On Monday, Dubai opened the world's tallest building, an 828-meter-high (2,717-foot) tower, which will be home to luxury apartments, offices and a hotel. It's more than 300 meters taller than the Taipei 101 skyscraper in Taiwan, the next-largest building.
As fireworks and light shows entertained the thousands who had gathered to witness the inaugural ceremony, officials made the unexpected announcement that the half-mile-high spired giant would get a new name. Since work began on it in 2004, the project has been known as Burj Dubai, which is Arabic for "Dubai Tower." But it is now known as Burj Khalifa in honor of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of Dubai's oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi.
But the name change isn't just about honor. In many ways, Dubai owes its current standing to the sheik. In a short amount of time, Dubai had grown from a backwater into the dynamic commercial hub of the Middle East. But the financial crisis showed that the country had taken on far too much debt to fuel its growth. In 2009, the sheikdom surprised many when it disclosed just how precarious its financial position was. And the person who came to the rescue was Sheik Khalifa, who had Abu Dhabi provide billions of dollars in aid to help keep Dubai afloat.
In Tuesday's newspapers, German commentators applauded the opening of the structure. As they see it, the structure is much less a symbol of hubris and much more one of a small Arab state that has dared to be different.
The financial daily Handelsblatt writes:
"Megalomania or a rallying cry? The opening of the Burj Dubai … really symbolizes both. Dubai, only just floored by having to admit its financial woes, is now reestablishing its claim to the world of glitz. …"
"Hidden behind all this glamor, though, is the real success story of the emirate. An Arab state -- though admittedly a small one -- has completely reinvented itself here. Dubai is a melting pot of people from all over the world, and there is a phenomenal social and economic experiment being conducted here. While terror rages in the neighboring Arab states, which have rigid regime structures, Dubai is prospering. Ignoring a few exaggerations, the Gulf state is still a trendsetter for many Arab nations. Many in the Arab world can only dream of its ability to bring Western liberalism and openness together with Islamic social structures without profound disruptions. But, in Dubai, this dream has become a reality."
"Like Babel, Dubai will also pay a price -- not through the destruction of its tower, but through the collapse of the financial house of cards. But the tower will be left standing, and it will become a symbol of Arab adaptability. If other states in the region realize that progress and Islam are not contradictory, the building will have been worth it."
Conservative Die Welt writes:
"Despite the financial crisis that hit the emirate and its major projects like an unforeseen blow to the head, the tower was still completed. It was not allowed to just waver in the wind or become an eternal monument to Muslim hubris in its incomplete state. The shock can still be felt, and it's still hard to tell whether Dubai will be able to slacken its pace without completely losing itself in the process."
"A lot of people criticize the world's highest tower for being completely senseless in economic terms and for only being the result of the 'power of money.' And they might be right. Ah, but what a boorish slap at capitalism! Skyscrapers are endlessly fascinating, and ones like this will encourage many copies in countries that have the requisite sophistication, money and lust for recognition."
-- Josh Ward
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