I am not a brave man.
Ever since I was a child, I have felt extremely uncomfortable in small spaces. I can’t watch a horror film without a cushion to cover my face. And I am unable to swim in the sea without assuming that Jaws or one of his pals are planning to test my lower leg for firmness and flavour.
Nothing terrifies me more, however, than distances greater than my own height away from the wonderfully safe ground.
It is a crippling, life-altering phobia. My 13th-floor balcony pales into insignificance when compared to some of the unreasonably high outdoor living spaces which tease me mercilessly during visits to some friends’ apartments. Yet, I cannot steadily carry a cup of tea from one end of my balcony to the other without worrying I am going to spontaneously throw myself over the edge.
But phobias are for conquering, everyone will tell you (whether you want them to or not).
I've previously transformed a shark fear into fascination by learning more about the amazing creatures. Since then, I have become a keen scuba diver, plunging myself into waters populated by dozens of huge razor-toothed fish.
But dizzying heights? They are a different animal altogether.
Nevertheless, when the UAE launched its latest daring attraction, Sky Views Dubai – a 219-metre walk of faith around the narrow edge of a 53rd-floor platform at the Address Sky View in Downtown Dubai – I found myself agreeing to give it a try.
Watch The National take on Sky Views Dubai:
The attraction also features a glass-bottom slide with nothing underneath but fresh air, plus an observation deck with a glass floor.
I started with the ledge walk.
A harness strong enough to hold many times my weight was not enough to convince me I had made the right choice, but before I knew it, I was kitted up and being ushered outside.
Astounding views across Dubai held my gaze as the far distance became my closest friend (“don’t look down” is Rule Number One).
As I shuffled my feet along the slender ledge, my much braver wife enjoyed the breathtaking scenery and I began to feel somewhat comfortable. “I can do this,” I thought. Only a few hundred metres more and I can once again enjoy the safety of walls surrounding me.
But then we stopped, about a quarter of the way around, so our guide – a burly, fearless man whose former job was with Russian special forces – could go down the line and try to convince us to swing over the edge. The ultimate trust exercise.
He threw his considerable frame (“I eat too much!” – his words, not mine) over the edge before swinging back to the safety of the platform to demonstrate the safety of the set-up. I had no doubts that it was safe – I just wasn’t willing to put my life on the line to prove it.
Surely only the bravest – or most idiotic – would take up the challenge, I thought. I was wrong. In fact, the only member of the group (other than my wife, out of solidarity) who did not hang over the sheer drop was me. Even the other scaredy cat eventually lifted up his feet and put all of his trust in the narrow rope.
Did these people have no self-preservation instinct?
I was perfectly happy to be the group wimp. One step at a time, as I told our good-natured guide as he attempted to persuade me to also try the 170-metre-high zipline in Dubai Marina. No chance.
Another 20 minutes of me shuffling, everyone else swinging, and we were back inside.
After that, the glass slide was somewhat easy, even thrilling. And the glass-floored observation deck was, well, like a walk in the park.
As I descended the skyscraper, I noticed the glass lift which had been terrifying on the way up now seemed quaint on the way down.
I am not saying I have cured my fear of heights – a small amount of fear is healthy – but perhaps now I can sit at the table on my comparatively tame balcony for a meal served without the usual side order of all-consuming dread.
Just don’t ask me to try the zipline.
See more photos of Sky Views Dubai here: