We arrived in Dubai at 3AM. Our goal was to clear customs, and hustle over to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, for sunrise and breakfast.
Unfortunately, I had a little parasitic friend who had different ideas about how I would spend my time. Instead, we hustled over to the Dubai hospital to get me checked out! The staff there was welcoming and gracious. Unfortunately there was a delay, because I arrived during morning prayer.
After taking a blood test, they pumped me full of drugs to kill the parasites that had setup shop in my gut. They gave me some pain killers and sent me on my way.
We missed sunrise at the Burj Khalifa, but were still there early enough to beat the hordes of tourists.
The view was amazing at the top. Equally amazing were views through history. Kylie pointed a device in a direction and it showed historical views of the area.
“The Burj Khalifa took the next step in turning Dubai into a model of tomorrow’s city for the people of the world” – Pierre Marcout
The bottom floor was a museum dedicated to the contributions of the many people who made the Burj Khalifa happen: Engineers, hospitality workers, to architects, financiers, marketing directors, and many others. It seemed so egalitarian in its praise. Moreover, there were tributes to amazing feats of engineering from the fastest elevators, to the highest tower, to the structural soundness of the building materials. It was all very impressive.
Although I didn’t record it, I think the words that resonated most with me were ones spoken in the elevator on the way up. It spoke of the Burj Khalifa being a positive unifying symbol for Arabs in a time when the world did not have that positive image. In effect, look at what we can do….look at what we can become. Look at the amazing things we can accomplish.
The top didn’t disappoint. The views were as spectacular as the heights were dizzying.
On the way out, guests were invited to share in the opulence of the area by having a cappuccino with gold flakes for 99AED (~$27).
To get to the Burj Khalifa we had to walk through the mall. On our way there, the shops were closed and no one was there. However, when leaving we saw plenty of people decked out in their finest shopping at Gucci, Armani, Rolex, and many other upscale shops. Tiny golf carts made to look like Bentley cars drove people around the mall who couldn’t be bothered to walk.
I reflected on migrant labor. Someone built all this, and it wasn’t necessarily the happy smiling faces we saw in the Burj Khalifa museum. I had read reports before coming about the immigrant right abuses:
- 12 hour work days
- $4 per day
- Overcrowded labor camps
- Worker injuries and at least three deaths
- Withholding of passports and restricting movement to payoff housing expenses
(Citation here and here)
In fact the three 11pm flights that left Kathmandu airport before ours all had young males on them. Each male had a plastic name tag around their neck and a folder inscribed with “Recruitment” under their arm. Two flights went to UAE and one went to an airport in India. It seemed to me these were migrant labors who had been promised work and were on their way to their jobs. Although I did not know where those young men were going, I hoped their fortunes would be better than the migrant laborers I had read about.