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Dubai's Khalifa Tower, World's Tallest Building, Opens with Fanfare

Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, seen at center, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, 3 Jan. 2010

Building is so tall that it is 10 degrees Celsius cooler at top than at base

The tallest building in the world has opened in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. But the 828-meter tower formerly known as the Burj Dubai has been renamed the Burj Khalifa, to honor the leader of neighboring Abu Dhabi, who gave Dubai $10 billion last month to help repay its debts.

Dramatic music, fireworks and men parachuting from the sky helped Dubai introduce the world to its new tallest building.

Not only does the Burj Khalifa have more usable floors than any other skyscraper ever built, but it also has the world's highest observation deck on the 124th floor and the highest swimming pool on the 76th.

The building is so tall that it is 10 degrees Celsius cooler at the top than at the base.

Its inauguration comes during a deep financial crisis in Dubai. Lead architect George Efstathiou says the building symbolizes the emirate's perseverance.

"I think the timing is perfect," Efstathiou said. "It represents optimism that Dubai is not dead. I've been reading that in the papers and on the Internet for a while now. I think it's [the building] going to revive Dubai as still being the center of the Middle East."

However, the fact that the word "Dubai" was stripped from the building's title and replaced with name of Abu Dhabi's leader shows how dependent the emirate has become on its oil-rich neighbor.

The ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is also the president of the United Arab Emirates, gave Dubai a total of $25 billion last year as its debt problems deepened.

The debt crisis gained international attention in late November when the government-owned company Dubai World announced it might seek a delay in paying its $26 billion debt.

Mohammed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Properties, the developer of the Burj Khalifa, believes the city's new building will give Emiratis hope for the future.

"For any economic progress to move on, we need so many factors in general, but I think any good news, any positive news, motivates all of us," Alabbar said.

Construction on the Burj Khalifa began in 2004 during Dubai's economic boom.
The building is not completely finished inside, but it is expected to have more than 1,000 luxury apartments, 49 floors of office space and an Armani hotel.

Developers say 90 percent of the building has been sold.