The world's top photo opportunity

Long lines and clouds deter few, but many wishing to check out Dubai from 124 floors up were turned away because of the high demand

Dubai - January 5, 2010 - Mladjan Sladakovic makes a self portrait while others view Dubai from the 124th floor observation deck of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, January 5, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
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DUBAI // Visitors eager to be among the first to gaze out from the Burj Khalifa queued up yesterday morning even as debris from the celebrations of the night before was still being swept away. Their wait was longer than expected. however.

As cleaners laboured and other tourists posed for photos in front of the 828-metre tower, visitors intent on taking the lift to the observation deck on the 124th floor were told that public tours would not begin until 3pm, and would end at 7pm. By 10am, many of the half-hour touring slots had already sold out. Later in the day, as the first group was ushered through to the elevators to begin their journey, the sky began to cloud over, obscuring the panoramic views.

Dieter Hartz, 60, from Germany, did not allow his experience to be diminished by the delay or the clouds. "It was amazing," he said. "We were one of the first to see it and it was one of the best experiences of my life. "We were so excited when we came out of the lift to see the view. It was cloudy but we could still see the Burj al Arab." Doug Grigor, 55, from Scotland, who had worked in Jebel Ali six years ago, said it was an eye-opener to see how the city had grown.

"The organisation was shambolic, with everyone pushing and no orderly queue," he said. "But once we got to the top the views were worth it. It was amazing to see how much the city has spread both along the coast and into the desert." Alec Baldwin, 76, on holiday with his wife from England, agreed the views were memorable. "I was surprised just how close to the desert Dubai is," he said. "You don't always get that sense at ground level. It was cloudy but the telescopes cut through the mist so there was still a good view.''

He thought the experience could have been enhanced with more information on the tower. "It is a great crowd-puller but I would have liked to read more about the construction of the building." David Schmid, 40, from Italy, described it as a "10 out of 10" experience but said that the organisation threatened to spoil it. "The anticipation was a disaster because there was chaos with people trying to buy tickets," he said. "I am sure they will get it right but it was a shame. It was a very impressive view but I had wanted to see the world islands and they were not visible."

While many were able to enjoy the view from 124 storeys up, it seemed as if just as many were left disappointed. Will Yester, 28, and his three friends were hoping to enjoy a bird's-eye view of the region before heading back to their hometown of Houston, Texas, yesterday afternoon. But with a flight at 2pm and no available tickets before 6pm it was not to be. "We were hoping to go up, but not a chance," he said with a smile.

After queuing for 45 minutes the news that tickets were being sold for the following day saw pensioner Dennis Fincham, 78, from Lincolnshire, England, turn around and head home to his daughter's apartment in Deira to rethink the family's schedule for the week. "I had better check the family plans before I buy any," he said. By 2.30pm, with the first tour just 30 minutes away, the excitement in the waiting area was palpable. Visitors fought to contain their excitement and wait patiently in the queue.

For some, like Aseel Attar, 21, from Jordan, anticipation was mixed with pride. "It is incredible that the top-of-the-world experience is in Dubai," he said. "I am excited to have a bird's-eye view of Dubai's landmarks. People are desperate to be one of the first to experience it." For a video of the fireworks at the Burj Dubai opening, click here