I took the above photo by dangling my camera 1,825 feet above Dubai through an open slot in the guardrail of the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa. Yeep! If there’s a slight blur to the picture, chalk it up to my trembling hand, and the gusts of wind from being so freakishly high up. That tower does not disappoint!
If you travel to the United Emirates, as I did when I was 5 months pregnant with our second child, there is a magnetic draw to the Burj Khalifa. Within 24 hours of landing, I was racing across the desert highway to ogle the famed tower for myself. In fact, during the week I spent in the UAE, I returned to the Burj Khalifa four different times, each visit awed anew.
It wasn’t until my last day in Dubai, however, that I finally summited the building. Getting up the Burj Khalifa is no small feat due to long lines, so I recommend planning ahead to snag your spot. Tools like the Dubai Go Card and Viator Tours are great for grabbing discount tickets before you arrive to “At the Top,” the luxe Burj Khalifa observation complex “experience.”
I chuckled when I read on the Burj Khalifa website that they call the observation decks a “sky experience,” but indeed, an experience is what it is, from start to finish. On the first elevator up, projections of other towering global structures race along the walls, until all of them melt away, and you’re actually standing in the first welcome lounge of the world’s tallest building.
Between floors 125 and 148, the Burj Khalifa offers multiple platforms from which to gaze down at the city far below, some indoors and some outside. One of my favorite features was the machine pictured next, which shows what existed in that swath of land over time. Spoiler: it all used to be DESERT! How astounding that the megapolis of Dubai could be created upon sand.
My first tip for photographers planning a Burj Khalifa climb: The best photos of the ground below are to be found by sticking the snout of your camera through the open slots of the outdoor observation decks. See the slots between the horizontal rails, below? Use them if you dare!
My second photography tip is to be mindful of light when attempting a picture with a person in the foreground. Because of the brightness of the Dubai sun against the observation decks, most angles will get you a silhouette, which can be artsy if that’s what you want (experiment with those shots!), but you’ll also crave some pictures with an actual visible face, and for those you’ll need a combination of hunting for the right beam of light, and, if possible, shooting in RAW format so that if you edit the photos later (ex: with Lightroom), the shadows can be turned down so the person’s pretty face can emerge.
A final photo tip: That aqua-colored lagoon pictured above comes out really well in photos (no offense to the tan symphony of the dessert-building combo on the other sides), so make sure to get a bunch of shots in that direction! Oh, and at night, that pool turns into a dancing, spouting fountain light show, which is free to watch from the back entrance of the Dubai Mall.
Now for some astounding facts about the Burj Khalifa. The building, which opened in 2010, is 2,722 feet tall counting both its 163 floors and the antenna, and looks like a flower when viewed from above (isn’t that awesome?) because its base is Y-shaped, and each section of floors adds additional “petals.” The style of architecture is called “Neo-Futurism,” which I’d never heard of before, but now am highly intrigued about.
Next fact: Regular tourists cannot enter the lower floors of the Burj Khalifa because a highly exclusive hotel takes up the lower section of the tower. Can you imagine telling people you’re staying there? “Oh, no big deal… just sleeping in the tallest building in the world.”
The Burj Khalifa cost an estimated $1.5 BILLION dollars to build. Think that’s a lot? It’s only half the cost of the second most expensive hotel in the world, which I visited in nearby Abu Dhabi!
Here are two more tidbits before you mosey on your merry way. On New Years of 2016, the hotel across the fountain from the Burj Khalifa (visible in many of these photos) was engulfed in a giant fire, but miraculously has bounced back from that calamity and is receiving rave reviews once again. And finally, if you’re wondering if anyone has ever climbed the outside of the world’s tallest building, the answer is YES: A man known as “French Spiderman” climbed from the bottom to the top of the Burj Khalifa in 6 hours in March of 2011. Zowie!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sky-high tour of the world’s tallest tower! Now I’d love to hear from you. Have you been to the Burj Khalifa? Would you like to visit? Do share!
I was a guest of Dubai Tourism for this escapade, but all opinions and camera-dangling views are my own. Some links in this article are affiliates which support this site at no additional cost to you. Happy travels!