Who would have imagined that a megaproject could be too ‘mega’ for Dubai, a city known for accomplishing the seemingly impossible with ease? Yet, Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest observation wheel located on Bluewaters Island and visible from outer space, defied expectations. After an agonizing 8-year wait, the attraction finally became a permanent part of the Dubai skyline, welcoming visitors in October 2021, only to close its doors a few months later. Details and explanations were scarce, except for the mention of upgrades that would allow the attraction to reopen in a few months. However, the transformation of “a few months” into a year and then nearly two prompts one to speculate whether the world’s largest Ferris wheel might indeed be experiencing issues.
This architectural marvel boasts 48 luxurious cabins capable of carrying 1,750 people on a 38-minute journey, offering unforgettable views. The astonishing structure, twice the height of the London Eye, utilized over 11,000 tonnes of steel, surpassing even the quantity used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Each leg is nearly the size of 15 London buses, and its 192 spokes, when laid end to end, would stretch from Dubai to Cairo, spanning a whopping 2,400 kilometers.
Ironically, Kevin Dyer, the former technical director of the London Eye, who served as Ain Dubai’s operations director, stated that the wheel was designed to endure 300,000 cycles or 60 years, with stringent measures in place to extend its lifespan. In reality, this one-of-a-kind wheel didn’t even last for a few months. The exact reason remains cloaked in secrecy, but it is evident that all is not well with the world’s tallest observation wheel, designed to withstand massive earthquakes and 100-mile-per-hour storms.
The attraction was abruptly closed for periodic enhancements and remained so throughout the first quarter of 2023. While Ain Dubai stood motionless, rumors circulated faster than ever about the landmark structure. The lack of an official statement only fueled the speculation, leading residents to theorize that Ain Dubai vibrated due to a compromised foundation and caused the ground to shake when in motion. Locals also suggested that the main axle mechanism malfunction might have occurred. Some even claimed that the 800-foot wheel, supported by 35-meter piles extending to the bedrock, was sinking.
Despite its immense height, Ain Dubai had been previously hailed as one of Dubai’s safest places. With the wheel not moving at all, that statement might hold true. Let’s hope the issues turn out to be temporary, and Ain Dubai can take its place alongside other iconic structures like the Burj Khalifa, the world’s largest fountain, the Palm Fountain, and the world’s largest sky pool at the Raffles Dubai. With Ain Dubai’s showstopping LED lights shining brightly at night, there is certainly hope for the future.