This past August, the tourist board of Dubai invited me to explore their city. In a whirlwind visit, I was able to take in the arts, culture, sports, and history of the fastest growing metropolis on the planet. Over the next month, here on Somewhere Or Bust, I plan on introducting you to the characters of the spice souks, the city’s most luxurious features, and feed you, in a sense, tasty camel meat. But in order to truly appreciate Dubai, we need to understand the city’s genesis.
Before Dubai discovered oil in its ground, the population lived in huts built from palm leafs. The people didn’t have air conditioners, and instead cooled their primitive dwellings using chimney-shaped structures designed from wood and cloth. Four triangular vents ushered some of the heat out from the homes. But when black gold bubbled up in the 1960s, the UAE became a land of records and today, visitors can find some of the most impressive and tallest buildings in Dubai.
At first growth was slow. By 1979, the 39-story World Trade Tower was the largest building in the city, which still looked mostly like a desert. By 1984, Dubai got the modern version of air conditioning and by the following decade, the architecture shot up quicker than most cities can figure out how to launch bike share programs.
The Tallest Buildings in Dubai
Today, the city contains the world’s tallest tower–the Burj Khalifa, which stands at 828 meters, more than twice the height of the Empire State Building. Inside the Burj Khalifa is the fastest elevator in the world, moving at ten meters per second, the highest mosque, and the most elevated swimming pool in the world.
Dubai also has the world’s tallest hotel, the 355-meter JW Marriott. In the Marina District, you can find the crowned Princess Tower, which, at 441 meters, is the tallest residential building the world has ever seen. Standing a few skyscrapers over is a twisted edifice that does one complete ninety-degree rotation from top to bottom. This tower, once called the Infinity Tower (now Cayan), is the tallest twisted building in the world.
The developer who built the Burj Khalifa also erected the world’s largest mall, the Dubai Mall, which has 1,200 shops and climbing. In their other humongous mall, the Mall of the Emirates, you can find the world’s biggest indoor snow park.
Dubai’s Other Records
Besides finding the tallest buildings in Dubai, the city has accomplished some other impressive engineering feats, such as building the longest automatic (driverless) metro, traveling 57 kilometers.
With all of the construction, my guide also speculated that Dubai holds the record for the world’s greatest number of cranes.
At the moment, the city is working on the biggest manmade port, the largest manmade island, and the most oversized airport.
While it’s still quite hard to find an actual Guinness to drink in Dubai, (be rest assured, we will certainly track down the oldest pub, where Guinness is served), Dubai is the other country of Guinness.