Standing Tall Beneath Half-Mile-High Dubai Skyscraper

BY Hari Sreenivasan  January 4, 2010 at 5:45 PM EST

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The world’s tallest skyscraper officially opened Monday in Dubai to great fanfare, but also to questions about the emirate’s crushing debt problems.

Known until Monday as the Burj Dubai (“Dubai Tower”), the Middle Eastern monolith was given a new moniker — “Burj Khalifa” in honor of the ruler of neighboring Abu Dhabi – for its opening day. The new name underscored the close relationship Dubai has with the oil-rich benefactor that came to its rescue during the financial meltdown.

The skyscraper’s developers said Monday that the new tower is 2,717 feet or 828 meters tall — more than twice as tall as the roof of the Empire State Building in New York. The final height was kept under wraps until its christening. It’s more than 1,000 feet taller than the next-tallest inhabited building, Taiwan’s Taipei 101.

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Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with Cyba Audeh, a business news anchor from the [al-Arabiya news network](http://www.alarabiya.net/english.html), who attended the “breathtaking” festivities earlier in the evening in Dubai, about watching the tower grow, living with the massive construction project and who’s going to inhabit the huge structure:**UPDATE (6:40p.m. ET)** | Later this afternoon, I also spoke with James Pawlikowski of the architectural firm [Skidmore Owings & Merrill](http://www.som.com/content.cfm/burj_dubai) who served as senior structural engineer on the Burj project. We talked about the significant temperature change at the top, the surprising behavior of Dubai’s wind, the challenges of building a structure that tall and what’s next in skyscrapers: