Summon to mind a few of the world's most iconic tourist attractions: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, the London Eye, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. All architectural marvels, in different ways, and all flocked to by thousands each year, gazing up in wonderment at man's creative ability. Look around each more closely, though, and you can normally note small stalls, gift shops and salesmen flogging you little re-creations of them all: postcards, key rings, mugs, T-shirts and all manner of plastic tat in tribute. For what is a trip to one of the world's most staggering creations without an expensive trip to the accompanying souvenir shop?
To this list of great edifices can now be added the Burj Dubai. At more than 800 metres, the tallest building in the world throws open its glass doors for inauguration today, with the public allowed up to the observation deck from tomorrow. And yet, even though it is only just opening, like all good tourist attractions it has already spawned a wealth of souvenir riches - both official and not quite so.
On the official front, there are two shopping opportunities. Inside the tower, you will find the observation deck called At the Top (it isn't quite - it's floor 124 of 162, but who's counting?), where there will be one shop. For those not venturing inside, Dubai Mall will soon house another. But eagle-eyed shoppers among us might have noticed other Burj Dubai trinkets for sale around the city already. It is perhaps not surprising, given that the building has been a work in progress since early 2004, that souvenir touts have had some time to come up with their wares. And what veritable treasures there are. On a day's shopping trip in Dubai's Mall of the Emirates last week, The National came across several top-notch pieces of tat, all just begging to be bought.
First observed was a T-shirt, in black with sparkly gems stuck on its front in the shape of the Burj Dubai. Emanating from the image of the building is a pair of blue, shiny wings with gold swirls around them and the word "Dubai" stamped in more gems beneath that. It's not a low-key purchase, but it befits a building of this magnitude. Moreover, in souvenir terms, a T-shirt is a must-buy item, because the wearing of it signifies to others that you have been there. This is crucial.
Next, our eye fell upon a small, transparent glass model of the Burj Dubai, which comes in its own presentation box. This, doubtless, will be one of dozens of maquettes created in homage to the real thing. But will they all light up and blink alternately with red and blue lighting like this one, for just Dh35? They may not. Some will scoff at the thought of having something so kitsch on the mantelpiece, but taste is something you are perhaps advised to leave at the door when entering a souvenir shop.
There are also the more traditional baubles. These come in the form of key rings, fridge magnets and postcards - the bread and butter items of your average souvenir peddler. The Burj Dubai magnet is a soaring image of the tower superimposed on a dusky skyline. The key ring is a small metal piece, shaped in the tower's form in the UAE colours - red, green, black and white. Both are items that you can use daily, enabling you to look back and fondly reflect on your trip there. The postcards can be found in shops all over Dubai, again useful items to send to others and alert them that you have visited the world's tallest building. Sure, take photographs while you're there. But anyone can brandish a digital camera and upload photographs to Facebook. Why not do it the old-school way and support the blossoming Burj Dubai souvenir industry with a gaudy postcard instead?
Most pleasing of all the finds, though, was the mini Burj Dubai snow globe, shaped like a lava lamp with a version of the tower seemingly levitating inside. The chances of snow ever falling on the Burj Dubai are minimal, but let's not split hairs. This is a splendid souvenir find. Better still, give the snow globe lava lamp a shake and it too lights up, drifting from blue to green to red, with the light catching the small bits of silvery glitter inside. It takes naffness to new heights, which is in keeping with the souvenir spirit. This one, especially, will keep the children happy - for the car ride home, at least.
Finally, you'll need something in which to hold all these magnificent purchases. And what better way than with a Burj Dubai jute bag? It features a rough drawing of the building beside which sits the world's biggest camel (even seated, it is half the size of the Burj Dubai). For just Dh10, this too can be yours. Carry your souvenirs home in it and display them with pride. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org