Dubai opened the world’s tallest skyscraper Monday, and in a surprise move renamed the gleaming glass-and-metal tower Burj Khalifa in a nod to the leader of neighboring Abu Dhabi — the oil-rich sheikdom which came to its rescue during the financial meltdown.
A lavish presentation witnessed by Dubai’s ruler and thousands of onlookers at the base of the tower said the building was 828 meters, or 2717 feet, tall.
Dubai is opening the tower in the midst of a deep financial crisis. Its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi has pumped billions of dollars in bailout funds into the emirate as it struggles to pay its debts.
Analysts have questioned what Dubai might need to offer in exchange for the financial support it has received from Abu Dhabi, which controls nearly all of the UAE’s oil wealth. Abu Dhabi provided direct and indirect injections totaling $25 billion last year as Dubai’s debt problems deepened.
Dubai’s hereditary ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in recent months has increasingly underscored the close relationship between the two emirates. Sheik Mohammed serves as vice president and prime minister of the UAE federation.
The developer of the newly opened tower said it cost about $1.5 billion to build the tapering metal-and-glass spire billed as a “vertical city” of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.
The Burj’s developers say they are confident in the safety of the tower, which is more than twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building’s roof.
Greg Sang, Emaar’s director of projects, said the Burj has “refuge floors” at 25 to 30 story intervals that are more fire resistant and have separate air supplies in case of emergency. And its reinforced concrete structure, he said, makes it stronger than steel-frame skyscrapers.
“It’s a lot more robust,” he said. “A plane won’t be able to slice through the Burj like it did through the steel columns of the World Trade Center.”