From “At the Top,” the name given to the observatory on the Burj Dubai, you can see the faint outline of the Middle East’s pariah-state Iran on the other side of the Persian Gulf. But at the media opening of the skydeck close to the top of the world’s tallest skyscraper Monday, you could just make out the undeveloped islands that make up the offshore Dubai World project that is synonymous with the sheikdom’s collapsing real estate industry.
After taking the brief ride to the 124th floor in one of the smoothest elevators I’ve ever travelled in, visitors are met with a bird’s eye view of the sprawling city - patches of desert, skyscrapers that appear tiny from such a height, unfinished buildings, the city’s Sheik Zayed road and interchanges - and perhaps the most impressive view of all - the Burj’s own shadow stretching out to the sea. “It’s like a huge sundial,” I heard one reporter say.
Even though you’re almost 2600 feet in the air, it surprisingly doesn’t feel that high. Despite my own fear of heights, I felt more grounded than I have done on other vertical tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building. Perhaps the dirty windows helped. I was told that they had been cleaned just days before but that given their height they are prone to attracting dirt. I was also told that it takes six months to clean the towers windows from top to bottom so I couldn’t complain too much.
Inside the skydeck, there isn’t much to see. There is the obligatory souvenir shop and some trick viewing binoculars which allow you to see the view by day or by night, or in a live shot, but little else. Some information on what you can actually see from the viewing platform may be welcomed by the untrained eye, but like most things in Dubai, I put the lack of information down to the fact that the building is being opened when it’s not 100% complete.