Dubai reveals $1 billion plan to build Taj Mahal replica

Dubai are at it again.

Seemingly unsatisfied with boasting the world’s tallest skyscraper, the world’s largest man-made archipelago, and the world’s only 7-star hotel, Dubai has unveiled fresh plans to construct a billion-dollar (£665m) replica of the Taj Mahal.

Dubbed the ‘Taj Arabia’, the enormous building is set to be four times larger than the original and is scheduled to be complete in just 2 years, in stark contrast to the 22 years it took emperor Shan Jahan to build the marble wonder in the 17th century.

Taj Arabia with the Leaning Tower of Pisa pictured behind. Photo: Daily Mail

The 20,000 square metre project will also feature a 300 room 5-star “hospitality endeavour” (read: hotel) and a 3,000 capacity banquet hall reserved for wedding ceremonies, flanked by seven mixed-use buildings, two of which will house 200 serviced luxury apartments.

Arun Mehra, chairman of lead-developer Link Global Group, spoke of the project’s intention to make Dubai a wedding destination of global significance:

“The Taj was made as a monument of love and we hope to promote this in Dubai as a major wedding destination”, he said.

“Currently, Dubai is not regarded as a wedding destination. People go to Bali and other exotic places to marry. Now they will come to Taj Arabia”.

The audacious venture forms part of the “Falconcity of Wonders” – a 41 million square foot city aimed at capturing the essence of world’s ancient civilisations. The city is set to be comprised of a whole host of iconic architectural feats, estimated to weigh in at a staggering £7.4 billion.

An artist's impression of Falconcity of Wonders. Photo: Daily Mail

The artificial city will feature replicas of the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

London Bridge, Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament are also expected to appear in the city’s skyline when it opens in 2014.

As the emirate’s penchant for architectural excess continues unsatiated, what comes next is full mystery. Whatever it is though, I don’t think I’ll be surprised.

Artist's Impression of the Taj Arabia. Photo: Emirates 24/7

Alex Ward is a London-based freelance journalist who has previously worked for the Times & the Press Association. Twitter: @alexward3000

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.