The eighth wonder of the world - The Palm Jumeirah and its sister at Jebel Ali - will be the last word in luxury for residential, commercial and entertainment developments anywhere. These two island gardens, jutting out into the Persian Gulf, will be the largest man-made islands in the world, measuring each about 5km by 5km and built from more than 200 million cubic metres of sand and rock. Shaped like date palm trees, they each have a trunk, 17 fronds and an outer encircling crescent-shaped breakwater able to withstand four-metre waves. Jebel Ali will have two encircling breakwaters, the inner one shaped like a line of Arabic verse written by Sheikh Mohammed. Both islands sit adjacent the coastline in the warm turquoise waters of the Gulf and are connected by 300-metre causeways to the mainland. More than 12,000 palm trees and other foliage will be planted to simulate an oasis-like environment. Jumeirah is to be completed by the end of 2005 and Jebel Ali by 2008. Town homes and villas are all spoken for, and what remains are just a few flats. England footballers David Beckham and Michael Owen are just two customers who have purchased luxury villas. Some 25km to the south, Jebel Ali will be about 40 per cent larger than Jumeirah, with a double circular breakwater. It promises more theme entertainment and resort facilities. Each island will have about 2,500 swanky beachside villas and about the same number of apartments. The Jumeirah development will have nine hotels along the trunk, and in all around 50 hotels. By any standards, this is a mega project: land reclamation costs alone will top US$3 billion, and once completed the islands will add around 120km of coastline beaches, or increase the current coastline by about 166 per cent. Good news for potential expatriate - homes at both Palms will be sold freehold and expatriate owners are granted visas that can be reissued every three years for as long as they own the property. To ensure customer satisfaction, owners will have input in modifying standard home designs although, in the case of the villas, there are several generic designs such as 'Arab eclectic', European, Mediterranean and Oriental, for example. About 1,000 water homes, all built on stilts, will be located along Jebel Ali's inner breakwater. Considering what you get, prices seem reasonable. A three-bedroom town home at Jebel Ali of about 3,800sq ft will run at about US$512,000, while a signature villa of 7,000sq ft will set you back $1.4 million. Not unreasonable by Hong Kong standards.