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Solidarity, skyscrapers and a surprising lack of NY resolutions - By Rebecca Wicks

Another year is over. A new one’s just begun. But in the world of Dubai has anything really changed in the last few days? Well, some might say yes. The weather’s the same, 80 percent of people are still suffering this horrid flu/cold/plague thing that’s swept the nation and confined us all to our bedrooms in a snot-clogged state of misery, and the pre-Christmas sales, although now post-Christmas sales are still drawing us all to the malls in droves... but something’s definitely different. A new world has dawned. 2009 is upon is. That’s just one year away from the impossibly futuristic sounding 2010. And isn’t 2010 the year when spaceships are set to land on earth, we all get a pet robot to clean our dishes (in addition to a maid) and start clogging up the skyways as well as the roads in our little flying cars? 2010 is just 12 months away. The inventors had better get cracking.

There have already been some pretty monumental changes around these parts. There was of course, the quashing of Dubai’s eagerly anticipated New Year’s celebrations, in light of the terrible attacks on Gaza � a decision which angered many, not least because of the credit crunch and general need to “just have a little bit of fun”. It seems Dubai was briefly torn over a desire to forget the tragedies of current times, and a responsibility to remember them for how such things affect us all, somehow.

Parties went on in people’s homes, of course. It just meant that a few villas were messier the next day than usual. Personally I sang auld langs syne with a guitar playing stranger and 60 people in masks, some of whom understood the concept of a masquerade ball and some of whom, in their tiger-face masks from Toys R Us, did not. And the general consensus as we high-fived at midnight against a firework-free sky, was that ultimately Dubai made the right decision to show solidarity in the face of uncertainty.

Then of course, we were submitted to an orchestra of pan pipes on the radio � there’s nothing like a spot of Carpenters on the flute in the key of F sharp as you’re hurtling down the highway to make you a tad uncomfortable. Flags waved half-mast all over the city, before it was announced that, sadly, something was indeed wrong. Shaikh Rashid Bin Ahmad Al Mualla passed away in London on Friday. He was only 77 years old.

Life goes on as we creep further into 2009. And on a happy note, we surely have a lot to look forward to. Things have been so rubbish lately, they can only get better, right? What goes down, must go up � it’s only fair.

Having spent another 8 hours in the new Dubai Mall this weekend I for one will whoop with joy at the completion of many more malls� er� establishments in this city as the year continues. Well, someone has to give us something else to do, other than shop. Or maybe they don’t� the economy needs us after all.

Anyway, just as 2008 had Atlantis, 2009 will have the Burj Dubai � a topic that’s raising as many eyebrows as it will do glasses when it’s finished, I’m sure. The word on the street is that the 160 or so floors have cost several billion dollars to build. It’ll house a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani and some office space, but will be mostly be made up of very expensive apartments that people like you and I will be left to dream about after sneaking a look whilst pretending to be an estate agent/loaded millionaire from Milan (or maybe that’s just me). Most of them are already sold out anyway.

The question on everyone’s lips however: how high will it be? "If you put the empire state building on top of the Sears Tower then it's reasonable to say you'll be in the neighbourhood," says Mr William Baker, William Baker � he’s the chief structural engineer. Hmmm, he’s not giving much away. Come on, give us a clue?

"We're not allowed to say. The client hasn't announced what it is and I don't think they will. It'll turn into urban folklore, you'll have people measuring the shadows on Google Earth and trying to figure it out."

This all sounds very intriguing. Until you apply logic. As my father quite rightly pointed out: “Has Mr Baker not heard of 'Triangulation?”

It's a very simple formula involving angles. It was known to the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese and the Arabs. Measure a distance to the base of an object, measure the angle from that point to the top and a bit of simple maths will give you the height. It's a bit worrying that the man in charge of building the world’s tallest structures isn't familiar with it but then again, half the fun of Dubai has always been in the “theory” of it all.

"We could definitely go taller," says Mr Baker, in a rant that includes predicting the possibility of towers 1,000 metres high. “The next generation of tall buildings are in a hiatus right now, but there're places with pent up demand. I see China continuing with that, and India will come into it soon..."

OK enough. Geek. Our heads are spinning already. It’s 2009, almost 2010 and there’s far too much going on in this world to comprehend. Let’s just think about shopping malls and robots some more.

Happy new year!

Posted: 04 January 2009

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