ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Moses Akaigwe at the obsvervation desk of Burj Khalifa with South African motoring journalists – Les Stephenson, Editor, Wheels24, and Calvin Fisher
Aside from the generous tax regime which attracts huge commercial interests from different parts of the world, the vast investment opportunities brought about by a vibrant financial services industry and the lure of oil business, one other factor that makes Dubai tick has to do with its attractive skylines.
From whatever end you look and on whatever street you are, you are likely to be awed by clusters of tall skyscrapers standing like stalagmites formed in very irregular shapes, but commanding deep admiration from all, especially sightseers and first-time visitors, who are usually thrilled by their sheer aesthetic splendour.
They are not just tall buildings, but masterfully designed and well maintained modern structures that pay tribute to the architectural ingenuity of the people of the United Arab Emirates; a union which also includes Abu Dhabi, another beautiful place to be.
Some of the structures are so tall and taper thinly towards the sky that you wonder how they have been able to withstand natural elements like heavy wind all these years. And curiously, how did modern building technology manage to achieve the tasks of erecting the structures, considering that there is hardly enough space between some of the properties.
Though standing alone like an island, one of such architectural masterpieces is the popular Burj Al Arab; a hotel that not only conjures the imagery of a sailing ship, but is literarily standing on water. It is regarded as one of the most expensive hotels in the whole of the Middle East.
Said to have been inspired by seafaring tradition, Burj Al Arab towers over the shifting sands and sea of the Arabian Gulf. Its sail-like form is about 321m above a man-made island.
But though a lot of structure, places of interest and tour destinations compete for sightseers' attention in Dubai, none compares with the Burj Khalifa – simply the most popular tourist destination in Dubai and globally acclaimed tallest man-made structure ever built on the surface of the earth.
The 828-metre (2,716.5 feet) iconic tower boasts some mind-boggling facts, including housing no fewer than 160 floors, 57 elevators, eight escalators and more than 26,000 glass panels. Now this: the total weight of concrete used in building the structure is equivalent to 100, 000 huge elephants, while the curtain wall area alone is equivalent to 17 football fields.
Burj Khalifa's other world records include, but not limited to: tallest free-standing structure in the world; highest number of storeys in the world; highest occupied floors; highest outdoor observation deck; and elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
Daly Sun was able to gather at the lower ground level that Burj Khalifa also holds the record of the longest single-run elevator as well that of the fastest at 10 meters a second. It takes less than 60 seconds to get to the top from the ground floor. Just as a trip to Dubai is incomplete without a visit to the world's tallest structure, sightseeing within the complex hasn't reached a climax if one is yet to get to 'At The Top' – which is the highpoint of any Khalifa experience. It is here on 124th floor that the observation desk is located.
Every 'journey' to the top of the edifice begins in the lower ground level where The Dubai Mall and the ticket office are located. Here, most of the internationally renowned designers and big names in perfumery are represented with their banners announcing their presence as you approach the complex. Foremost is Giorgio Armani with a big shop and an exquisite hotel (the only one owned by a notable name in the fashion/style industry).
It was here at the ticket office which, it was learnt bustles with activities for as long as the Khalifa is open, that fate played an amazing role in the issuance of a ticket to The Sun reporter who was among about 20 visitors who toured the tower as a group. The team included motoring journalists and officials of both GM South Africa and Middle East that witnessed the unveiling of the all-new Chevrolet Trailblazer at the 2011 Dubai International Motor Show the previous day.
With everyone now clutching a ticket as the visitors waited to go into the elvator, it occurred to the South Africa-based Denise van Huyssteen, Communications Manager, GM Sub-Saharan Africa, that there was something special about the date and time of the purchase of tickets, which apparently nobody else was unmindful of, or did not remember atall. She caused a little bit of an exciting stir when upon a random check, she discovered that The Sun man from Nigeria had the lady-luck of being issued his ticket at 11:11 11/11/2011 (meaning that the ticket was issued at exactly 11 minutes and 11 seconds past 11 AM on November 11, 2011).
With no psychic or expert in astrology on hand to interpret the 'never before, never after' development, one could not but savour the attention the magic figures were attracting from the other visitors, some of whom even made an offer for a swap of tickets. And in order not to take anything for granted and regret later, the reporter quickly remembered his faith and instantly 'rejected' any bad omen this might portend, and went on to 'claim' all the possible inherent blessings, after all the journey about to be embarked on was for an upliftment to the highest point on earth which is everybody's prayer.
However, there were hints that Burj Khalifa's towering records may not endure for many more years to come, because, according to a source, there is an on-going project in Saudi Arabia which is targeted at reaching extra heights and occupying the space in the Guinness Book of Records presently reserved for the Dubai icon.
The excitement of 'At The Top' experience lingered till heightened by an equally enthralling adventure to the desert where a convoy of Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs showed what top quality on/off road luxury vehicles can do when challenged on a difficult terrain like sand dune. Waiting in the middle of nowhere was a falconer, his falcon and their repertoire of antics. And later that night, a dinner with an Arabian belly-dancer on duty, brought to an end what was clearly a memorable day.