Dubai is a bit like the Houston of the Middle East. It’s unapologetically bold, brash, and over-the-top — a city that elevates conspicuous consumption to an art form. Every monument, building, and theme park is more lavish and expensive than the last. So, when architects imagined framing the city’s skyline with a 50-story-tall, gold-leafed picture frame, no one batted an eye.
This month will see the opening of The Dubai Frame. The massive frame consists of two 150-meter-high glass towers — roughly 500 feet, or 50 stories, to us Statesiders — making it the world’s largest picture frame. A glass bridge will connect the towers, providing visitors with a panoramic view of the city, including Karama, Deira, Bur Dubai, and the Emirates tower. On the ground floor, a museum and gallery will feature interactive exhibits and 3D projections of the city’s old quarter, which will make use of virtual reality technology to explain its history.
The designers’ intent was to “frame” (get it?) the two sides — old and new — of the city. To put it more esoterically: “The idea is to create an illusion of time travel through a warp vortex and arriving into the city 50 years ahead.”
From its location in popular Zabeel Park, visitors will be able to scope out the city’s old quarter (to the north) and New Dubai (in the south), and vice-versa. While the frame was initially slated to be silver, the designers felt that didn’t pack enough punch. It was changed to gold plating to more strongly reflect the sun and intensify its brightness.
The Dubai Frame joins a long list of over-the-top attractions aimed at increasing tourism to the city. Most notable are the famed Burj Khalifa (at nearly a half-mile high, it’s the world’s tallest building) and Burj Al Arab (often called “the most luxurious hotel in the world”). The Frame alone is projected to attract 2 million visitors each year.
The project has already seen numerous setbacks and weathered waves of controversy. In spite of them all, the Frame opened this month (January 2018), and advanced purchase tickets are available through a dedicated pre-booking website for about USD $14 for adults.