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Burj al Khalifa: the human story behind the world's tallest building

On March 29, 2011

Crowds gathered around the Burj al Khalifa tower earlier today to watch French 'spiderman' Alain Robert scale the world's tallest building. The free-climber, notorious for climbing Petronas Towers and the Empire State building with no ropes, wore a harness on this occasion to comply with UAE safety regulations. It's a shame that the UAE were not as stringent when it came to the safety of the foreign labourers who built the tower.

Burj al Khalifa is a symbol of modernity and architectural excellence in the UAE, but the migrant construction labourers who worked on the project had to endure dangerous conditions on-site and often had their pay and passports witheld. Have a look at this previous post on Migrant Rights for more on the Burj al Khalifa's tawdry back-story. One migrant worker was reported to have been killed due to an accident on the site, but it is highly probable that his was not the only death, since the documentation of work-related fatalities in the UAE is notoriously patchy.

While we are not opposed to growth, innovation and development, we remain seriously concerned about the human cost of real estate and construction mega-projects in the Gulf.