Dubai loves to break world records, with the Burj Khalifa currently the highest building in the world. A visit to the tower’s observation deck will also reveal the highest number of selfie-sticks seen at a tourist attraction and a few more record breakers besides.
At a neck-cricking 828 metres high, the Burj Khalifa unsurprisingly dominates Dubai and looks pretty gorgeous from the outside, whether gleaming in the sunshine by day or lighting the sky up at night. After admiring it from afar and close up on our first day, it was time to take in the view from the observation deck, confusingly and incorrectly called At The Top (In The Middle would be more accurate).
It was initially called Burj Dubai (‘burj’ means tower in Arabic), but was renamed in honour of Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheikh Khalifa, who paid Dubai’s massive debts off. There’s not a lot in the tower itself – an Armani Hotel, a few luxury apartments and corporate suites and the observation areas. You can’t help thinking Dubai wanted to have the world’s highest building just for the sake of it.
It’s recommended to book in advance as viewing slots sell out, so we’d paid for our 4pm tickets (125 dirhams each; about £23) on-line at www.burjkhalifa.ae. We collected our pre-booked tickets, and queued for a good half an hour before reaching an elevator at the foot of the tower. This was a pretty special ride, and our ears popped a few times as we ascended to the 124th floor in just over a minute. Images of buildings like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building and Taipei 101 were projected onto the lift’s walls to let us know when we’d passed them.
The plan was to see Dubai from up in the Gods, get our bearings and stay for the sunset, but we didn’t count on the number of people thinking the same thing. They let far too many people in, and every inch of glass window was taken up with people holding their selfie-sticks aloft. It didn’t make for a very comfortable experience, but we managed to get our own spot eventually to gaze down at hotels, roads and beaches. We could make out the man-made Palm, the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel and the skycrapers of Dubai Marina miles away – so far away, I thought it was one of the other six Emirates in the United Arab Emirates.
As the sun began to set, we saw the huge shadows of the Burj Khalifa and the other skyscrapers of the Downtown area, and the records (official and less-so) racked up.
- Near the Creek we could see the world’s largest United Arab Emirates flag.
- Directly below us was the Dubai Mall (the world’s biggest shopping centre), and Burj Khalifa Lake, a man-made lake with the world’s most turquoise water.
- We could also make out traffic on the 14-lane Sheikh Zayed Highway, possibly the world’s most congested road.
- We were told this was the building with the most floors, at 163.
- Another record the tower is not too keen to publicise is that it is the world’s fartiest attraction. Maybe it’s something to do with the elevator ride (the world’s longest in terms of distance) but I lost count of how many times I had to say to Kat “that wasn’t me”.
We were going to stay until dark, and enjoy the full sunset experience but it was too busy (and smelly). Anyway, we’d done what we’d come for – taken some selfies and entered the record books.
Back at ground-level I had a record breaking pizza at Eataly in the Dubai Mall (winner of the coveted best pizza in U.A.E award), before witnessing one of the highlights of our stay in Dubai.
The excellent Dubai Fountain is a choreographed fountain show that takes place in Burj Khalifa Lake every 30 minutes from 6pm until late. It’s free to watch, so gets absolutely heaving as water shoots and dances over 150m high in time to stirring music. Each performance is different so it’s worth watching more than once – apologies for my dodgy video of it, below.
Strangely for Dubai, the fountain is not the highest in the world. That honour goes to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah also has plans for the world’s highest building – The Kingdom Tower – at a crazy height of 1km.
We enjoyed our experience of At The Top, even if we did feel a bit cheated at not actually being anywhere near the top. The problem with these observation towers is that you get a great view, but you don’t get a view of the tower itself. It’s much better from below, so get yourself to Dubai and see the Burj Khalifa while it is still a record breaker.