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Places to See in Dubai

Burj Khalifa

Admiring the world from its very pinnacle. Awaited as the greatest challenge that modern architecture and engineering could face, the Burj Khalifa opened its doors to the world on 4 January 2010

Burj Khalifa | © Daniel Cheong

Since 21 September 2004, when the first stone of the Burj Khalifa was put in place, many people all over the world doubted that such a construction, at the limits of science fiction and also somewhat disquieting on account of its almost “superhuman” dimensions, could really be concluded. In effect, in comparison to the Taipeh 101 in Taiwan, which until the end of 2009 was officially the tallest building in the world, the difference is in excess of 300 m.

This is “growth” of sufficient extent to inspire a certain perplexity at the very least. As the work proceeded, the pessimist “faction” was frequently reinforced in its thinking on account of the numerous delays regarding the date of inauguration, due to technical reasons but also to the global recession, which affected Dubai to a greater extent than had been foreseen, yet from which it is gradually recovering, thanks not just to support from its fellow Emirate Abu Dhabi but also to the remarkable attractive capacity of the icons of Dubai, from the Burj Al Arab to Atlantis, from the archipelagoes of Palm Jumeirah, Palm Deira and Palm Jebel Ali to The World, from Ski Dubai to Dubai Waterfront, from Dubai Internet City to Dubai Media City, and the many other places, unique in the world, which enjoy infrastructures and high quality prestigious services (making this a luxurious destination able to guarantee the highest levels of comfort) and, from now onwards, the highest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, with a height of 828 m, which is ten more than what was known of up to the eve of its inauguration.

Constructed by Emaar Properties PJSC, a public limited company with headquarters in Dubai, the work consists of 160 floors, 57 lifts, most of which are in function from the ground floor of The Dubai Mall with its 3,000 car capacity garage. Among the comfort oriented services offered by At The Top, which is a magical series of covered terraces (defined as “panoramic platforms”) on the 124th floor, from which one can enjoy a dazzling view of Dubai, literally from the sky, there is a number of boutiques – where, apart from refined international name-brand items, there is also an endless number of articles of merchandising available related to the Burj – several restaurants of differing gastronomic varieties enjoying a more than exclusive view of Dubai from the heavens, and, as has already been mentioned, a range of panoramic terraces.  

If he who begins in the right fashion has already got half the job done, then the Burj is really on the right footing, since it now houses the world’s first Armani Hotel (its official opening took place on 18 March 2010), and also wellbeing and thermal spa centres (among which there is the prestigious The Club), indoor and outdoor swimming pools, shopping malls, entertainment centres, congress and meetings rooms, numerous floors devoted to luxurious office space, a library, a club for cigar connoisseurs, the Burj Khalifa Gourmet Market (world gastronomy in a luxurious market) and, in the upper part, The Residences at Burj Khalifa, with exclusive apartments of varying dimensions, in which one can either stay as a guest on the most precious of holidays, or opt for purchase and enjoy them with no time limit.

A further important service offered everywhere in the Burj Khalifa is wideband internet coverage both for notebook and netbook, desktop computers and mobiles, blackberry and iPhones, guaranteed by Etisalat, the leading Emirates telecommunications company, at the highest speed available on the market today. During the fast trip by lift to the top, visitors can also enjoy a pleasant form of entertainment: a multimedia presentation of the history of Dubai, rich in digitalized old photographs which illustrate the amazing transformation this city has shown itself capable of undertaking, from a simple village of fishermen and pearl fishers close by the desert to an ultramodern metropolis, which is increasingly oriented towards environmental sustainability and high living standards in full respect of the ecosystem. 

There is also no lack of contemporary videos and complete illustrations of the marvels of Burj Khalifa, which render the ascent to At The Top highly pleasurable, preparing the mind and the senses for an experience which will be unforgettable. In effect, the term “tower” immediately emerges as being reductive, given that on the inside of what has also and  not by chance been nicknamed Vertical City an out and out city has its being. It is a good idea to prepare oneself adequately for the Burj Khalifa - At The Top experience, considering that already the view from below is breathtaking, giving advance notice of the further dazzling effect one can feel in the opposite direction, that is, from the top downwards. Here we are not talking about the “obvious” dizziness (which makes it unadvisable only for those who suffer from vertigo) but rather a strong emotion, a dizzying involvement which takes over the body and the mind, enveloping them in an almost unreal dimension. Therefore a gradual approach is a good idea, which permits the sight  above all and then the other senses to “enter” harmoniously and gradually into a not to be missed experience which has a powerful impact.   

The park surrounding the Burj Khalifa (a pedestrian precinct in its entirety) is composed of 11 hectares of green spaces, a lake and water features high up in the air (thanks to the majestic Dubai Fountain, formed by a good six fountains to a total width of 275 m. and a length of 150 m.). It surrounds the structure in a worthy manner, offering an ideal and highly evocative environment, thanks also to its spectacular gardens, its terraces overlooking the water, its cafes and restaurants, all with panoramic terraces, the occasions it offers for shopping and the  play areas devoted to children.

The official inauguration, beginning at 20.00 hrs on 4 January, 2010, took place under the sponsorship and in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad ben Rached Al-Maktoum, sovereign of Dubai and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister and Legislator of Dubai (who included the official opening date for the Burj Khalifa in the celebrations of the 4th anniversary of his investiture, which had already begun on 3 January) together with numerous high officials of the Confederation. In honour of the Emirate of Dubai and as a mark of gratitude for the recent and decisive financial support received, the sovereign of Dubai declared that the Tower will no longer carry the name of Burj Dubai, but will rather be officially the Burj Khalifa, thus dedicating it to the sovereign of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa ben Zayed Al-Nahyane. The ceremony closed with a “dancing” waters show, with bands of multicolored light reaching, in rhythm with the music, the distant points of the Bur Dubai, the district which houses the Tower, and lastly fireworks of unprecedented brilliance sealed the close of an evening which will find ample space in the annals dedicated to the history of the Emirates.

Completely devoid of architectural barriers, the Burj Khalifa can be visited every day, preferably by booking beforehand at its official ticket desk & entrance inside the Dubai Mall. Rules of behaviour to be respected inside it – which are well in evidence both on the Burj official website and its publications, and in situ – are solely based on considerations of security as well as being aimed at guaranteeing maximum comfort and pleasure from the experience. Tickets from around € 19.00 (AED 100) for adults and around € 14.00 (AED 75) for children up to 12 years.

Photograph provided courtesy of Daniel Cheong