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Inside Half A Mile High Burz Dubai

PTI 04 Jan 2010, 11:31:45 IST

The world's tallest building opened on Monday, a glass and glitz superscraper symbolising a decade of excess in Dubai.

The £1billion Burj Dubai is more than half a mile high – at least 2,683ft, with the exact height to be revealed at the opening ceremony.

It is the equivalent height of three-and-a-half Canary Wharf Towers or two Empire State Buildings.

It tops its nearest rival, Taiwan's 1,671ft Taipei 101, by more than 1,000ft (the CN Tower in Toronto stands at 1,820ft, but is classed as a 'structure' not a building).

Photographs taken on Friday show a mess of bare concrete walls, piles of unused materials and exposed pipes.

Thousands of construction workers are said to have been rushed in over the weekend in a race to complete the work.

Even when it is finished, much of the tower will stand empty, a testament to the years of debt-fuelled spending that have almost bankrupted Dubai. None of the 37 floors of office space is yet occupied.

The glass and steel building was the brainchild of developer Emaar Properties and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who hoped it would symbolise the city state's vast wealth and economic might.

Ramshackle: Inside the £2.5billion mega-structure, concrete walls remain bare and there are piles of unused materials and exposed pipes

The 169-floor tower, a complex of apartments, offices, shops, restaurants, a mosque, gym, nightclub and Giorgio Armani-designed hotel, was designed to the brief that residents need never leave.

Everything they could possibly need is supposedly provided.

The hotel takes up the first eight floors with suites on the 38th and 39th. Residential apartments go up to the 108th floor – at about 1,300 feet.

A number of the higher floors – up to the 160th – have been designated as office space, while there is a restaurant on the 122nd floor and a gym, with an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, on the 123rd floor – some 1,440 feet off the ground.

On the 124th floor is the world's highest observation deck. The Burj Dubai is also intending to host the world's highest nightclub – on the 143rd floor.

Officials insist the tower is no white elephant. It is still the 'jewel in the gulf', a spokesman said.

'It is the tallest building in the world and the first of its kind,' he said. 'From inside it looks like a Porsche if you want to talk about luxury.'

Thousands are said to have been rushed in over the weekend in a desperate push to complete the job.

Over the last three decades Dubai has witnessed a massive surge in cash. Developers backed by new money invested heavily - turning the once struggling desert city into a sprawling metropolis of lights and plush buildings.

The city is now dealing with a real estate crash as the borrowed money needed to make the Dubai dream come true continues dries up.

While development still surged forward at the Burj Dubai, it was made possible only by gigantic billion dollar bailouts from rich United Arab Emirates cousin Abu Dhabi.

And on the day of its official completion, interested parties face further problems. All of the apartments are said to have been sold but its still a mystery who will eventually move in. There is also said to be little interest in new Dubai office space. Developers still say that their vision will come true.

But as the city celebrates, the building is mainly vacant and could leave officials red-faced on Monday.

Even though many of the building's 160 stories are unfinished, organisers are celebrating the launch with an arsenal of fireworks. Pyrotechnics fitted to the building can clearly be seen on its exterior.

A company employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said: 'The inauguration ceremony is to tell the world that we have finished it.

'What has been done is meeting the individual customer's needs. We have met the contracted agreement. Since it started it has continued at one floor being built every week.

'The dates are not confirmed yet but at present we will hand over the residence suites on March 22, the Armani Residences on January 17 and the corporate suites on March 1.'