High among the clouds the world’s tallest structure opened yesterday in duty-free Dubai. The $1.5 billion dollar Burj Khalifa – called Burj Dubai until yesterday’s official renaming for Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president of Abu Dhabi – stretches 200 stories and some 2,717 feet into the troposphere, leapfrogging past Taiwan’s Taipei 101 tower by more than 1,000 feet.
Is it a coincidence that a ritzy-glitzy opening ceremony comes hard on the heels of a burdensome debt crisis which threatens to shatter the emirate’s well-tended image as a modern moderate Muslim Xanadu? For those who’ve compared this city of shifting sands to another pleasuredomed oasis – Las Vegas – the juxtaposition in light of recent events seems curiously apt now more than ever: Burj Khalifa plays like the equivalent of a high stakes double down.
But will the world’s first Armani hotel – and its incumbent highest swimming pool in the world – turn the tide? How about a 124th floor observation deck – it, too, the highest in the world, natch – with views running almost sixty miles across the Persian Gulf? And is the highest mosque on the planet – floor 158 – a crowning glory of the citystate’s flirtatious contradictions or just a last gasp of economic recklessness?
Whatever your take, there’s no denying the big bang that took place Monday. As this video of the opening ceremony makes abundantly clear, Dubai ain’t going down without a fight.