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Stunning Skyline Rises in Dubai, Manhattan of the Mideast

Once flat desolate desert, Dubai's Marina district has become a high-rise hotbed in a city where tourists and expatriates outnumber locals.

. Boaters enjoy the harbor on April 10. On weekends, alcohol-fueled party boats ferry Russian and Western expatriates down the canal as speed boats and jet skis come out for a ride.

Dubai’s rapid transformation from a desert outpost into one of the world’s most architecturally stunning cities is mapped out in the Marina. Where just 15 years ago there was empty, flat land, today a bustling neighborhood thrives centered around a canal and an impressive skyline that pierces through the clouds.

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. A man does a flip into the water opposite the Marina Waterfront skyline on April 24.

Kamran Jebreili / AP

. A thick blanket of early morning fog partially shrouds the skyscrapers of the Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers districts of Dubai on Oct. 5, 2015.

The area is sometimes referred to as the Manhattan of the Middle East and some of its buildings are promoted by realtors as having “Manhattan style” architecture.

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. A worker walks on wooden scaffolding while fixing a window frame at a construction site on Aug. 10.

Armies of low-paid migrant workers, many of them from the Indian subcontinent, leave behind families and travel to Dubai to build soaring towers like those in the Marina. While the wages they come for offer hope of a better life, they are far too meager for most to ever dream of calling the Marina they built home.

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. A tram crosses a bridge over a canal on April 1.

The Marina neighborhood is one of many clusters of neck-bending skyscrapers built throughout Dubai, but its real power lies behind the gated privacy of its most luxurious towers. Owning an apartment in one of these towers means access to skyline pools, concierge services and grand apartments that cater to the region’s royalty, as well as the world’s wealthiest businessmen and women.

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. A laborer carries his lunchbox as he leaves a construction site for the day at the Palm Jumeirah opposite the Marina district on Sept. 22.

Kamran Jebreili / AP

. An entertainer performs during a street festival on the Marina waterfront on March 26.

Dubai’s year-round sunshine gives the Marina a summer-vibe throughout the winter months, when temperatures rarely drop below a comfortable 75 degrees during the day.

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. A man dives into a hotel pool on April 15.

Kamran Jebreili / AP

. Gulf Arab visitors in their traditional "Kandora" pass by giant skyscraperson April 1.

Kamran Jebreili / AP

. A waiter carries a tray of traditional Arabic food at a restaurant by a canal on April 1.

Surrounding the Marina’s canal is an oasis of trendy restaurants and bars that serve an array of fusion-style cuisines that reflect the myriad of cultures and people drawn to Dubai, a modern city-state where foreigners far outnumber the locals.

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. Tourists board a dhow for a cruise as the sun sets on March 25.

Kamran Jebreili / AP

. A girl rides a carousel on April 22.

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. Two men play backgammon while smoking a shisha, or water pipe, at a restaurant overlooking the canal on May 1.

Kamran Jebreili / AP