Ups and downs at the world's tallest building

A table of girls, barely dressed, were knocking back the mojitos like there was no tomorrow
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The Independent Online

I'm on a cricket adventure with two friends. We stopped off for two days in Dubai, on the way to Sri Lanka to watch a couple of the international one-day matches. It was my second time in Dubai proper, and I was rather rude about the place last time – "like some Bluewater Shopping Centre in an oven". I was attacked by many tax-dodging expats who were rightly keen to defend their place of residence.

It's currently deep midwinter in the UAE, so temperatures had plummeted to 26C, and I spotted several people walking their dogs, having wrapped them up in coats lest they perish from frostbite. I knew what to expect this time and went with the flow – several lavish meals out with the schizophrenia of the place being all too apparent. At one fancy Japanese restaurant we had a table of Emiratis on one side – the women covered in black from head to toe, the men in pressed white robes and with immaculately trimmed beards. On the other side was a table of girls from Southampton, barely dressed and knocking back the mojitos like there was no tomorrow.

I hate doing sightseeing. In my mind I am a "traveller" not a tourist, but I'm not fooling anybody, and we decided to go up the highest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa. You have to book time slots to go up it, but we were very disorganised and ended up getting tickets for 6.30pm – just as it goes totally dark. We meandered through one of the massive shopping malls, marvelling at the preponderance of racy underwear stores (a hint of what goes on behind the scenes here). We found the entrance to the Burj and queued up to catch one of the lifts that take you up in 60 seconds – so fast that your ears pop with the atmospheric pressure.

Once "At The Top", as the ticket claimed, we stepped out on to a 360 degree viewing platform to find that it might have been better named "Not Really At The Top" or "About Two Thirds Up". Not that it made much difference, as it was pitch black and we could see very little. We stayed for 10 minutes before deciding that we'd (not) seen enough. We joined the hour-long queue for a lift back down.

Fortunately we had "Geoff" with us. "Geoff" is very useful in these circumstances and always travels with me. He is a fictional character whom I'm always blaming for mishaps. On this occasion we announced that "Geoff" was already in the line, and that we had to find him because he had all our earthly belongings. We managed to knock 45 minutes off the wait before being firmly blocked by a pair of burly Boers, who were seemingly very aware of Geoff's non-existence.

The following morning we caught a plane to Colombo and are in the Sri Lankan capital ready to watch England be slaughtered by the host nation. Captain Cook is not allowed to play in today's match because of his slow over rate. I have put "Geoff" up for selection. He is a tricky little leg-spinner and useful with the bat. I think he will do a rather fine job.

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