Imagine yourself taking a trip from outer space down to Dubai, landing on the world’s busiest airport and being whisked away to the lobby of Burj Khalifa. Moments later, you take the Dubai Metro, skydive over The Palm Jumeirah and enjoy a breathtaking helicopter tour of the city – all in three and a half minutes.

Thousands of UAE residents and tourists have experienced just that by visiting the newly opened The Sphere, a first of its kind installation in the Middle East, at the world’s largest shopping centre, the Dubai Mall.

The installation, which looks like a giant golf ball on the outside, is a spherical projection theatre that serves as an extension of Dubai 360 (www.dubai360.com) and provides viewers a real-life feel of what it’s like to tour Dubai at high speed. It opened to the public at the mall’s Star Atrium on March 4.

The magic starts after visitors step into a viewing bridge inside The Sphere. The bridge, about seven meters high, then appears to move, making visitors feel like they’re traveling in space. It then moves towards the earth and lands on the Dubai International Airport.

Visitors are later transported to the lobby of the world’s tallest tower, then travel by the Dubai Metro, soar above The Palm islands and pop into several other iconic landmarks of the city.

The virtual experience is made possible by San Francisco-based Obscura Digital, which seamlessly integrated copious amounts of high-quality panoramic images from the Dubai 360 website.

Visitors will find themselves surrounded by images of various locations in the city and feel like they’re actually there, thanks to the 18 projectors operating simultaneously.

“The launch of Dubai 360 established new standards for how people experience a city, and The Sphere is another extension of that experience,” said Ismaeil Al Hashmi, project manager for Dubai 360.

“The basic idea behind The Sphere was to create a physical space whereby we take the high-quality panoramic content from the Dubai 360 website and present it in a unique way to offer a fully immersive journey.”

Gerald Donovan, operations manager, Dubai 360, said The Sphere has entertained 3,500 visitors every day since it opened to the public.

“At 15 meters in diameter, The Sphere is the largest ever fully spherical projection theatre ever built. It is also the first ever temporary installation of such a theatre in history. To have such an experience available for free in the world’s largest shopping mall is a once in a lifetime opportunity for UAE residents and tourists alike,” Donovan told Gulf News.

“Dubai360.com is full of incredible panoramic content from across Dubai, but to experience this content in the physical environment of The Sphere takes things to a whole new level.”

The Sphere was originally scheduled to open until 18th March, but organizers said the installation will now be open until the 14th.