The Burj Khalifa is an impressive building. Other high-rise buildings in Dubai are fun to look at, with ornate designs, and various colors and textures, even ones that appear to change shape as you move past them. The Burj Khalifa, on the other hand, needs no superficial artistry to draw in the eye. It’s beauty is in it’s concept. From anywhere close to the building, trying to observe it’s height is meaningless. That would be like trying to learn the distance across an ocean by looking out over it from the shoreline.
The tower’s design makes it seem almost infinitely tall as it tapers into narrower sections all the way to the top. The exact opposite is true from a distance. The sheer height is impressive from miles away, viewable anywhere in the city. Even when standing among other tall buildings, the scale of the Burj Khalifa isn’t lost. After a few days of being able to see this amazingly tall building at all times, I finally realized that this tower isn’t just tall. it’s really tall. More than half a mile tall. This building is the definition of “skyscraper”
The height was even more amazing from the observation deck, where nothing in Dubai comes close to interrupting the view of the horizon. It’s like looking down at a really big map. From other tall buildings, the people below looks like little bugs.
From the Burj Khalifa, it’s the cars and trucks that look like bugs.
The Scale of the Burj Khalifa was finally understandable. When everything else appeared to be small and insignificant, I could understand how how far this building towers over reality.
Before we visited Jumeirah Mosque, we were warned not to be disappointed – this was not, we were told, like the Sheikh Zayid Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which we’d already seen. They were right – it’s very different. The value of this mosque isn’t measured in its trappings and decorations. While it’s beautiful, Jumeirah Mosque’s real value lies in its congregation and the experience its members provide to guests and visitors.
A British woman led our tour, which started outside the mosque with a description of the washing ritual that cleanses worshipers before they attend services. Before we went left, Chrystall took photos as Evan attempted the ritual himself.
Once inside the mosque, our guide introduced us to the building and its community. She covered basic principles like the five pillars of Islam, described services and demonstrated prayers. She also took a wide range of questions from the audience, which had a people from all over the world and different experiences and backgrounds.
The group enjoyed authentic, tasty Lebanese food one afternoon in Dubai. With a half-Lebanese Professor, we were hoping it was good…and it was great! Lebanese, along with Turkish and Iranian cuisine, is considered by many to be the best of the Middle Eastern foods. The fusion of Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and French infused flavors makes for a meal fresh, exotic, and tasty!
It felt really weird walking -outside- and feeling that cozy warmth that usually comes from a fireplace as the lower legs of my pants dried after skiing. Then, not so much when I realized that, just a few minutes before, I had been warming my hands on a hot cup of coffee under a patio warmer in the middle Dubaian desert… Inside a giant freezer next to a ski lift of course.
Skiing at Ski Dubai (name check?) is possibly the most novel and exciting thing to do in Dubai, mostly just because it feels so put of place. I’m not saying anyone should book a flight just to go skiing in the desert. But really, if you happen to find yourself in Dubai, this is one thing that is sure to bring out a smile.
What if you had to walk through this :
to get to this?
OK, at Dubai Mall it’s more like walk past, but it’s still the first mall that I’ve ever been to that had actual sharks in it. Along with all the stores and a little thing called the Burj Khalifah, there’s a three story aquarium featuring everything from otters to crabs to the people who go diving in the largest tank. An aquarium ticket lets you walk through the main tank’s tunnel and see the rest of the store from inside.
Sharjah, or “Knowledge City” as our instructor calls it, is a city just outside of Dubai. It’s older, and the cost of living is much lower, so many workers live there and commute to their jobs in Dubai each day, and the traffic during those times is legendary.
We visited two mosques first, but in Sharjah mosques are closed to non-Muslims, so we stuck to admiring the outer architecture and patterns. Then we walked down the pier of Sharjah Creek towards the museum.
Museums and Art
The booklet for the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization describes it as “the first of its kind in the UAE” and that it “started its life as a traditional Middle Eastern souq,” specifically the Souq al-Marjarrh. The building is known for its zodiac mosaic and has over 7 galleries and display areas for cultural and historic items from all over the Islamic world. Afterwards, we walked through the art district on the way to the souks.
There are two sets of souks in Sharjah – the old souks and the newer, blue souks. The old souks are together in a building which has an Indian restaurant in the middle of it. We had a choice of chicken, lamb, or fish (barracuda) to go with our rice and drinks. The picture below is of my lamb. As you can see, it’s a little tricky to eat rice with your hands, but we managed, and got to catch up on Arab Idol at the same time.
Afterwards, we shopped at stores like these below. I was thrilled to finish my shopping, and Anthony also bought presents for people back home.
Sharjah’s Old Wall
We’re almost done, but I love this wall so much that I did give it its own heading.
Animals, Fruits, and Vegetables
After lunch and the souks, we walked through several markets – one for “birds and animals,” one for fruits and vegetables, and a butcher’s market. Then it was back on the bus and back to Dubai to get ready for evening events.
For the rest of the Sharjah pictures, click below…
|Sharjah (January 2010)|
Tonight, the Burj Dubai opened, renamed as the Burj Khalifa. Many made it downtown to the event, including some of our team from ASU, and even more watched the event from all over the city including this group near the Mercato Shopping Mall in Jumeirah. But the event wasn’t just about a building opening – the 4th of January is 4th anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed becoming the ruler of Dubai – check out the last picture of the Burj al-Arab wishing him the best. A few more photos can be found by posters like nileshzw, who’s already linked photos to the Burj Khalifa’s location on Google Maps, as well as more coverage through Gulf News and Dubai City Guide.
|Burj Khalifa fireworks (January 2010)|
Here I am… the delinquent who didn’t post my introduction before embarking on our epic adventure. Like Joseph, I am an architecture student in the master’s program at ASU. In 2006 I finished earning my undergraduate degree in interior design and I currently practice as a designer with a local architectural practice, richard + bauer, as I work my way through graduate school. I currently practice predominately in the public sphere focusing on libraries and higher education environments. Ideally, I will be contributing to the broader canon of architecture with pubic work focusing on iconic cultural centers like museums and theaters.
I was drawn into the sphere of architecture because a good architect designs situations, not just buildings. Architecture has an incredible power to manipulate experiences and the concepts of a community. It is our means of telling the story of a place. I can’t wait to see and continue seeing how the architectural story line weaves into the context of existing society.