Sunday, December 12, 2010

At The Top - The World's Tallest Tower

At 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa is currently the world's tallest tower - how soon it will be surpassed remains to be seen. On the 124th floor they have created an observation deck so that visitors can see Dubai from a previously impossible perspective. Although Simon's mum is not keen on heights, she felt that she shouldn't miss the opportunity to experience this new Dubai icon. Book online through the Burj's website and a ticket will only cost you Dhs 100 (Dhs 75 for children) but buy it on the day at the ticketing office and you will pay four times the price - a steep (no pun intended) Dhs 400. The only problem with booking online is that you can book 48 hours to 30 days ahead - not on the day you want to go up. With Dubai's notorious dusty, hazy days this means that you could find minimal visibility on the day you've booked for - and I believe that tickets are non-refundable. Luckily on our visit there wasn't too much haze in the sky.

Access to At The Top is through Dubai Mall, with a 65 metre travelator (flat escalator) transporting you through a tunnel from one building to the other. Very futuristic. We found the whole process very well-organised and smooth since each half hour time slot has a fixed number of tickets available and this avoids any huge queues or over-crowding. The only time we had to queue was for the lifts but even then a video of the construction of the Burj is shown to keep you distracted. You would expect that a lift ride up 124 floors would take at least 5 minutes but the Burj has unbelievably fast lifts that get you up there in just 60 seconds! I was worried I'd feel a bit sick going so fast, like one of those fairground rides that shoot you up at high speed, but I felt nothing at all except my ears pop at about 30 floors. I did feel very sorry for the lift attendants who have to spend the entire day inside that black box shooting up and down with group after group of visitors - the ones we had were very cheerful though so maybe they rotate positions with other 'ground staff'.

The two most striking things when you look at Dubai from up high (even from the 50th floor of Emirates Towers) is the amount of empty space and the barrenness. With so much spare land, why have all these destructive artificial palms and islands been created? Very sad. Driving around gives you the impression that Dubai is really green but put that into perspective from the sky and you see that Dubai is brown, brown, brown. On a clear day you can apparently see up to 95km but we could just about see to the Burj Al Arab Hotel which is no more than 30km away (I think). It seems that going up to watch the sunset is very popular, but as the sun sets in the direction of Burj Al Arab then this does make taking photos a bit tricky. The main observation floor is enclosed but there is an outside balcony - the sides are enclosed with glass so there's no chance of falling over! I liked the fact that the glass wall around the balcony had gaps in the glass so that you could take photos without any reflections although Simon did question the safety if someone accidently dropped something wouldn't want anything landing on your head that had just fallen 124 floors!

I would certainly recommend At The Top to anyone who hasn't been up before. Maybe in 5 years I'll go up again to take photos and compare the changes but I wouldn't go again in the short term since it's really a case of 'been there, seen that'. There is a small gift shop on the observation floor and a much bigger one downstairs as you leave but I wanted to get a fridge magnet, which is unfortunately not something they are selling yet - a tacky gold bag I could have easily got, but not a simple magnet.


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