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The Burj Khalifa: A Vertical Half-Mile of Elegance and Grace

The Burj Khalifa: A Vertical Half-Mile of Elegance and Grace

Is Burj Khalifa as stunning as they say? Well, there is only one way to be sure – taking a flight to see this structural marvel. But before you do, here is a comprehensive overview of the world’s tallest building.

The Burj Khalifa: A Vertical Half-Mile of Elegance and Grace

Soaring into the desert skies over Dubai, the Burj Khalifa is a collection of firsts. On the day it opened in 2010, it was the tallest free-standing, man-made structure in the world — 2,716.5 feet and 160 stories tall.

It was also home to the highest residences in the world (on the 140th floor), the highest outdoor observation deck in the world (124th floor), the longest-distance elevator trip in the world (the main elevator at 1,654 feet straight up), and the world’s first Armani hotel.

Beyond all those firsts, however, it’s a marvel of sculptural architecture and innovative engineering that even its designers weren’t sure would succeed.

To create this massive structure, the design and engineering teams had to overcome these two grave issues;

  • The technical problems created by the building’s tremendous height,
  • The logistical issues from its proximity to a major fault line and from the famously violent winds that swirl around and through Dubai

As such, the journey for the construction of the world’s tallest building wasn’t all rosy and assuring. Nevertheless, these hurdles didn’t stop Dubai from becoming home to the Burj Khalifa.

So, besides being the world’s tallest building, what other features make Burj Khalifa so unique? Let’s find out:

Burj Khalifa Facts

While nothing is a secret about the construction of Burj Khalifa tower, I’m sure there are so many things you might want to know about the building.

For instance, who came up with the idea? How long did it take to construct the tower? Was it a success or a total failure?

Check out these amazing facts about the world’s tallest building!

Burj Khalifa Design

As mentioned earlier, Burj Khalifa remains the world’s tallest freestanding structure. And its design is just incomparable.

Generally, it’s not just its height that makes it an architectural marvel – every aspect of this incredible skyscraper has been meticulously planned and executed with elegance and grace. From the moment you catch a glimpse of it in the distance to the moment you step inside, the Burj Khalifa will take your breath away.

Designed to be a complete vertical city, the Burj Khalifa combines residences, restaurants, offices, retail space, four swimming pools, a gym, tennis courts, and a luxury hotel complete with a spa. So, people can work there, play there, and live there in total comfort.

On average, about 6,000 people occupy the building each day.

Burj Khalifa downtown

The skyscraper is the crowning glory of downtown Dubai and the centerpiece of Dubai’s resounding real estate boom. Since construction began on the tower, property values in downtown Dubai skyrocketed, giving rise to what’s often referred to as the “Burj Khalifa effect.”

From the Burj Khalifa’s observation deck, the city’s glistening new skyline is clearly visible. Also in view are the elegant Dubai Mall and the 30-acre man-made Burj Khalifa Lake with its dancing fountain that jets up to 50 stories — the highest in the world, of course.

The building’s exterior cladding consists of more than 26,000 reflective glass panels — that’s why it shimmers in the sunlight. The double-skin facade not only reduces heat gain from the sun but also provides additional insulation for the interior spaces.

At night, an orchestrated display of lights illuminates the skyscraper from within, creating a spectacularly beautiful sight.

There are 160 stories in total — 154 usable floors and six basement levels. That means there are around one million square feet of space in the building.

Burj Khalifa fountain

Burj Khalifa Construction: World’s Tallest Building

Construction on the Burj Khalifa began in 2004 and took a little over six years to complete. The building cost an estimated $1.5 billion to build, making it the most expensive skyscraper in the world at the time.

So, who designed this structural marvel?

Well, the brains behind the world’s tallest building were Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of Chicago, Adrian Smith being the chief architect while Bill Baker was the chief structural engineer.

The building was originally going to be named Burj Dubai. However, this changed to Burj Khalifa to honor the president of the United Arab Emirates, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Generally, the main structure of Burj Khalifa is made of reinforced concrete. And some of the structural steel used in the building came from East Berlin. The steel was recycled from an abandoned railway line that ran through the city.

The main contractor for Burj Dubai tower was South Korean Samsung C&T. They worked on the project together with Arabtec, a local company, and BESIX, a Belgian group.

The skyscraper’s foundation is supported by more than 200 piles that go as deep as 50 meters into the ground. That’s about the height of a 15-story building!

But did you know that more than 12,000 workers from approximately 100 different countries were involved in construction? And that it took 22 million man-hours to complete? That’s how massive the project was.

 Unfortunately, three workers died during the construction.

See related: 25 Best Honeymoon Destinations in the World

What Inspired Burj Khalifa’s Design?

The building’s design got its inspiration mainly from prominent early Islamic architecture.  For example, Iraq’s 9th Century Great Mosque of Samarra.  The mosque is a World Heritage Site that once was the world’s largest mosque.

Like this mosque, Burj Khalifa tower rises from its foundation in a spiral pattern, with 27 setbacks that decrease in cross-section as the skyscraper rises. This design form stunning outdoor terraces, with the central core emerging and forming a finishing spire at the top.

The Burj Khalifa is designed to also look like a desert flower blooming, which is an apt metaphor for Dubai itself. The city has grown rapidly from a small village into one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities in the world. In just a few short years, it has become a global center for business and tourism.

In essence, the Burj Khalifa is not only an engineering marvel, but it is also a beautiful work of art. It is truly an iconic structure that embodies the spirit of Dubai.

The Conception of Burj Dubai

What brought the idea of this magnificent structure? Well, the initial intention of building Burj Khalifa was to help Dubai diversify its economy away from oil and gas.

This decision was made in 2003 by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His idea was to ensure that the country could stop relying on just oil and gas for the growth of the economy.

The tower was intended to be the focal point of a massive multi-use development that included;

  • 30,000 homes
  • Around 3 hectares of parking space
  • Nine hotels
  • The Dubai Mall
  • More than 19 residential skyscrapers
  • A 12-hectare lake

Besides that, he wanted to create a world-class landmark for Dubai that would become a source of pride for residents and visitors alike. And, I think it’s safe to say that its construction did accomplish these goals.

Trouble in Paradise

Yet even here, in this oil-rich trading center and investment haven, money problems have dogged the Burj Khalifa from the beginning. A year before the tower was complete, Dubai experienced a massive debt crisis.

At the cost of nearly $1.6 billion, the building might not have been finished without the help of neighboring emirate Abu Dhabi — in the form of a $25 billion bailout. In appreciation, the skyscraper was named Burj Khalifa to honor Sheikh Khalifa, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and now President of the United Arab Emirates.

Burj Khalifa

Today’s money problems are a bit different. The expenses of owning or renting a home in the Burj Khalifa are so high that even Dubai’s international elite are having trouble meeting their obligations. We’re not talking about peanuts — monthly rents here average about $5,500 a month, with maintenance and other fees totaling an additional $250,000 a year.

Some residents have quit paying their building maintenance fees, and they’re finding out their key cards no longer work in the tower’s exclusive gym, tennis courts, and pools. Worse yet, they’re afraid that they’ll soon be denied access to the elevators — no joke in this 160-story behemoth.

The result? There may be a few vacancies in this ultra-exclusive Dubai high rise. If you’re interested, a two-bedroom apartment in the Burj Khalifa goes for about $18 million.

Dubai Mall from the Burj Khalifa

See Related: Top 10 Most Beautiful Cities in the World to Visit

Best Burj Khalifa Features

Burj Dubai tower, as it was formally known before its 2010 inauguration, boasts numerous stunning features that most tall buildings in the world just dream of.

Let’s dissect every inch of this magnificent structure to see what it’s all about.

The Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain View

The Dubai Fountain is the world’s tallest performing fountain. It sits on a 30-acre man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. It was designed by WET Design, the same company that also designed the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

The fountain jets water up to 500 feet (152 meters) in the air and is illuminated by more than 6000 lights and 50 color projectors. It is 275 meters long and has 220 spraying nozzles that create over 1000 unique patterns and shapes in synchronization with music.

The performance takes place every half an hour in the evening and lasts for around five minutes. And when performing, this fountain pushes around 22,000 gallons of water at a time into the air. 

If you wish to get a closer look at the Dubai Fountain, you can take a boat ride on the lake. Also, the fountain’s boardwalk in front of the Burj Khalifa can help you get excitingly close to the performance.

Burj Khalifa Park

As if the building’s magnificence isn’t enough, there is a 27-acre park around the Burj Khalifa that offers incredible views. The park has water features, gardens, and walking/jogging trails that will be worth every moment spent there.

As for the design, Burj Khalifa Park was inspired by the desert flower, Hymenocallis, which makes it a true piece of art. For starters, it is spread over three levels that are interconnected with cascading terraces. And there are also landscaped gardens with palm trees and flowers on all levels.

On Level one, there is a children’s play area along with a number of fountains. Level two has an open-air amphitheater along with several fountains as well. And the final level has a large, open-air swimming pool.

The views of the Burj Khalifa from this park are breathtaking, to say the least. You can see The Dubai Fountain, Downtown Dubai, and the Old Town Island from here.

Top Observation Deck

Burj Khalifa Observation Deck

This is where all the action happens! Located on Burj Khalifa’s 124th, this observation deck offers 360-degree panoramic views of Dubai. It is the second-highest outdoor observation deck in the world after being overtaken by CantonTower’s Cloud Top 488 in Guangzhou.

However, this didn’t put Burj Khalifa’s spirit down. In fact, in 2014, the tower opened another observation tower on the 148th floor, which became the world’s highest observation deck. But just like the 124th deck, this one was also overtaken by another deck at the Shanghai Tower.

Nevertheless, these observation decks offer views almost incomparable with any other in the world.

A tour of the observation deck starts with a multimedia presentation about the construction of Burj Khalifa. You will also get an opportunity to see how this building has transformed Dubai’s skyline over time. After that, you enter an elevator that whisks you up to the 124th floor in just 60 seconds.

Once you are on the top, you can step out onto one of three open-air observation decks and enjoy stunning views of Dubai in every direction.

Ramadan Observence on Burj Khalifa

When we say that this is a structural engineering marvel, we exactly mean that! It not only dwarfs other tall buildings in the region but also affects how residents observe Ramadan.

Being the world’s tallest building, it makes a big difference even in the setting of the sun. And, you heard that right! When the sun sets for other people on the ground, the residents of the higher floors can still see the sun for a few more minutes.

For this reason, Muslim clerics declared residents living between the 80th and 150th floors must wait for two more minutes before breaking their fast. Those living on higher floors than that need to wait for three more minutes!

Breaking World Records

Dubai Aerial view

Burj Khalifa broke more world records than any other building globally when its construction was completed. Some of the main records include:

  • World’s tallest existing structure at 2,722 ft. This title was previously held by the KVLY-TV mast at 2,063 ft.
  • Tallest free-standing structure at 2,722 ft. The title previously belonged to CN Tower at 1,815 ft.
  • The tallest structure ever built, which was once held by the Warsaw radio mast at 2,121 ft.
  • World’s tallest skyscraper at 2717 ft (at the top of the spire). The position was previously held by Taipei 101, which is 1,671 ft tall.
  • World’s tallest skyscraper up to the top of the antenna at 2722 ft. Willis Tower (Sears) previously held the title at 1,729 ft.
  • Home for the world’s highest nightclub on the 144th floor.
  • Highest elevator installation tittle
  • Most floors in one building at 163 floors
  • Longest vertical pumping of concrete at 1,988 ft
  • The world’s highest aluminum and glass facade installation at 1,680 ft
  • The world’s longest distance traveled by elevator at 1,654 ft.
  • Highest restaurant globally at 1,450 ft.

These world records make it even more enticing to visit Burj Khalifa and experience all the beauty and wonder firsthand.

Awards

Breaking all these world records certainly deserves an award. And Burj Khalif has had quite a number of these since its completion.

The first award that Burj Khalifa got was for the “Best Tall Building Middle East & Africa.” It received the award from Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

From there, it has managed to scope multiple awards, including;

  • AIA’s Certificate of Merit, “Interior Architecture Award”
  • “World Voices Sculpture,” Award of Merit
  • Best Project of the Year, 2010
  • “Interior Architecture Award” as special recognition from AIA
  • “Distinguished Building Award” from AIA
  • Commercial or Retail Structure Award by the Institution of Structural Engineers
  • International Architecture Award, from International Commercial Property Awards (mixed-use)
  • “GCC Technical Building Project of the Year” by MEED
  • “Decade of Design,” by IIDA (international interior design association)

And these aren’t the only prestigious awards that Burj Khalif has received. The building has become a world icon whose fame goes beyond the Middle East.

Special Activities at the Burj Khalif

Dubai Skyline view

Due to its fame, both in Dubai and around the world, the Burj Khalifa has had several great activities visitors can take part in.

The two main ones include BASE jumping and climbing. For instance, in 2010, two BASE jumpers (Omar Al Hegelan and Nasr Al Niyadi) leaped from the 160th floor of the building. These two worked at the Emirates Aviation Society, and their jump saw them break the highest BASE jump world record.

Another spectacular jump took place in 2014, when Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet, professional French BASE jumpers, took the leap. The event had attracted several local and international sponsors and was also given the go-ahead by the authorities.

As for climbing, in 2011, world-famous rock climber and urban free soloist Alain Robert scaled the side of Burj Khalifa. It took him just over six hours to climb the entire length of the building. However, he was required to use a rope and harness for safety as dictated by UAE laws.

Which one of these activities might interest you? You might be the next person to make that big move. But, you must be ready to throw all fear outside the window!

Burj Khalifa Tourism

The building has completely changed the tourism industry in Dubai. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and as the saying goes, numbers don’t lie.

For instance, in 2019, Dubai saw over 16.73 million people visit the country. This was a 5.1% rise from the previous year’s numbers. And Burj Khalif is ranked as the top tourist attraction in the country.

So, what can you do here besides admiring the world’s tallest building? Here are the top activities to do in Burj Khalifa and its environs:

1. Reach “At The Top” Observation Deck

At the Top observation view

Everyone that visits Burj Dubai wants to go to the top. After all, that is one of the main reasons the tower was built – so people could get a bird’s eye view of the city.

The Observation Deck on the 124th floor is called “At the Top,” and it lives up to its name. From here, you can see almost the entire city of Dubai.

On a clear day, you can even see as far as Abu Dhabi – which is about 90 minutes away! The views are simply breathtaking and definitely worth every penny.

What would be running in your mind as you stand on clear glass over 450 meters above the sky? If you fear height, it would undoubtedly be a challenge – always thinking of cracking glass and the far down you’d have to fall. However, for others, it will be a complete thrill.

Scaling up to this observation deck is also an experience of its own. Imagine being in the fastest double-deck elevators in the world. At 10m/s, going vertically, it’s quite a moment!

2. Shop in Dubai Mall

Shop at Dubai Mall

Now, if you love shopping, nowhere else offers the same experience as the Dubai Mall. This place is MASSIVE! And you can bet to get almost anything you need from the mall.

In fact, it’s the 2nd largest mall in the world by total land area, falling just being the Iran Mall. And, it’s not just a shopping center – it’s an entire complex that includes a theme park, an ice rink, and even an aquarium!

Therefore, you can have a great time even before shopping as you marvel at nature’s beauty in the aquarium and underwater zoo. If you are traveling with your family, this would be one of the best family vacation destinations in town.

When it comes to shopping, almost every major brand is represented here. You name it; they have it! You’ll find everything here, from high-end luxury brands to more affordable fast-fashion labels.

Even better, after you are through with your shopping, a movie at the 22-screen theater would crown your day. As for the kids, the place has an educational theme park where children can learn and have fun at the same time.

3. Enjoy a Meal at the At.Mosphere Lounge

Your tour of the tower won’t be complete without relishing some of Dubai’s best cuisines. And, there is no better place to do this than the At.Mosphere restaurant.

The eatery is located on the 122nd floor and offers stunning views of Dubai as you feast on a sumptuous meal. The food here is exquisite, and the service is simply amazing.

You can choose from a la carte items or go for the degustation menu, which consists of a set of small dishes. No matter what you order, you will have an unforgettable dining experience.

Interestingly, some of the restaurant’s dishes come from ingredients only grown for the restaurant. This way, uniqueness is guaranteed.

4. Visit the Armani Hotel Spa

As mentioned earlier, Burj Khalifa is home to so many firsts! And the Armani Hotel Dubai is one of them. It’s the world’s first hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

The hotel spa is simply amazing and offers a wide range of treatments to help you relax and rejuvenate. You can choose from body treatments, facials, massages, and more.

Even better, the hotel consists of 160 rooms and suites, all of which are designed with Armani’s signature style. So, if you want to spend a night or two here, especially as a couple, you can be sure to have an unparalleled stay.

Besides that, the hotels also boast a nightclub, a Japanese restaurant, and an Indian restaurant. Therefore, all your belly needs are all sorted out!

See related: 40 Romantic Destinations in the World

5. Spend Some Time at the Burj Club

Fitness matters. And Burj Club helps you maintain that even during your tour to the Emirates.

The club has some of the best gym equipment that money can buy. And, if you need some help with your workout routine, there are personal trainers available to guide and encourage you.

You will love being here, although it might be a bit pricey.

Best Burj Khalifa Tours

If you want to enjoy your visit to the Burj Khalifa fully, then you should consider taking a tour. There are many companies that offer tours of the tower, guiding you through the best highlights of the building and its surroundings.

Check out these amazing tours:

1. Fountain Show and Burj Lake Ride: Dubai

Dubai Fountain boat ride

This 30-min ride on “Abra,” a traditional water taxi, gives you an excellent view of the Burj Khalifa from the lake. You also get to see the Dubai Fountain Show, which is a spectacular show of lights, water, and music.

As you marvel at the stunning illuminations of the show, the over 6,600 lights and more than 22,000 gallons of water gushing into the sky will also form quite a spectacle. In fact, this is something you’ll not see anywhere else in the world, especially at this magnitude.

Every pattern the waters and lights form has a story to tell. And the whole show is choreographed to various pieces of music, making it even more captivating.

2. The Palm to The Burj Khalifa Helicopter Flight

For the best aerial view of Dubai, this 17 or 25-min helicopter flight is hard to beat.

Your flight starts at the Palm Jumeirah, which is an artificial archipelago in the shape of a palm tree. You’ll then head to the Burj Khalifa, where you will get to see the magnificent building up close.

The views cannot get any better as you soar over other of Dubai’s iconic sights, like the Golden Mile, Burj Al Arab, and Atlantis. And, you can take all the pictures you want as you create some of life’s most incredible memories.

The best thing is that you’ll not miss anything you need to see to know during the flight. Your professional pilot also acts as your tour guide, answering questions and pointing out the best sights from up there.

3. Dubai JetSki: Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, and Atlantis

Couple on a water motorcycle

Taking a cruise on Dubai’s coastline on a jet ski is another excellent idea. The tour starts at Jumeirah beach, where you’ll be given a briefing on how the jet ski works, and you are all set to go.

Then, you’ll take off and head to the Burj Al Arab for some photo ops. The tour then continues to the Burj Khalifa before making its way back to Atlantis.

Typically, the feeling of cruising on a high-powered jet ski on the clear waters, with a clear view of Burj Khalifa, plus other stunning landmarks like the Palm, is just amazing.

If you love adventures, then this might be just what you need during that Dubai visit.

4. Skip the Line: Burj Khalifa – At the Top Sky Ticket

This tour gives you the ultimate Burj Khalifa experience, as you get to access all the tower’s observation decks (on the 124th, 125th & 148th floors). The 148th floor is the highest observation deck in the world, and it gives you a 360-degree view of Dubai – up to Iran’s shoreline.

You also get access to an interactive screen on the 125th floor, which provides interesting facts about what you are seeing. What’s more, there is a multimedia guide available in eight languages.

The tour also gives you several privileges, including;

  • A chance to pick between peak and off-peak slots
  • Skipping elevator and security lines
  • Great moments at the Sky Lounge
  • Best views at every level

Pre-book early to get the desired spot and eliminate the hassle of the last-minute rush.

5. Dubai City Half-Day City Tour

If you want to have a more comprehensive tour of Dubai, this is the ideal tour. The half-day guided tour covers all the major landmarks of Dubai, giving you some of the most exciting moments.

The tour starts with a pick-up from your hotel in a comfortable, air-conditioned vehicle. You’ll then head to Jumeirah Mosque for a photo stop before driving by Jumeirah Beach and Burj Al Arab (the world’s only seven-star hotel).

You also get to learn about Dubai culture as you enjoy a ride on an Abra across the Dubai Creek. The tour then continues to the Gold and Spice Souks, where you can go shopping before heading back to your hotel.

In essence, what you get from this half-day tour is more than a week’s worth of tour.

How to Get to Dubai?

The best way to get to Dubai is by flying into Dubai International Airport (DXB). The airport is well connected to most major cities around the world, so finding a flight should not be a problem.

Once you are in Dubai, getting around is quite easy as the city has an excellent transportation system. You can use the metro, taxis, buses, or even rent a car. Kayak.com is an excellent site when it comes to car rentals, and you can always find a vehicle that suits your needs.

Also, whether you are traveling alone or with a family, ensure you have a valid travel insurance cover. Remember, Dubai is a place of many adventures. And, even the fun might sometimes get out of hand.

Look for the best travel insurance covers for you and your family. This way, you can ensure that your trip’s safety and convenience are sorted.

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