It’s a perfect centerpiece for an extravagant city. Dubai’s glistening Burj Khalifa pierces confidently 820 meters into the sky. But its imposing exterior is misleading. The financial crisis has actually left many of its rooms empty.
My time in Dubai is dominated by claims to the world’s biggest or best. Its most powerful symbol is the 240-story Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, that featured in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise doing his own stunts high on the exterior. The needle-like structure makes it seem even higher than its 830m (2,725ft) and the cost was equally sky-high: $1.5 billion.
The tower is the centerpiece of Downtown Dubai, a $20 billion development that also holds Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall by total area, and the $218 million Dubai Fountain which shoots water 50 stories high in the center of a massive manmade lake. It’s all equally extravagant.
In 2010, the world was left surprised when Dubai suddenly changed the name of the tower from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa – after UAE president Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. When revealing the new nameplate for the building, UAE vice-president said they chose the name because this was a building for people with “strong will and determination”, implying the president wasn’t shy of both qualities. Not a bad thing if the world’s largest tower has your name on it.
Shining and monumental on the outside, the inside of the Burj Khalifa tells a different story. The 2008 financial crisis left many of the apartments empty and, although they have started to fill, the many vacant office spaces in the tower tell their own tale of over-ambition.
The sky is the limit in Dubai – especially when it comes to hotels. Fancy some splendor? Check out this gem!