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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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.