Dubai's newest hotel in the making, Palazzo Versace, is two years away from opening on the shores of this popular city-state and its developers are considering a quirky new gimmick to attract guests, an artificially cooled beach so they can sunbathe in the scorching summer heat.
The beach is to be part of the $609 million, 12-story luxury hotel and residence complex, designed by the Milan-based fashion house that developers say is to be finished in 2010.
Palazzo Versace's public relations office has been vague about the mechanism that will cool its Dubai beach.
However, officials have suggested that it could include forcing air-conditioned exhaust air from the hotel and residential building that will house 169 apartments and 213 hotel rooms.
The developers also said that the beach might also be cooled using heat-deflecting materials and landscaping that would provide shade.
The audacity of an artificially cooled beach is typical of Dubai's relentless pursuit of tourists and ultra-rich visitors.
The glitzy desert emirate already boasts a number of over-the-top projects. An indoor, artificially chilled ski slope has been built on the edge of one of the world's hottest deserts.
The city is also completing the world's tallest skyscraper and has a growing archipelago of man-made islands off its Gulf shore.
"Everything being developed in Dubai is over the top," observed Stephen P. Leatherman, director of the International Hurricane Research Center & Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University in Miami. But he added that the notion of cooling beach sand through "piped-in AC is ridiculous." He said natural approaches such as spraying water from the sea or planting trees would be better if hot sand "is really that big of a problem."
Dubai's runaway development has long been criticized by environmental activists, who say the construction of artificial islands is destroying coral reefs and altering natural water currents. They also point to growing water and electricity consumption in Dubai, one of seven city-states that make up the United Arab Emirates.
Palazzo Versace is a joint venture of the Italian fashion house Gianni Versace SpA., the Australian developer Sunland Group, based in Surfers Paradise in Queensland, and the Emirates International Holdings Ltd., a real-estate company, based in Dubai's neighbouring emirate of Sharjah.
Versace is not the only fashion house intertwined with Dubai's real estate industry.
Karl Lagerfeld of Paris-based Chanel has signed up with state-owned investment company Dubai Infinity Holdings to design 80 homes on artificial island called Isla Moda, or Fashion Island.
And Giorgio Armani, another Milan-based designer, partnered in 2005 with Dubai's development giant Emaar to build a luxury hotel with 175 suites in Burj Dubai - a residential and commercial tower that aims to be world's tallest skyscraper when completed next year.
Versace's residential building will have modest one-to-six bedroom apartments while the more lavish ones - single-story and duplex - will include indoor swimming pools decorated with mosaics, like those found in ancient Roman baths.
Its penthouse apartments are to have private spas and terraces overlooking landscaped gardens, a marina - and the cooled beach.
An employee in Sunland's Dubai office and a representative of Versace Home Division in Italy referred all questions about the exotic Dubai beach project to a London-based public relations firm.
The firm, TTA Group, said in an e-mailed statement that Sunland is in the process of "refining the conceptual design of the climate controlled beach by investigating suitable methods of achieving an environmentally sustainable outcome."
Sunland Group's executive director, Soheil Abedian, held meetings in Dubai this week but company officials said he could not comment about the plans on the air-conditioned beach.