Monday, June 07, 2010

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Speaker's corner in London and Jess

The Burj Khalif ( formerly Burj Dubai until the financial meltdown in the UAE) is the tallest free standing structure in the world.
I've been snapping pictures of it over the past few years as it relentlessly marched skyward during the "go-go" building years in Dubai.
Legend has it that in the last two years of construction the Indian crane operator sitting at the top of the building actually lived up there as it took too long to go up and down.
I've been told the story by countless taxi drivers who seem unshakable in their belief that "Babu" existed.
I've found no evidence either way.
Nice story though.
In the ultimate in bad timing, construction wrapped up just as the world's financial markets collapsed.
The Burj Dubai was quickly renamed the Burj Khalifa in deference to the huge injection of oil money from Abu Dhabi.
The Burj is finally finished.
I took advantage of a 2 hour window of opportunity on the morning of my departure to visit the 124th floor observation deck.
I've got a bit of a tall building fetish....
I've been to the top of the last two holders of the world's tallest building crown - Taipei 101 and Petronas Towers- and I couldn't miss the chance to visit.
First a few facts and figures:
At 828 meters (2,716 feet), 160 floors The Burj holds the following world records:
  • Tallest Building in the world
  • Tallest free standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world.

If you're afraid of heights, this is not the place for you.

Ok the last one was taken from the window of my plane as I left Dubai.....
I was hoping to fly on the worlds biggest aircraft after my Burj visit, but an equipment change at the last minute meant it was not to be.
I did get a quick snap of the A380 sitting beside the runway.NOT the same thing I grant you.
Dubai was brutally hot when I was there. When its 44 degrees Celsius the wind feels like sticking your head in a pizza oven. The tourists are thin on the ground and most of the locals have decamped to London or Paris.
London was my next stop and I got straight off the plane for pizza with my kid.
We spent the day on South Bank as London was temporarily in summer mode again.
Awesome day.
I was supposed to see Jess yesterday, but it being Father's Day in the UK, I should have known better.
It was not meant to be.
Bummed, I went to Speakers Corner to take pictures of the crazies.
Speaker's Corner sits beside the Marble Arch corner of Hyde Park and has existed as a space dedicated to protest and free speech since circa 1872.
Contrary to popular belief, Speaker's Corner isn't an "anything goes" sanctuary for protest and debate.
Incitement to violence and insurrection are prohibited.
Profanity is also disallowed though I can confidently say this rule is widely ignored.
Some notable folks have stood on a soap box here.
Karl Marx, Lenin, George Orwell and William Morris were all regulars.
Don't turn up hoping to catch future movers and shakers.
Anyone can just show up and say whatever is on their minds.
If they're interesting enough a crowd will gather and the heckling begins.
Most of the speakers are religious nuts, both Islamic and Christian.
Though the exchanges are heated at times there's far more laughter than you'd expect.
Its all pretty good natured.
Over the years I've seen communists, Zionists, Palestinians, Islamic fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists, anarchists, Gay rights campaigners, greens, and various wing nuts of all political stripes.
Sometimes its interesting.
Sometimes it can be disturbing.
Sometimes its funny.
Sometimes it just seems like a collection of crazy people with nothing to do on a Sunday.
Its rarely boring and ranks as the best of free entertainment in a very expensive city.
The woman above and her "Preservation of Natural Blondes crusade" ranks as the oddest thing I've ever seen at Speaker's corner.
She gave me her literature but it seemed incomprehensible.
It included letters she'd written to the Prime Minister pleading for funds to help preserve the endangered blonde gene.
Why does she care?
What exactly does she care about?
An African woman campaigning to preserve "natural" blondes.
You just couldn't make this up if you tried.
Speaker's Corner is in Hyde Park and after the babble, its a great place to walk.
Weather permitting- which is rare.
Lot's of ground covered and that brings us up to date.
Next weekend I'm in New Orleans.
I'm looking forward to it as I've never been.
Rare that.
Stay well everyone


Anonymous said...

Bummer, although I am pretty sure UK fathers' day is the 3rd Sunday in June, i.e., 21st?

(Just ex emerald isle and currently sausage-side.)

Anonymous said...

Make that 20 June and n.b. it's fathers' day in Canada / US same day, enough diary management.
New Orleans is fun, I'm told, albeit humid; the Bolter is recently back from there and speaks highly of it.


Anonymous said...

Happy father's day. Hope you get chance to talk to Jess.