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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Dubai Struggles to Top

June 2, 2010 - 10:25 AM | by: Greg Palkot

It hasn’t been an easy ride to the “top” for the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, but in recent weeks, the troubled tallest building in the world took a few more steps to hoped-for success.

Late last month, the first residents moved into the initial batch of luxury apartments in the building (granted, reportedly paying a marked-down price from original estimates).

And that was just after the Giorgio Armani-designed and owned hotel opened for business at the Burj as well.

At 2,717 feet and 162 stories, the Burj Khalifa easily claims the title of tallest building in the world.  During a recent visit (see accompanying images) we can confirm the tower is “up and running.”   But it wasn’t always thus.

Construction began in 2004 and almost from the start there were troubles.   Following reports of low or withheld pay and bad working and living conditions, staffers in 2006 rioted, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the site.

Then, the global debt crisis hit booming Dubai with a real bust.    Forcing next door Abu Dhabi to bail out the venture, resulting in a change of name for the structure from Burj Dubai to Burj Khalifa in honor of UAE President and “godfather” Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nhayan.

After some delays for “re-fits,” the Burj finally opened to great fanfare in January and then was promptly closed again when electrical problems in the elevators stranded tourists during one harrowing ride “upstairs.”

When doubts about the elevators were lifted, the structure was hit with another “cloud”…of volcanic dust!   The Icelandic natural calamity that grounded global travel postponed the opening of the Armani hotel!

The ash cloud, did, however, also ground a Fox News team in Dubai, affording us a first hand glimpse of the building and its sky-high observation deck, “At the Top.”

While we were a bit disappointed the deck wasn’t actually “at the top” of the building, at 124 floors, it IS the tallest “open air” viewing platform in the world.

We were pleased the elevators ran smoothly.  An attendant rides with you to afford an added feeling of security.  It’s probably better the elevators are not the glass-enclosed type.  A view of the outside world as the elevator car hurtles up at super-fast speed would probably be quite unnerving.

The view from “the top” is spectacular.  During the day the reported visibility can reach 60 miles.  While the Fox team got there just after dusk, the evening display of lights and illuminated (and some stalled) construction sites was equally impressive.

The designers of the deck apparently were taking no chances with folks who might want to try a super-super-fast descent: The walls of the platform are just high enough to prevent anyone (perhaps distressed by their own economic status) from clambering over and ending it all.

The makers of the deck also anticipated the heavy haze of heat and pollution that can “cloud” the view of Dubai.  They’ve stationed  electronic “binoculars” for visitors there, giving them the option of a digitally-enhanced look at the surroundings.

The souvenir concession “At the Top” is anything but hi-tech and 21st century, however.  Good old-fashioned baseball hats and t-shirts branded with the new mid-debt crisis moniker of the building are there for the high-altitude hawking.

All it takes is an equally fast downward trip on the elevator and a visit to the nearby Dubai Mall, a 1200-outlet shopping plaza billed as the biggest retail and entertainment complex in the world, to remind one what this is all about….sheer, brazen…and pretty towering…commerce.

Photo Gallery
View from the top, Dubai from the highest Viewing Platform in the World
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  • View from the top, Dubai from the highest Viewing Platform in the World
  • The Tallest Building in the World, dominates the Night Sky
  • A Burj' eyes cityscape of Dubai
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