Ferris wheels were once the center of the city fair. Now, they are key elements of the great metropolitan horizons.
But no one can exceed the heights of Ain Dubai – meaning “Dubai Eye” in Arabic – which is scheduled to open on October 21. With a height of 820 feet, it will be the tallest observation wheel in the world, culminating at 270 feet above the High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas, which will drop to second place.
The attraction is the centerpiece of Bluewaters Island, a man-made island near Dubai Marina that opened in 2018.
Double the size of the London Eye
“Ain Dubai’s record eclipses the 165-meter Singapore Flyer and is almost double the size of the London Eye,” said Ronald Drake, general manager of the attraction.
The structure has 48 closed cabins, some of which can accommodate up to 40 passengers. A total of 1,750 people can ride at the same time, depending on the attraction, however, capacity is currently limited due to the global pandemic. As of now, up to 10 people can climb into each cabin, Drake said.
There are three styles of cabins on Ain Dubai: Observation, Social and Private cabins.
Ain Dubai | Dubai Holding
Each cabin is larger than two double-decker buses tied side by side, according to Ain Dubai. Three types of cabins are available: “observation” cabins are for basic walks, “social experiences” include lounge access and a drink, and “private” cabins can be customized for dinners, parties. business meetings and other events.
Each journey lasts 38 minutes and offers a bird’s eye view of the coastline and skyline of Dubai City.
Ferris wheel versus observation wheel
The first “Ferris wheel” was introduced in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair in Chicago, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Measuring 250 feet tall, the wheel was designed by 33-year-old American civil engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., whose goal was to create a structure that could rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris, according to the magazine.
The world’s first Ferris wheel was introduced in 1893, however, a smaller version of the drivable wheels already existed at the time. The illustration here shows the “Ferris Wheel” introduced in London in 1895.
duncan1890 | Digital Vision Vectors | Getty Images
Since then, large wheels have more than tripled in size. Now, the term “observation wheel” is used to distinguish larger and more sophisticated ferris wheels, according to the Observation Wheel Directory, a website that bills itself as a “guide to the world’s largest wheels.”
Boost to tourism
The opening of Ain Dubai continues Dubai’s efforts to position itself as a global tourist attraction.
“The emphasis on tourism has been one of the main diversification strategies of the United Arab Emirates and Dubai in particular,” said Usman Khalid, assistant professor of economics at the University of the United Arab Emirates. “The volatility of oil induced by Covid-19 has shown that the UAE needs to diversify away from oil and strengthen its other sectors.”
Unlike other parts of the UAE, Dubai does not produce a lot of oil. Today, less than 1% of Dubai’s GDP comes from oil, according to the World Economic Forum. In 2018, tourism accounted for 11.5% of the emirate’s gross domestic product, according to the World Trade & Tourism Council.
Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world, the 2,716-foot Burj Khalifa, which opened in 2010.
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The emirate also stands out as an adventure tourism destination with new attractions for thrill seekers. In July 2021, he launched the 200-foot Deep Dive Dubai – the deepest diving pool in the world. In recent years, Dubai has also hosted the world’s longest urban zipline, the XLine, and an Emirates A380 flight simulator at the Dubai Mall.
Along with adventure and luxury tourism, Dubai has also stepped up cultural tourism, according to Khalid. It hosts the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai, which will showcase art, cuisine and technology from over 190 countries. The event begins October 1 and ends March 31.