Getting high in Dubai
21 October 2010

Saturday 25 September proved interesting with my one bit of sightseeing taking us to the tallest building in the world. I am sure everyone has heard of the Burj Kalifa (formerly Burj Dubai). At 828 meters (2,717 feet) it is the tallest man-made structure ever built. It cost $1.5 billion and was opened in January this year.

this was taken from the car on the approach road. I couldn’t fit it all into the picture

Dubai Downtown, a $4 billion development

It was a true international project with the architecture/engineering being devised by a company from Chicago and the primary construction being done by a South Korean company.

The glass covered needle point tower is a very impressive combination of hotel, business offices and accomodations, dominating Dubai Downtown and is the central feature of a $4 billion development. When I read about hotels costing hundreds of millions to build I can never figure out how they manage to recoup the money. Somebody has to be making something somewhere. What could we do with that kind of money in Mayapur?

Of course, even Dubai was hit  by the recent world recession and ran out of funds. They had to be bailed out by Abu Dhabi. That’s why it was renamed Burj Kalifa, after the current president of the UAE, Emir Kalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Anyway, its open and its fantastic. Atul Krsna, Naru-gopal and myself went with one of the local devotees. You have to pay to go up but if you book in advance it costs 75% less. Our tickets were $25 each. We got there on time at 5.30PM and wasted no time in going up.

I was surprised to find that out of 57 elevators in the building, only two are dedicated to sight-seeing visitors. ‘Only two’ though doesn’t do justice.

They are possibly the fastest elevators in the world. You can’t go up to the top floors, but the observation level is still plenty high at 452 m. (1,483 ft.). The elevators zip you up to the 124th floor in just under one minute. At their fastest they seem to do about 3-4 floors per second. Top speed is 64 kms/hr. My ears were actually popping, something like going up in an airplane for the first time.

The viewing deck itself was enclosed on one half of the building and open air on the other. I was surprised at how narrow the deck was in some places. A guide (most of who seemed to be Filipino girls) told us that an average of 3000 people per day go up (that’s about $75,000 per day just for the sightseers-probably just covers the electric bill!)

We had a good view all around, although Dubai seems to suffer the same problems of air pollution of many of the other big cities of the world. Looking up from the ob. deck at the rest of the building was like looking up at a skyscraper from the ground.

I thought that 5.30PM was going to be too late for us to see anything interesting but it is actually the best time to go. You get half an hour of day light, see the sun going down, and then see everything again all lit up for the night.

The most spectacular sight though was the Dubai Fountains. Looking down on the Dubai Mall there is a large man made lake with a pattern of water nozzles running most  of its length. When evening sets in they turn on the fountain and accompanying lights and it goes through a brilliantly thought out display to music.

I don’t think I have seen a more impressive fountain anywhere in the world (and more expensive – $217 million!). The 6,600 lights and nozzles came on in fast sequence, giving the impression of a train racing 275 meters from one end of the water park to the other, rushing round in circles and back and forth for 10 mins.

After we descended we took the opportunity to see it again from ground level, and it was even more impressive. The water shoots up and out from the nozzles in elegant streams, waving from side to side, up and down, cutting graceful arcs in the sky, like a fluid ballet. Water shoots 150 meters in the air to classical and Arab music. Must buy one for Mayapur – anyone got a spare couple hundred million?

Some good displays lined the exit areas providing information about the construction, such as this presentation about the scale model wind tunnel testing

and an illuminated wall panel showing all the principle figures involved in the project

That was all we had time for since Atul Krsna had to get back to teach his Bhakti Shastri course.

Reflections on the experience? After half an hour up in the air it was boring. This is yet another material high that you have to come back down from. But Krsna consciousness means ‘stay high forever.’

I had one last program on Sunday evening, and then I bid adieu to Dubai the following day. It was a wonderful Middle East tour and I am looking forward to visiting again in the near future.

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