DUBAI // It began in 1889 with the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which was overtaken in 1931 by the Empire State building in New York.
The game of international observation deck leapfrog enters a new phase on Wednesday with the opening of At the Top, Burj Khalifa Sky.
The new viewing level on the 148th floor of the Dubai landmark, an ear-popping 555.7 metres high, beats the record held since 2011 by Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China, at a mere 488 metres.
It is the Burj’s third observation deck. The original one on the 124th floor remains, and a new one on the 125th floor also opens on Wednesday.
“We are scaling up the entire journey to Burj Khalifa by offering a truly premium experience that will be a lifetime’s memory for every visitor,” said Ahmad Al Falasi of Emaar Properties, the owners. “We are doubly delighted to clinch the Guinness World Records title that adds to the glory of Burj Khalifa and enhances our reputation.”
Advance tickets for the new deck cost Dh400, including a stop at the 125th floor. Immediate entry costs Dh500, subject to availability.
It was a hit with people invited to Tuesday’s launch. “I’ve lived in Dubai for 20 years and this is actually my first visit to the Burj Khalifa and it’s amazing,” said Zena Louay, who was there with a friend.
“The view is just breathtaking. You don’t really appreciate how Dubai has grown until you see it from so high up.”
The Burj Khalifa now holds seven world records. “This region and the UAE in particular have a huge number of world records,” said Talal Omar of Guinness World Records.
The UAE holds more than 130 world records, most in Dubai.
“Since the Burj Khalifa opened four years ago we have seen many other people inspired to set records at the building itself,” said Mr Omar.
“We have had people climb the Burj and also set records for the highest base jump from the top.”
Last year 1.87 million people visited the Burj Khalifa and that figure is expected to be exceeded this year, said Mr Al Falasi.
“Dubai has so much going for it in terms of attracting visitors and this will only add to that,” said Tanya Haroun of Dubai Tourism.
Visitors to the new floor can sit in an exclusive lounge as they wait for the lift. They are then taken up in batches, led by guest ambassadors.
The lift journey up features a projected video inside that marks the heights of various world-famous buildings as it surpasses them.
The 148th floor has a larger luxury lounge with big panel windows.
There is an outdoor viewing deck, an interactive large screen that takes viewers on a computer-generated trip down the Burj and around Dubai, and a boutique shop.
On the downwards journey a video plays inside the lifts that pays tribute to Dubai. Visitors can stop at the new deck on the 125th floor, which is decorated with a Mashrabiya motif of traditional Arab carved latticework windows. Viewfinders provide a virtual tour of the city called Dubai — A Falcon's Eye View.
Every visitor to the Burj can also learn more about the Hymenocallis flower, which is the design inspiration for the tower.
They can also watch a compilation of all the record-breaking events that have taken place at the Burj and see how Hollywood star Tom Cruise climbed the building during the filming of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.