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Opening night

Emaar’s flagship project, the Burj Khalifa tower, was officially opened on January 4, 2010 on the anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s accession. It tops out above 800m tall – making it now the world’s tallest tower, this image I shot opening night. Some 10,000 fireworks helped mark the topping-off of the $1.5 billion reflective-glass tower designed by Adrian Smith of Chicago-based architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Originally named Burj Dubai, it was rechristened Burj Khalifa on opening night, in honor of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates and the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi.

As residents, we sometimes just don’t notice it any more, $400,000 Rolls-Royce Phantoms cruising confidently down Sheikh Zayed Rd, construction workers in dirty blue coveralls, who wait in packs by the side of the road for the buses that take them deep into the desert each night to the camps they call home, seven star hotels, Gold-Dispensing ATM Machines, hardly cause for a second glance in Dubai.

But Burj Khalifa, is worth a second look.

The tower and the downtown area billed as the as ‘the most prestigious square kilometer on earth’ (it’s first tenant the one and only Armani Hotel) is really quite a sight.

Drive through downtown, early morning, before the sun is high and you can see armies of labourers, scrubbing the pavement edges with soap and water and tickling the plants and road posts with their feather dusters. The area doesn’t really have character, but there is something… Neighbours say ‘hi’ to each other – a real community feel (rare in Dubai), Art Gallerys have opened, pretty road side cafés are springing up and the new Pavillion – the city’s newest dedicated non-profit contemporary art space, just across the road from BK providing a place to view, discuss and participate in works by local and international artists. You can have lunch there, or just open up your mac and sit and work there for the day (forgotten your power cord, no problem, there will be at least 20 or more other people more than willing to lend you one, need to make a phone call, just take a stroll and admire the art whilst you talk), it is a restaurant, a cinema, a library, an espresso bar, a shisha café and lounge, a place to network, or simply a nice place to just sit and look at the most impressive tallest building in the world.

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