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There are many things you can buy for $34 million. In different parts of the world, you will be bought by towering castles, huge sprawling mansions on the seashore or majestic estates stretching for miles. It can buy you fleets of mighty Lamborghini sports cars or luxurious Rolls-Royce Phantoms. You can buy your own plane.
In Dubai, you get a pile of sand.
Well, not just any pile of sand. The Sands in question is an empty plot of land on the luxury island of Jumeirah Bay, which recently sold for more than $34 million — an eye-watering price even in a part of the world where real estate prices can reach as high as skyscraper architecture.
The 24,500-square-foot undeveloped property was sold by Omar Kamani, British entrepreneur and co-founder of fashion retailer PrettyLittleThing. The sale – for Dh125m (AED) – represents a whopping 242% gain over its original purchase price of Dh36.5m, or just under $10m, in 2021.
The identity of the buyer is unknown.
The plot is one of 128 originally provided on the artificial island, which is linked to the mainland via a 1,000-foot causeway. Its high price is a reflection not only of the resilience of some Dubai real estate to downward trends in global economies, but also, property owners say, of what the wealthy want to spend their money on.
“Jumeirah Bay is the most exclusive of exclusive properties,” says Andrew Cummings of Knight Frank Dubai, the real estate agency that handled the sale. “It’s for the ultra-wealthy asking themselves, ‘What’s the best I can get?'” “It represents the best in class location and property in Dubai.”
The 6.3 million square foot island is shaped like a seahorse and features a five-star hotel developed in collaboration with Italian luxury brand Bulgari, which opened in 2017 and was instantly crowned The best new luxury hotel in the world. Jumeirah Bay Island is also home to plenty of sandy beaches, a marina for dozens of yachts, high-end restaurants, a gym, and a spa. A limited number of luxury apartments are also available in the Bulgari Hotel Complex.
In 2022, two identical plots on the island sold together for AED 180 million, or just over $49 million, indicating that the value of the land is on the rise. “The land has been highly regarded, not least because of the location, being so close to not only Bulgari but also the Four Seasons as well as Downtown Dubai and the business district,” says Cummings. “But it’s also because of the exclusivity and exclusivity that comes from an island with only 100 plots or so, unlike somewhere like Palm Jumeirah which has thousands of properties.”
Actually, it is Palm Jumeirah Perhaps the most famous of Dubai’s artificial islands. Famous for being shaped like a palm tree, it is also the largest artificial island in the world, measuring about 2.2 square miles.
On the other hand, Jumeirah Bay Island is much smaller at 0.22 square miles, and is considered more exclusive. “It’s really for the 1% of the 1%, they build their forever homes or long-term vacation homes,” Cummings explains. “And the kind of property being built there now is unlike anything I’ve seen in Dubai. Jumeirah Bay will look more like Beverly Hills or Los Angeles.”
Dubai’s real estate market has been on the upswing lately, with 93 properties worth $10 million or more sold in 2021, which was more than the previous seven years combined, according to Cummings. In 2022, that number jumped to 221 sales. This year has already seen 88 during the first quarter.
The pandemic played an important role in this recovery. “Over the past couple of years, people have wanted to move into more spacious places, and they’ve wanted to live on the beach,” Cummings says. “If you look at New York, people have moved to the countryside, same in London and other big cities. In Dubai we saw that but also a huge influx of international investors attracted by the country’s amazing handling of Covid, the high vaccination rate, the safety and security – but Also a way of life.”
The 128 plots of land on the island have been reduced to just over 100, due to some buyers buying more than one plot to build larger villas. Most are still empty, and Cummings estimates that only one in ten is currently occupied. However, he predicts that this sale will increase the value of the plots – as well as the value of the mansions that may eventually come to the market once built. “We have one under construction that we expect to bring to market at the end of the year, which will likely ask for more than $100 million,” he says.
The current listings appear An empty plot of land for sale in Jumeirah Bay Island 90 million dirhams, or about 24.5 million dollars. A three bedroom, four bathroom apartment is offered in the Bvlgari complex on the island 60 million dirhamsor about $16.3 million.
As for Al-Kamani, he probably does not regret the loss of his piece of land—because he owns a similar piece of land next to it. Who knows if he’ll sell that too – at a higher price.
“He set the standard,” Cummings says, “so now he might as well set another record.”
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