it has become the world's most expensive shipping hazard, guarded by private security in fast boats and ringed by warning buoys to keep the curious away....Mile after mile of breakwater built from boulders brought hundreds of miles by ship has been laid, but inside its man-made lagoon, work has completely stopped.
The expected map of the world of 300 islands is instead a disjointed and desolate collection of sandy blots -- a monumental folly just out of sight of Dubai's shore....
"The World has been cancelled. It doesn't even look like the world. Basically there is one island that is maintained that is said to be owned by the Sheikh [Dubai's ruler] and the rest looks like a pile of muck," said one local property agent.
Officially, the project hasn't been permanently stopped. Unofficially, it's further evidence for my suspicion that the builders' blueprints of the early-21st-century United Arab Emirates are best regarded as a regional subgenre of science fiction.
On a related note, I recommend the Daily Mail's aquatic-gothic report on "the ghost fleet of the recession," a near-abandoned flotilla near Singapore. An excerpt:
Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers - all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.
It is so far off the beaten track that nobody ever really comes close, which is why these ships are here. The world's ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world's economies.
So they have been quietly retired to this equatorial backwater, to be maintained only by a handful of bored sailors. The skeleton crews are left alone to fend off the ever-present threats of piracy and collisions in the congested waters as the hulls gather rust and seaweed at what should be their busiest time of year.
Local fisherman Ah Wat, 42, who for more than 20 years has made a living fishing for prawns from his home in Sungai Rengit, says: 'Before, there was nothing out there - just sea. Then the big ships just suddenly came one day, and every day there are more of them.
'Some of them stay for a few weeks and then go away. But most of them just stay. You used to look Christmas from here straight over to Indonesia and see nothing but a few passing boats. Now you can no longer see the horizon.'