DUBAI, U.A.E. —
With its glistening skyscrapers and man-made waterways, Dubai Marina is a playground for the rich.
Dubai's rapid transformation from a desert outpost into one of the world's most architecturally stunning cities is mapped out in the Marina. What 15 years ago was mostly empty land is today a bustling neighborhood with a skyline that pierces through the clouds.
More than 150 high-rise buildings, stacked row after row, make up this 50 million square foot (4.65 million square meter) waterfront neighborhood built around a man-made canal where the wealthy park their yachts.
The area is sometimes referred to as the Manhattan of the Middle East and some of its buildings are promoted by realtors as having "Manhattan-style'' architecture and amenities. A 12,400-square-foot (1,152-square-meter) apartment in the Marina was put on the market this year for a cool 56 million dirhams, or about $15.25 million.
Unlike Manhattan, though, Dubai's year-round sunshine gives the Marina a summer vibe throughout the winter months, when temperatures rarely drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) during the day. On weekends, alcohol-fueled party boats ferry Russian and Western expatriates down the canal as speed boats and jet skis buzz in the water.
Trendy restaurants and bars along the canal reflect the myriad of cultures and people drawn to Dubai, a modern city-state in the United Arab Emirates where foreigners far outnumber the locals.
Children can ride on a carousel, splash in a fountain and watch street artists perform on the canal's promenade. Around sunset, when the blistering heat of the day begins to subside, people jog and ride bikes.
The Marina boasts the world's tallest residential building, the Princess Tower, which reaches 1,355 feet (413 meters) high. The Marina 101 is currently being built to soar to 1,417 feet (432 meters).
The neighborhood is one of many clusters of neck-bending skyscrapers throughout Dubai, built by armies of low-paid migrant workers, many of them from the Indian subcontinent. These workers provide the manpower to build high-rises, shopping malls, highways and other mega-construction projects sweeping through the region. While the wages they come for offer hope of a better life, they are far too meager for most to ever dream of calling the Marina they built home.