Monday, January 4, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Excess

Color me gobsmacked. Mr. Muscato and I just watched, live on Dubai TV, the opening of the Burj Dubai Khalifa. It reminds me, as someone once said of, I believe, the films of Cecil B. DeMille, that it's the kind of thing God would do, if he had the money.

Staged in the presence of Dubai's vision-man himself, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktoum (although, alas, his festive wife HRH Princess Haya of Jordan was nowhere to be seen), the spectacle combined the world's most overproduced time-share promotional film displayed on vast screens placed around the building; a dancing waters display that made Las Vegas's Bellagio look like a grade-school drinking fountain; a score that was equal parts Wagner, Moroder, and a low-rent bellydance CD; and, finally, fireworks.

We're not talking your common, garden-variety July 4 fireworks - we're talking cannonades of fireworks; fireworks launched from neighboring towers (their measly 50 or so stories dwarfed by the new tower's 160); fireworks rising out of the ornamental lakes surrounding the tower; and, most jaw-droppingly, fireworks bursting out of what seemed like every inch of the 800+ meter tall building itself.

All it needed was Bette Midler popping up in the palm of a life-size King Kong replica at say the 130th floor to sing "Lullabye of Broadway" to be absolutely perfect, but I'm afraid intentional camp is not something with which Sheikh Mo is terribly familiar.

Dubai gets a lot of bad press, but I have to hand it to them - they know how to throw a housewarming. Still, I fear, there may have been a bittersweet quality to it all for the host, who at the last moment found himself announcing the surprise renaming of the new monument. The former Burj Dubai now glorifies his fellow Emir, Khalifa of Abu Dhabi, who perhaps-not-coincidentally has come through with billions of dollars to help keep the whole show running in recent months. A nice gesture, I suppose, even if not, one suspects, entirely a voluntary one.


  1. If Bette had shown up in the hand of a giant simian, I think even I would have been compelled to eventually fly over to check it all out.