DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The world's tallest building made its debut Monday in the United Arab Emirates amid an economic recession largely caused by a real estate bust.
Dubai Ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum was on hand for the official opening of Burj Dubai, an elegant spire shaped to resemble a budding flower stem.
The building's peak boasted views across the Arabian Gulf to Iran on this clear day.
On hand were more than 6,000 officially invited guests and thousands of revelers in a scene reminiscent of New Year's Eve at New York's Times Square. Daylong festivities were capped with a spectacular nighttime fireworks show and colored displays by the dancing fountains at adjacent Dubai Mall.
In a previously unannounced move, the building was renamed Burj Khalifa at its opening. Mohammed said the change was to honor Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, which gave financial assistance to cash-strapped Dubai three times in the past year to help the emirate remain current on payments of its estimated $80 billion in mostly construction debt.
Burj Khalifa replaces Taiwan's Taipei 101 as the world's tallest building, but officials in Taipei indicated in a press release they would seek to claim status as home to the world's tallest environmentally green building and were prepared to invest funds to accomplish that goal.
The Dubai Tower stands at 818 meters (2,684 plus feet) and is followed by the Taipei 101 at 509 meters (1,671 feet), Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago at 527 meters, (1,730 feet), Shanghai World Financial Center at 492 meters (1,614 feet), and Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at 452 meters (1,482 feet).