Architectural masterpieces in the UAE never fail to amaze both locals and tourists. The country has a picturesque skyline dotted with skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. But did you know that over the past three decades, the title of ‘UAE’s tallest tower’ has been passed on multiple times, in line with the country’s fast-paced progress? We take a trip down memory lane by revealing the tallest buildings in the UAE, then and now.
The UAE currently is in the third position in terms of global ranking of skyscrapers, with 251 towers standing 150 metres tall or even more. Now that’s a cool fact to know about the country you’re living in.
THEN: UAE’S TALLEST BUILDINGS OVER THE YEARS
Before the launch of Burj Khalifa, other structures ruled as the tallest buildings in the UAE. As each new development dethroned its predecessor, the country thrived in various sectors such as construction, hospitality and tourism. Here’s a look at the evolution of the UAE’s tallest buildings.
1979 – 1999: DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTRE (149 METRES)
Those who grew up in the UAE remember this iconic development gracing the Social Studies textbooks at school. Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), formerly known as Sheikh Rashid Tower, was the UAE’s tallest building for a good 20 years while the country was still developing.
Even though Dubai has evolved into the cosmopolitan business hub that we know today, this iconic structure continues to serve as a powerful reminder of the UAE’s past. The Dubai World Trade Centre is now a leading events and exhibitions complex in the region.
1999 – 2000: BURJ AL ARAB (321 METRES)
One of the first hotel structures to raise the luxury bar in Dubai, Burj Al Arab, has remained remarkably significant in shaping the country’s identity. The distinct sail-shaped structure is built on an artificial island that sits 280 metres off the shore of Dubai. At 321 metres in length, Burj Al Arab was the tallest all-suite hotel in the world at the time, cementing Dubai’s position in the global luxury hospitality industry.
2000 – 2009: EMIRATES TOWER ONE (354 METRES)
From hotels to offices, Dubai’s cityscape saw massive changes in the new millennium. In 2000, Emirates Tower One quickly took over Burj Al Arab as the tallest building in Dubai and the UAE. Together with Emirates Tower Two, a hotel skyscraper, the complex has become one of the most distinct twin towers in the world.
At the time of its completion, the 56-storey Emirates Tower One was the 9th tallest commercial tower worldwide and currently ranks as the 67th tallest buildings in the world. It was also one of the first skyscrapers of this stature to be built on Sheikh Zayed Road, paving the way for so many developments that would line the road strip in the years to come.
2009 – 2010: ALMAS TOWER (360 METRES)
Before Jumeirah Lake Towers existed, this commercial high-rise tower put down its roots in the area and became the tallest building in the UAE. Designed with a distinct diamond-shaped podium, the 68-storey Almas Tower was the second prominent office tower in the country after Emirates Tower One.
With notable office buildings making it to the list of tallest structures in the world, the UAE was changing, and its skyline mimicked this progress. At the time of its completion, Almas Tower was the 3rd tallest building in the Middle East and the 12th tallest office-use building in the world.
2010 – PRESENT: BURJ KHALIFA (828 METRES)
How can any list of the tallest buildings be complete without Burj Khalifa? The year was 2010, Sheikh Zayed Road was already home to numerous skyscrapers shaping Dubai’s skyline, and the UAE was poised to reach new heights with its latest architectural wonder. At a staggering height of 828 metres, the 163-storey Burj Khalifa has successfully held the “tallest building in the world” title since it was built. The construction of Burj Khalifa reinforced the UAE’s position on the real estate map and soon, the country was recognised all over the world as a key player.
Can you imagine living in the tallest building in the world? Take a look at what it’s like living in Burj Khalifa!
NOW: TALLEST BUILDINGS IN THE UAE
The UAE’s distinct skyline and spectacular high-rise towers continue to attract tourists and visitors from across the world. And make no mistake, the country has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
MARINA 101 (425 METRES)
The 2nd tallest building in the UAE after Burj Khalifa is Marina 101. Located in the bustling Dubai Marina neighbourhood, it replaced Princess Tower as the second tallest building in the UAE. The striking mixed-use tower has 101 floors accessible through 29 elevators. Marina 101 currently ranks as the 3rd tallest building in the Middle East and the 29th tallest tower in the world.
PRINCESS TOWER (413.4 METRES)
Located in Dubai Marina, Princess Tower was a project of Tameer Holdings. It was the tallest residential tower in the world from 2012 to 2015. The building has 101 floors and 763 apartments.
The standout feature of Princess Tower is the dome-shaped crown that adds just that little bit of height to this incredible structure.
23 MARINA (393 METRES)
23 Marina is the 4th entry on the list of the tallest buildings in the UAE. The 88-floor building completed in 2006 by Hircon International LLC is designed in an octagonal shape, resembling a ball-point pen. Featuring private elevators and plunge pools amongst a host of other amenities, living in this residential building is considered a privilege. It is currently the 6th tallest building in the Middle East.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHICH NEIGHBOURHOOD HAS THE TALLEST BUILDINGS IN THE UAE?
Dubai Marina is, without a doubt, where you can find high-end entertainment options, shopping malls and magnificent skyscrapers. The district has over 200 towers boasting luxury residential and commercial units.
You can read about some of the Dubai Marina buildings in our blog about the tallest residential buildings in Dubai.
CAN I VISIT BURJ KHALIFA AS A TOURIST?
Yes, you can buy tickets to At the Top – Burj Khalifa to see the fantastic structure from the inside. Please read our detailed Burj Khalifa tour guide to know more about the experience.
If you are fascinated by skyscrapers, you can read about the tallest buildings in Abu Dhabi. The UAE’s tallest buildings are a source of pride in this fast-developing country. It is no small feat to turn a desert into a bustling city of towers. The pace at which the nation has developed is a true testament to its visionary leaders, who have taken it to new heights in such a short time.