus-inspired villas are also taking shape. The first Floating Seahorse - Signature Edition (a larger model) has been recently completed and another 20 standard models are in construction.
A Floating Seahorse, a under-over water villa first unveiled in 2015.
The Heart of Europe
Handover of properties begins this year and will be completed in 2020, say Kleindienst. The developer is targeting second-home buyers and says it has already sold 85% of its units, with 70% of buyers from the UAE and wider Gulf Cooperation Council nations.
Chairman Josef Kleindienst said The Heart of Europe aims to be a "staycation" destination. "We want to be such a place where people from Dubai and from the UAE are attracted to spend their own vacation here in their own country," he told CNN. Although he added "we want to attract tourists from all over the place."
All 10 properties on Sweden have already been sold, the Austrian businessman told local news last year -- eight to billionaires from the Middle East and another two to billionaires from Europe -- as well as every villa on Germany Island.
A rendering of what St Petersburg Island will look like when finished.
The Heart of Europe

A new plot on the tourist map

Kleindienst says phase two consists of two holiday resorts on "Main Europe" -- a mixed themed island -- inspired by Portofino, Italy and the Cote d'Azur in France, scheduled for completion in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Among the attractions will be artificial coral reefs for diving and snorkeling, created by Kleindienst's Marine Life Sciences Center, based on the archipelago.
A rendering of the Portofino resort.
The Heart of Europe
"The main goal is to create a vibrant, diverse and sustainable marine habitat," Adrian Evans, a marine biologist at the center, told CNN. The developers say the center is growing an additional 100,000 corals a year.
For those who prefer to stay dry, the Floating Seahorses allow visitors to watch marine life from their underwater bedrooms and bathrooms.
How Kleindienst imagine The Floating Venice will appear.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
If Kleindienst's project proceeds as planned, there will also be a slew of underwater rooms throughout The Floating Venice, another of the themed complexes planned for The Heart of Europe. That is considered part of phase three of the development, along with chalets on Switzerland Island and nine other hotels on Main Europe.
An underwater cabin planned for The Floating Venice.
Courtesy Kleindienst Group
Richard Thompson, editor for Middle East Economic Digest, told CNN he's witnessing a shift in tourism demands.
"People are looking for experiences, they're no longer looking to have a bit of luxury on a beach," he said. "They want to have an adventure, they want to have something for their social media pages, they want something unique that helps them as individuals develop their own life story."

The wider World

So what of the rest of The World? Almost all its islands remain undeveloped, but there are rumblings that holiday destinations could soon pop up elsewhere.
Close to The Heart of Europe, Lebanon Island has been operating as a small private beach club, but is currently for sale. Allsopp & Allsopp, the real estate agency in charge of the sale, told CNN that a hotel group is currently interested in buying the property with a mind to building an eco-friendly resort.
Meanwhile Seven Tides, owners of a swathe of South America, said via its communications representatives that it plans to build resorts on two islands in the south of the archipelago, with more details to be released in March.
A lone Floating Seahorse villa, pictured from Sweden Island.
The Heart of Europe
It appears that in the future, The Heart of Europe will have greater company. But Kleindienst will hope to bag a number of firsts.
Josef Kleindienst told CNN that the group is hoping to finish the entire project by 2020, just in time for the World Expo. "Expo 2020 is the time where everyone on this planet should come and visit Dubai," he added.
Small wonder -- if all goes to plan, he'll have rooms to fill.
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