Tuesday, December 27, 2011

At The Top: Burj Khalifa

“Get Ready to Enter the Record Books,” the ticket says.

The spire is the white dot at the top
There are three ways to gain admission to the elevator ride up to the Burj Khalifa observation platform which, let’s clear this up right now, is NOT at the very tippy-top of the building. The tip is the spire. The height of the entire structure is 828 meters (2,716.5 feet) which makes it the tallest building in the world, but maybe only for now. The Saudis plan to eclipse the Burj Khalifa with their own building which will measure in at over 1000 meters. The exact height is secret.

You don’t need a reservation to go up. You can purchase tickets at the ticket counter, but you’re taking a chance on waiting in line for a long time. Or you can pay 400AED per person for an immediate entry ticket, only available at the ticket counter. Or you can do what we did, which is purchase tickets for a designated date and time online for 100 AED which is $27 US. When I booked our tickets, just within the required 24-hour advance time period, the only tickets left were in the evening, after dark. Oh well, I booked them for 8:00 p.m. That would give us plenty of time to get there after Mark got off work.

We drove to Dubai in the daylight so that Peter could see the architecture he missed on the way home from the airport. On the outskirts of town Mark pointed out an industrial “free zone,” where the UAE allows 100% foreign ownership of businesses with no taxes.

Next we passed the Dubai Marina area, where dozens of residential glass towers are clustered around looking down upon a maze of manmade inlets and little islands. This is where one of the most eye catching buildings is still going up, the Infinity Tower, which twists more than 90 degrees. You can see a video I shot of it on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05N5EOvgi1g&feature=g-upl&context=G2a7136cAUAAAAAAAAAA
We passed by more industrial areas and though downtown Dubai, where the Dubai Mall and the Burj are located, headed for Dubai Creek where we would burn what daylight remained until our appointment to go up.
You can ride one of these little charmers across the creek
for one dirham, about 37 cents.
Dubai Creek is an ancient waterway and the site of the earliest settlement in Dubai in the 19th century. We walked along the waterfront toward the mouth and the Arabian Gulf, admiring the dhows converted into floating restaurants. They must have been booked, because we weren’t subjected to a single solicitation.

Meanwhile, little wooden boats called abras were ferrying people over to our side of the creek. Most of the people weren’t tourists; they were workers, and the boats were loaded. There was a strong outbound current running, and we watched the calm maneuvering of the drivers while the passengers silently waited to disembark.

He was such a good salesman
We wandered into the narrow, colorful passageways of the textile souk, where Mark was suddenly accosted by a young man. Before any of us knew what happened, he had stolen Mark’s glasses right off of his face and hidden them in his pocket!

Next he produced a ghutrah, also known as a keffiyeh, and deftly wound it around Mark’s head while Peter and I watched. Looks good, yes, he needs to buy, yes! No, no, Mark said, not me, but my wife might want to buy something. Come, come into my shop and I will show you many beautiful things.

I tried on some shoes
So we let him show us his pashminas, which are cashmere shawls, and woven table coverings and cushion covers. What a technique, and what a salesman. I bought a simple pashmina with a paisley border, an embroidered table runner, and a cushion cover with a camel on it, for Dana and Deb’s Christmas gift. I bargained him down from 560 AED to 400. I’m learning.

Fast cars are a tourist attraction
Peter picked out a nice Rolls.
Finally it was time to get moving toward the Burj Khalifa. After some discussion about where to park, Mark prevailed and parked in our “usual” parking area, near the Dubai Mall main entrance where the valet parking is. His stated reason was that he would remember where we had parked, but I suspect he also wanted Peter – and himself – to see the pricy cars rolling up.

Meanwhile, I decided I had enough time to run into the mall and use the restroom before heading over to the building. I didn’t see a restroom sign on the main floor but I found an elevator with a restroom sign pointing up and down, so I took the elevator down, where I found myself in the food court. I hurried around and on my way back something bright white caught the corner of my eye.

The model caught my eye
It was a model of the Burj Khalifa. I took a few more steps and then looked back. I saw a ticket booth. People were lining up in front of a door. I went over to a girl in a uniform.

 “I have tickets. Is this where we go up?” Yes.

Then it dawned on me. I had forgotten to find out where the entrance was! Mark and I had assumed that we would somehow find it at the base of the building. That huge building! Through sheer, dumb, blind, completely clueless luck I had stumbled upon it, and with no time to spare. I hurried back up to the entrance and said to the guys, “We have to go down. I found it.” Their mouths about fell to the floor; for once, even Peter was speechless.

There was a lot to see on the way up
The journey to the top and back down are as much a part of the experience as being at the top. First you go up an escalator and through a security checkpoint. When Peter saw that he started to squawk and I was a little worried, but he quieted down.

Next you board a “travelator” where you view a moving pictorial of Dubai’s history. You stop at a point where you can look up at the outside of the building, and then a high-speed elevator takes you up. I was worried that the elevator would be glass, but now I realize that I’m not the only one who would be completely terrified by that – there is no way they could send people up where they could see. As it was, I barely felt anything going up or down and I am very sensitive to motion. The floor numbers sped by, and the only thing that told us we were moving up were our ears, popping.

At the Top facing east

We emerged from the elevator to the magical view of Dubai at night. One side of the building is an outdoor observation deck, with glass panels that have gaps so you can shove your face, your hand, or your camera through. We stayed up there quite a while, and watched the water show from above.
The water show looked tiny from above, but it's amazing

On the way out, you can read all about the project, see models of structural elements, and view photos of construction and the project team.

It was a completely worthwhile experience and next month, when we’re in Dubai for the big shopping festival, I want to go up during the daytime. I should probably book now.

Does RYC have the world's highest burghee?

No comments: