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Dubai's next big thing

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The indebted shipbuilding arm of Dubai World, the conglomerate that triggered Dubai's debt crisis four years ago, signed a deal to develop undersea hotels with a Swiss firm yesterday.

Only a month after it sought insolvency protection in Dubai and Singapore to push through a $US2.2 billion ($2.13 billion) debt restructuring, Drydocks World unveiled an agreement with BIG InvestConsult, which holds the technology rights, to build the World Discus Hotel.

The hotel, featuring a discus-shaped residential underwater building connected to another discus above water, will be funded by BIG, which is in talks with other investors.

The disc, located up to 10 metres beneath the surface of the sea, is composed of 21 hotel rooms adjacent to the underwater dive centre and a bar.

The rooms will feature a special lighting system and miniature underwater vehicles which can be operated from inside allowing guests totake a closer look at the underwater creatures using macro photography.

"Drydocks and Maritime World is appointed as the exclusive main contractor for construction of the new concept hotels and cities floating in the Middle East," Drydocks said in a statement.

Extravagant projects were the hallmark of Dubai during the 2002-2008 boom years and the emirate is home to man-made islands shaped like palms as well as a map of the world. It also boasts the world's tallest tower and an indoor ski slope.

The projects, aimed at boosting Dubai's global profile, were built on massive amounts of leverage that nearly crushed the emirate after the 2008 global credit crunch.

Thanks to a strong showing by its logistics, trade and tourism businesses and benefiting from its status as a safe haven amid the Arab Spring revolts that have roiled the region, Dubai has been making a recovery.

On Wednesday, the firms said two developments with five hotels attached to them are planned in the Middle East. The Swiss firm is eyeing the coast of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

"We are in the design and fabrication side for the project ... it's the same concept as rigs," Khamis Juma Buamim, chairman of Drydocks World told reporters.

"This project has seven different types of designs and (each will cost in) the range of around $US50 million to $US120 million. The amount varies based on the design."

"The discussions are to build these around the world, not just the UAE," he said.

Photos: The World Discus Hotel

Reuters

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