These other Edens: Head to the Arab states for man-made islands and exclusive resorts

When the United Arab Emirates government announced three years ago that it was to build The Palms, three exclusive residential islands, off the coast of Dubai, it caused a very big splash. Environmentalists said it could damage ecosystems. Engineers predicted the coasts of these new islands would soon erode. Others thought the project too ambitious, a commercial flop waiting to happen.

But sales of The Palms were so successful, with David Beckham and Gary Neville two of the big names rushing to buy, that the government decided to create The World, a mass-development of islands designed to form a map of the globe.

Property is the new oil. The reason behind the UEA's sudden shift from quiet, desert region into mass-developed metropolis is bound up with black gold – or the potential lack of it in decades to come. The country has decided to act now to secure its future should the oil run out, and it seems to be working. Buyers are snapping up its island homes – in The World development, Rod Stewart is now the proud owner of "Britain" and Tommy Lee bought "Greece" for ex-wife Pamela Anderson.

Now, with all the money pouring in from eager buyers, neighbouring states Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have put their own plans into progress, with Qatar leading the charge to cash in on its coastline. It's developing The Pearl-Qatar, an ink-blot shaped island with circular lagoons, 350 metres offshore from the capital, Doha.

The development will be constructed in four phases over five years, and the theme is Riviera Arabia, which the developers claim will bring the "ambience and lifestyle of the Mediterranean to the heart of Arabia". The 8,000 residential units will include luxury apartments, costing from around £240,000 for one bedroom, and private villas on beachfront plots, for which the land alone will cost in excess of £1m. The 400,000sq m site will have three luxury hotels, three marinas and more upmarket retail, recreation and restaurant space than a party of WAGs could desire.

Bahrainis constructing Reef Island, a project of upmarket homes, shops, hotels and leisure facilities measuring 579,000sq m.

The strange, curved sandbank doesn't look like much at the moment, but by 2009 it will be throbbing with tourists. Reef Island is less than 15 minutes from the airport and centre of the capital, Manama, and properties are being aimed squarely at those who work in the financial district or who want to have fun under the desert sun.

Reef Island sales manager Ernest Fleihan says "Island developments are highly appealing because they offer exclusivity," he says. He admits that the company is targeting individuals "of high net worth".

The smallest two-bedroom apartments will measure 133 sq m, not a bad size by today's new-build standards. Those wanting more room and with serious amounts to spend will go for the three- or four-bedroom villas, or penthouses.

Also wading into the waters of residential islands is the Sultanate of Oman, currently one of the least developed or visited of the Gulf states. It has just begun negotiations with construction company Orascom to develop Al Sodah, an almost unreachable but beautiful and dramatic natural island off its coast. The new venture is unusual in that it will utilise what is already available, rather than being man-made, and will have only 30 villas on the 11-million square metre site.

Prices are not yet set but each of the one- to four-bedroom properties will have a private sandy cove and a plunge pool for every master bedroom. Hani Ayad, architect of the development, claims the project is unique in style and location. "The island drops dramatically into the sea with pockets of beach. Owners will have their own beach and total privacy," he says.

Oman also has some of the most rich and unspoilt landscapes in the world, However, Ayad doesn't think plans to create residential resorts of this type will damage things. "Oman is a remarkable place, and the best thing is that the government is very concerned about its environment. They aren't aggressively spoiling it."

www.thepearlqatar.com, 00 974 446 3444; ww.reef-island.com, 00 973 17 562814; www.orascomhd.com, 00 2 02 2461 8999

Buyers' guide

* Non-nationals can buy property only in designated areas in most Middle Eastern states.

* Several Gulf states claim to offer freehold ownership to non-nationals, but it's often actually a 99-year lease.

* Bahrain, Oman and Qatar are tax-free states * Owning property in all states allows you to apply for permanent residency, though there is no automatic right to live there.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss