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Dubai is Building the World’s Tallest Hotel

Ciel Tower in Dubai.

2023 was a big year for Asian megaprojects. It saw the completion of the world’s second tallest skyscraper, the Merdeka 118, in Malaysia, the opening of the all-new Toranomon-Azabudai District in Japan, Indonesia’s first ever bullet train, and many more.

It looks like 2024 will also be a year of great megaprojects. In fact, the world’s tallest hotel, the Ciel Tower, is set to open in Dubai in the first quarter of 2024.

In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about this $544 million megaproject, from the people behind the project to why Dubai is building it.

Ciel Tower

Dubai is home to the 356 meter, or 1,168 feet, Gevora Hotel, located on Sheikh Zayed Road. It opened in 2018 and was named the world’s tallest hotel, complete with certification as a Guinness World Record.

However, Gevora Hotel won’t get to hang onto that title for very long, as Dubai announced in the same year of the Gevora Hotel opening that it’s building an even taller hotel called Ciel Tower, which is set to open in early 2024.

Ciel was given its name which means ‘sky’ in French because it will literally be reaching for the sky. When completed, Ciel Hotel will stand at 365 meters, or 1,198 feet, eclipsing Gevora Hotel. It’ll have 82 floors and 1,000 rooms, compared to Gevora Hotel’s 75 floors and 528 rooms.

The hotel was designed by the celebrated London-based architectural firm NORR, which has previously designed the Atlantis Hotel and the Palm Hotel for Dubai. It is also being built by China Railway Construction Corporation, which has also completed impressive projects like the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway.

It’s located in the heart of Dubai Marina, one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the city. The Marina is home to many high-end shopping areas, world class restaurants, and luxurious buildings. It’s also a popular destination for outdoor activities and water sports.

The Japanese-style design of the Ciel Tower is both modern and distinctive. It has two largely glass towers connected by a common platform and roof structure, creating a giant cylinder in shape with a gigantic window in the center.

Even though it hasn’t opened yet, the hotel has already won awards for Best International Hotel Architecture and Best Hotel Architecture in Arabia at the 2019 International Property Awards.

The building is considered one of the UAE’s architectural masterpieces and a must-see for tourists and locals once completed. It will offer its visitors unmatched, stunning views of the city and the Persian Gulf.

The Hotel’s Accommodations

Aside from its 1,000 rooms and 150 luxury suites, the hotel will include a Sunset Lounge on the 74th floor, a rooftop infinity pool, bespoke restaurants, and a Horizon Bar on the 76th floor. But, the most impressive facility in the hotel will probably be the Ciel Observatory, with 360-degree views of Dubai.

The project also didn’t compensate when it came to sustainability and environmentally friendly construction. In terms of operational energy consumption, Ciel is designed to be 30% more efficient than the ASHRAE guidelines for this building type, making it a very efficient building throughout its life cycle. 

Another key feature of the tower is its 12 ocean-facing  gardens, stacked vertically over each other with each garden being eight-storeys in height. The gardens include trees and bamboo green walls which are irrigated with recycled and treated water that would otherwise have been wasted after use.

The Hotel’s Design and Construction

With all of this thought put  into the hotel, it’s hard to believe that the plot of land now housing Ciel was meant for a whole other project entirely. The old project was supposed to be a residential building with a completely different look and feel.

The original plan was to construct a rectangle-shaped tower on the land, but the construction of this building had to stop as the world economy halted due to the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008.

A decade later in 2017, the plan to build on this plot was resurrected when the First Group, Dubai’s leading real estate developer and property investment company, took on the role of developer for the Ciel Tower and got into contact with NORR Group and China Railway Construction Corporation.

According to Yahya Jan, President and Design Director of NORR Group, the project was challenging in many ways. The size of the project and shape of the plot were especially hard to get around, and it took Jan and his team four weeks of study to propose a design.

Jan also said that the Ciel Tower is his passion project and reflects his philosophy of combining architecture and engineering, similar to combining art and science in a way. Over a two-year period, the architecture team produced thousands of hand-sketches that tested ideas and refined concepts for the tower.

The team also used 3D printing to make hundreds of models and prototypes for the project, and studied the influence of wind in shaping the hotel and the need to bend glass to make it an exterior envelope of the building.

The construction of the Dh2 billion, or $544 million, project started in 2018, and even though the Covid-19 pandemic presented many challenges to the construction sector over 2020 and 2021, work on Ciel has continued relentlessly throughout the pandemic with more than 1,000 workers on site, in a feat that was testament to the commitment and dedication of the project’s design and construction teams, according to the First Group.

Does Dubai need this many hotels?

The truth is, Ciel wasn’t supposed to dethrone Gevora and become the world’s tallest hotel at first. In fact, this idea came as the design progressed and the team added the 300 meter atrium gardens and the observation deck.

As for the need for more hotels, it could actually be justified when you look at the country’s economic growth.

Like many other oil dependent countries, the UAE realizes the importance of diversifying its economy away from the non-sustainable oil sector. In fact, the Dubai government estimates that the country will completely run out of oil in 2045.

Even though 40% of the government’s income comes from oil, the UAE has successfully managed to diversify its economy away from it, as the non-oil sector accounts for more than 70% of the country’s GDP.

According to the UAE’s economy minister, Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, the country’s GDP grew 3.7% in the first half of the year, fueled by growth in the non-oil sector which vastly outperformed the overall growth.

Non-oil growth saw a 5.9% jump in the first six months of the year. As for Dubai, you might be surprised to know that most of Dubai’s GDP, over 95% in fact, is non-oil-based.

This path to diversification included a boost to the tourism sector, which is why D ubai is building so many hotels. In Dubai, tourism accounts for 20% of the GDP.

In 2022, the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the UAE’s GDP was nearly $45.5 billion, which is equivalent to 9% of the total GDP. Also in the same year, the total spending of international tourists amounted to $32 billion.

Along with that, the UAE government forecasts that the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to the UAE’s GDP will rise by 4.9% per annum until 2027, and would be 12.4% of GDP in that year.

The country’s hotels reached 1,198 rooms with 203,000 rooms, which could pose a challenge to Ciel to stand out amid the competition, especially since there are around 810 hotels in Dubai. 

However, the need for more hotels is evident as Dubai alone welcomed 28.55 million tourists in the first half of 2023.

Dubai’s average hotel occupancy in the first six months of 2023 reached 78%, which ranks it among the highest in the world. It’s important to note that hotel occupancy was 71% for the full year of 2022.

Additionally, Ciel Tower has no reason to be scared of competition as it’s already bringing in a lot of money before it opened. In fact, all penthouse suites in the tower sold out in March of this year, and they were offered to buyers for more than $755,000.

The UAE’s Diversification

Ciel Tower, along with various other megaprojects in Dubai and the UAE as a whole, are a testament to the country’s resilience, diversification and commitment to openness.

The country is doing a great job when it comes to becoming less reliant on oil and more dependent on knowledge-based industries.

Its growing tourism sector helped boost its hotels and hospitality sector, and projects like the Ciel Tower will surely be seen as a timeless architectural masterpiece once completed. 

It is certain that many are anticipating the opening day of this hotel, and it will no doubt bring in so many visitors for the vibrant city of Dubai.


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