Tall storey: is the world's tallest building worth visiting?

Gabrielle Costa stays grounded after hitting the heights at the tallest building in the world.

"Get ready to enter the record books." That was the digital message running on a continuous loop at each of the information kiosks dotted around the Dubai Mall.

It was a promise that compelled tourist after tourist and many a local to make the trek across the luxurious shopping centre to the lower-ground-floor food court, and from there to the entrance of the world's tallest building, the brand new Burj Khalifa (formerly the Burj Dubai).

Admired from afar, the glorious Islamic-inspired building juts out of Dubai's skyline like a giant syringe, shrouded in the city's smoky haze during the day, at night dotted with lights and akin to something from a sci-fi film.

The idea of ascending the super-fast lift for a bird's eye view of Dubai's extraordinary constructions - the extravagant Palm and its Atlantis Hotel and the manufactured islands 'The World' that sell to celebrities and the exceedingly rich for tens of millions of dollars - was too much to resist.

So in the fortnight following the grand and spectacular opening of the hotel-cum-apartment-building-cum-landmark, scores queued for a ticket to the 120th floor.

Many were met with disappointment when they finally reached the ticket counter. Entrance was 100 dirham (about $A30) but those tickets were time-specific and meant a four-hour wait (and 100 dirham, according to the signage, was an introductory price. Children's tickets were 75 dirham, or about $A23). Immediate entry came at a price - a rather expensive 400 dirham ($A122).

From there it was into a waiting room, then down a long escalator, past the Arabic-inspired moving images on the wall and into the migraine-inducing fumes of fresh paint that were testament to just how new the building is.

Then it was into the dimly lit corridors for yet another wait, this time for the 30-second-or-so trip on the lifts to 'At the Top', the glassed observation area that provides panoramic views of the surrounding districts.


But like the Burj Khalifa itself when viewed from Dubai Creek or the beachside roadways, much of the surrounding area was shrouded in smog.

It was impossible to make out the Palm and it was difficult to pick the World islands in the haze. Closer to the Burj, the view was clearer - so much so, in fact, that sludge in the pools in adjacent buildings was clearly visible. Further out were pylons and desert. Not the spectacular dunes and shifting sands of other Gulf states, just barren ground. Not much of a view at all.

In hindsight, a better option might have been a hotel roof-top bar, one from where this masterpiece of architecture and design can be clearly seen.

There could be little doubt the Burj Khalifa is one of the most spectacular things on the Dubai skyline. Look from it if you must, but you might get more from looking at it.

'At the Top' is on the 120th floor of the Burj Khalifa. It was open Sunday to Wednesday from 10am to 10pm and Thursday to Saturday from 10am to midnight. Interactive video telescopes are available for 10 dirham ($A3), a session, which lasts a few minutes.

The writer travelled as a guest of Royal Caribbean Cruises.