9 Huge Facts About the Burj Khalifa

iStock/dblight
iStock/dblight

If you think everything is bigger in Texas, you’ve clearly never paid a visit to Dubai. The ultra-modern city prides itself on going big with everything it does.

In addition to being the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is also home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which cemented its place in skyscraper history earlier this week when it welcomed Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla—the titans of the latest Godzilla installment, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Here are nine things you might not know about this massive structure.

1. The Burj Khalifa is twice as tall as the Empire State Building.

iStock/olegmj

Standing approximately 2716.5 feet tall, the Burj Khalifa snatched the title of “world’s tallest building” from Taipei’s Taipei 101, which held the record from 2004 to 2010 with a height of 1667 feet. While several other massive structures have been built since then, none has managed to top the Dubai landmark. Taipei 101, meanwhile, now ranks as the 10th tallest building in the world.

2. It took five years to build the Burj Khalifa.

Building the Burj Khalifa was a massive endeavor that, at its peak, required the assistance of approximately 12,000 workers per day. Which helps explain how the ambitious structure was completed in a rather short amount of time: excavation work on the building began in January 2004 and construction on the building’s exterior was completed in October 2009. It officially opened to the public on January 4, 2010.

3. The Burj Khalifa was designed to resemble a flower.

iStock/TonyBaggett

Adrian Smith, the architect behind the Burj Khalifa, designed the building to resemble the Spider Lily, a regional desert flower.

4. The Burj Khalifa houses a massive art collection.

Any building as large as the Burj Khalifa is bound to have a lot of wall space to fill. Altogether, the building’s art collection is enormous: There are more than 1000 pieces from some of the world’s best-known artists (with a focus on Middle Eastern artists) hanging within the property—many of them specifically commissioned for the building.

5. You don’t have to be in Dubai to admire the Burj Khalifa’s architecture.

One of the most recognizable architectural features of the Burj Khalifa is the “telescopic” spire that tops it, which is made from more than 4000 tons of steel. On a clear day, that spire can be seen from up to 60 miles away.

6. The spire is a controversial element of the Burj Khalifa.

Though the Burj Khalifa’s spire is one of its most defining features (and has a practical use: housing the building’s communications equipment), in architectural circles, it’s somewhat controversial—as are spires in general.

In 2013, the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat issued a report on what they deemed “vanity spires,” claiming that these uninhabited spaces are simply used to make a building stand that much taller. According to the report, 60 percent of the world’s tallest buildings wouldn’t be so tall at all without their spires. The Burj Khalifa in particular would lose 700 feet of its height.

7. The Burj Khalifa is home to one of the fastest elevators in the world.

It makes sense that the world’s tallest building would need to keep its visitors moving, and quickly. While it doesn’t hold the record for the fastest elevator, it reportedly ranks third (moving at a speed of 22 mph). It takes just one minute to get from the ground floor to the observation deck on the 124th floor.

8. The Burj Khalifa holds a number of world records.

Yes, it's world’s tallest building, but the Burj Khalifa holds a number of other world records, too. According to CNN, these additional superlatives include: the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the highest number of stories, and the highest occupied floor.

9. The Burj Khalifa may not be the world’s tallest building for much longer.

While the Burj Khalifa has enjoyed a nearly 10-year run as the world’s tallest building, it’s about to get some competition—from yet another Dubai construction project. In 2013, construction began on the Jeddah Tower, which will tower over the Burj Khalifa by an estimated 236 feet … if it ever opens.

Originally, the project was set to be completed by 2020 but has been plagued by a series of construction setbacks and other issues that have slowed development. At the moment, it’s expected to be completed in 2023, giving the Burj Khalifa a few more years to wear the “world’s tallest” crown.

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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.