The Burj Khalifa as of it’s inaugural year in 2010 is the world’s tallest building and tallest free standing man-made structure ever known to man. It was constructed over a period of about 3 years costing over US$1.5 billion with it’s primary contractor being Samsung C&T of South Korea and is developed by Emaar Properties. It stands at over 828m as preceded by the Taipei 101 and soon to be taken over by the 1600m tall Kingdom Tower skyscraper which is to be built at the nearby Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

But it's actually called the Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa
You can never frame it whole in a photo... :/
can never frame it whole in a photo
yup, we got the right building...
Yup, the right building

The main observation tower has no access from the grand entrance and is only open to residents. You start off by entering the building through the observation deck entrance at the Dubai mall basement. The entrance to the attraction is not too difficult to spot and is conveniently located by the food courts and flanked by an exit door to the Dubai fountain. Here is also where the attraction gift shop and ticketing counters reside. It is generally advisable to buy your tickets in advance upon your arrival in Dubai with your planned “flight time” just before sunset where it’s still bright. I went for a pre-booked 6pm flight off the counter. There, you can give about 30 minutes for the pre-flight showcase and displays before eventually making your way up. You will follow through a series of exhibited showcase about the conceptualization of the Burj Khalifa, the movers and pushers of the project as well as the technological challenges faced in designing and producing such a behemoth of a structure never built before.

As said, the main building itself was completed within 3 years of construction, with it’s ground breaking on the 21th of September 2004- A remarkable feat for a building that tall with technology we have today. In comparison, even the 5 floored Kings Chapel at my University in the United Kingdom took 20 years to complete in the 1446.

Ooo fountains
The front facade
Digging the view with the palms in the background
and fountains
You will be greeted by a glowing Burj Khalifa model at the entrance
entrance to the tower

Upon entry to the welcome area, you will be greeted by a glass model of the the Burj Khalifa, all deck out in glowly white with facts and figures lined all round it. You will go through a series of friendly security checks and screenings before being led through more series of travelator and escalators with animated sideshows along the walkways.

So many zeros!
Large numbers!
we were treated to an animated travelator showcase
animated travelator showcase
Mmm twitlight...
Mmm twilight

There is a mix of audio and visual displays which carries on the length of the walkway and tunnel which brings you from the mall into the Burj Khalifa grounds itself. You will even come to a point with a skylight where you get to physically look up to the tower with a cross-hair targeted and pointing to the exact location of the observation deck on the building’s 124th floor. Thereafter various elaborate wall-projected text and flowery murals follows, as shown via high powered projectors, proceeding on with more of the building’s proud story, which in my opinion is cool, but don’t we already read all these on Wikipedia?

The Burj Khalifa is a very proud center piece
Showcasing the achievement
Not only for the UAE but to the world as well
World domination!
We will be heading up there!
Our observation deck

So as the story of the building told, it’s amazing what you can do with oil money, and it’s definitely not conceived on a typically good day where you just wake up with the feeling to just get the world’s tallest building built in your backyard using the few billions of loose change you have lying around the house.

Rather, the project underwent through a whole series of careful planning from various engineering perspectives given the challenges faced by the strong desert environments, such as the heat, sand storms and gale force winds at height. The project also saw the union of various specialists in the construction industry all over the world coming together. The tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer.

The showcase is very well thought through and themed for an observation ride, even the elevator ride is an attraction by itself, all decked out with booming music to your ascend with animated LED lit walls. Have a go on the world’s fastest elevator transverse vertically at speeds up to 4 floors a second courtesy of lift maker Otis.

Going up the Burj Khalifa on the world’s fastest elevator:

There is no time limit to the duration you can spend up on the observation deck, in fact the place is so spacious and conducive, you could even spend the whole day up there if that didn’t bore you. One of the main reasons for going up at 6pm just like all observation decks I do around the world is that you can check out both the day and night views of the city for the price of a single trip. Also, what can be cooler than observing the city slowing transforming and lit into a sea of gold. Dubai is no exception either.

Behold the fastest elevators in the world!
fastest elevators in the world
And we are at the top!
At the top!
The Arabian Gulf in the distance
Arabian Gulf in the distance

It’s from here where you can really appreciate the sheer height of the Burj Khalifa. Dubai is not known for their skyscrapers, and is a relatively new dog in the global skyscraper race in comparison particularly to the numbers we see in New York City, but for the city to jump from near zero to the world’s tallest is a huge undertaking, let be having the bragging rights to being the tallest (for now). There are literally no surrounding buildings even close to the height of the Khalifa, even tall buildings back on the ground look just like toys from the observation deck.

Panoramic View of the city of Dubai from just after sunset:

sc burj khalifa day

The observation deck spots ceiling-to-floor tempered glass windows and outdoor balcony viewing areas, all areas of the observation deck are all covered by barricaded glass walls with no ability for them to be opened. It is the outdoor areas of the observation deck where you can get a good look up towards the spire of the building, it’s just another mere 30 floors up to the top of the tower.

The gold glow of the city of Dubai at night note the golden expressways leading out into the horizon and Sheikh Zayed Road:

sc burj khalifa night

Just before 7pm, can just grasp the view of the setting sun over the horizon flanked by the Persian gulf. It’s then where the great city starts it’s slow transformation into a sea of night lights. The skyline view of the city of Dubai looks incredibly different in the night. It is from the decks too where you can catch and overhead view of the performing Dubai fountain every half and hour or so. You can just make out the blasts of water jets and the choreographed lights which fires up to 16 times a day during the mall opening hours.

Catching the sunlight from over 120 floors up
sunlight 120 floors up
Which are like DEATH  RAYS!
DEATH RAY GUNS!
besides leading you to the open air viewing decks too
open air viewing decks

Lined around the deck are rather interesting telescope thingies which I would like to call the death ray guns. These are optical argumented telescopes which overlays a heads up display on an LCD screen, so whenever you move the telescope around it shows you the names of the various attractions and landmarks around your telescope’s field of vision via a heads up display, each ray gun is unique with their own areas of interests. It’s not free though.

30 more floors to the pinacle I reckon
30 more floors to the pinnacle?
With an overhead view of the performing Dubai Fountain
the performing Dubai Fountain
The iconic golden Sheikh Zayed road
iconic golden Sheikh Zayed road

Up on the upper decks lives the attraction giftshop, offering a variety of Burj Khalifa themed merchandise you can take home or keep for your bragging rights up the world’s tallest building. Undecided on making a purchase up there only to regret not later? they saw that coming- there is an even bigger store back down on the ground floor with more goods of the trade.

You can ever see the golden highways snaking into the distance
golden highways into the distance
The Burj Khalifa gift shop at the end of our visit
Burj Khalifa gift shop
The Khalifa lit at night
Khalifa lit at night

From the outside, the tower is all decked out lit like a modern sliver spire with aviation warning lights flashing at every 30 floors all so, a sight to behold rising over the surrounding desert. In all, the Burj Khalifa itself is a huge achievement in terms of engineering what is technically not even possible decades ago, it is a show of human excellence in pushing the boundaries of today and tomorrow. However, the building is more or less just a trophy and somewhat doesn’t really live up from a practical point of view, let be sustainable. With Dubai mired in debt from this huge ambition during it’s construction, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Therefore, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed from Burj Dubai to the Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support.

Having said that, the building is fast turning into a white elephant, with 823 of the 900 residential apartments still empty as of this point of writing. Nonetheless, till then the Burj Khalifa will still be a record breaker and still a sight to behold itself, despite the next tallest building in the world (Kingdom Tower) planned underway for construction at the nearby Saudi Arabia.

That’s all for the high life for now. Next up, sights in Dubai of the more historical kind!

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