Size Matters: The Burj Khalifa
If you are like me, and a large population of Australians, you are intrigued by, and often duped into making detours in order to view “The world’s largest can opener”, or “The longest dreadlock.” While hopping around Australia last Spring I was taken by how many signs I saw for “Broken Hill’s Big Bench” Or The Big Yabby.” I was equally surprised by how many times I stopped and even paid money to view these one-of-a-kind anomalies. When I found out that I was moving to the home of the world’s tallest building, I was thrilled to add another “tallest…” to my list.
A visit to the 127th floor of the Burj Khalifa requires a reservation, made easily in person at the Dubai Mall entrance or for a fraction of the cost, on their secure website. We opted for a an evening visit in order to see the city lit up after the sun went down. I would recommend experiencing the fountain show from both ground level and from the 127th floor. The shows run from 6-11pm weekends, starting every thirty minutes, but make sure to cover your camera and tighten your shala because the spray reaches far into the audience.
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa has been surrounded by controversy since its construction began in 2004. Completed in six years, the building is said to have taken 22 million man-hours, from men who later reported cases of exploitation in the form of low wages and poor living conditions while completing the project. While the total cost of construction reached 1.5 Billion USD, the cost of neglected social responsibility and misery for workers was much greater. It is estimated that laborers, primarily from South Asia, earned as little as $2 USD per day and were forced to continue working as employers confiscated passports. These men often worked 14 hours a day and there are reports of shortages in water and safety eqipment. In 2004 and again in 2006 workers attempted strikes in protest of their unfair labor laws, but were further opressed by police forces. By 2007, 4,000 workers were imprisoned and then deported for participating in protests. Standing in stark contrast to the conditions laborers faced during its construction, the Burj Khalifa is a reminder of the cost of such rapid growth.
Descending the tallest building in the world I heard that little “tick” you make when you have checked another “biggest”, “tallest”, or “oldest” off your travel list. A trip to the Burj Khalifa is not however your run of the mill roadside attraction. With over 28,000 glass panels this impressive sky scraper towers above the innovative city that is Dubai, reminding us that in the United Arab Emirates, the sky may not be the limit.