TIME Emirates

This Airline Is Launching the Longest Flight in the World

HSV Team Hands Over A380 To Emirates Airline
Krafft Angerer—Getty Images Emirates stewardesses pose in front of an aircraft.

Here's your big opportunity to spend almost 18 hours on a plane

Emirates said Thursday it would begin offering daily flights between Dubai and Panama City, according to the Associated Press. The duration of the trip, when westward, totals 17 hours and 35 minutes, making it the longest commercial flight in the world.

The flights, which will begin Feb. 1, make Panama City the inaugural destination in for Emirates in Central America. The trip traverses a total of 8,590 miles, according to Bloomberg. Previously, the longest flight in the world was a flight from Dallas to Sydney offered by Qantas, which took 17 hours.

According to Bloomberg, Panama will serve as the entry-point for tourists and business travelers into South America and the Caribbean.

TIME Dubai

Dubai Is Building Another Seemingly Impossible Project

An aerial rendering of Meydan One.

Because of course it is

Looking for a new skiing destination? You might want to add the desert kingdom of Dubai to your list.

The Gulf emirate has announced plans to build the world’s longest indoor ski slope, which will be part of a larger construction project that when completed will be home to the world’s tallest residential building and the largest dancing fountain, reported The National.

The first phase of the new complex, called Meydan One, will cover 40 million square feet and cost $6.8 billion to build. It’s set to be completed by 2020.

This isn’t Dubai’s first indoor ski slope, but the new slope will be three times longer than Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates, which already holds the world record for being the world’s largest indoor ski resort. The new ski run will be 1.2 kilometers — or 0.75 miles — long.

Dubai is well-known for its elaborate construction projects. It is already home to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower at 2,722 feet high.

TIME Wonders of the World

Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower Looks to Set a Record

Iwan Baan At 830 m from base to tip, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building—for now.

Meet the architect behind the planet’s tallest towers

If you take the world’s longest elevator ride up the world’s tallest building and venture out on the world’s highest outdoor observation deck, the sensation is a bit like being on an airplane that is idling midair to allow passengers to peer down at the earth. The term bird’s-eye view hardly describes it, since the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai—452 m above the ground—is higher than the cruising altitude of many birds. Walking out on to the deck, Adrian Smith, the architect who designed the Burj, stands stunned at the crowds of tourists snapping photographs of the view. “Wow, it is great to see all these people here,” says Smith, who is back at the Burj for the first time since it opened in 2010. “This place is busy.”

Five years after it debuted with Dubai-style gaudiness, including a giant fireworks display, the Burj has become a magnet for the roughly 1.5 million people a year who shell out $54 for tickets to the observation deck, perhaps to contemplate how this gravity-defying building stays upright. From its base to the tip of its spire, the Burj is 830 m—almost double the height of the Empire State Building.

And yet the Burj will likely hold on to its title for only a few more years at most. The scramble to build higher has accelerated so fast in recent years that skyscrapers that awed us last century barely warrant a mention today. Just 15 years ago, buildings higher than 200 m were extraordinary, and there were only 263 of them in the world. By 2012 there were nearly triple that number. Currently, there are about 10 buildings under way that will be higher than 500 m, which is higher than the world’s tallest building in 2003, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers. More than the expression of intricate engineering, the supertall towers have become an outsized shortcut to global importance. “If you want to be a serious city, you have to show you are serious,” says Alejandro Stochetti, a director of Smith’s company, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. “For that, you need an iconic building.”

And if you want that iconic, sky-­scraping skyscraper, Adrian Smith is your man. Smith is among a small club of architects who design record-tall buildings­—though you wouldn’t know if from meeting the 70-year-old. About the only thing that marks the soft-­spoken Midwesterner as a “starchitect” is his trademark all-black outfit. Smith offers no gushing commentary about his buildings, preferring the results to speak for themselves. He says he has held a passion for tall buildings since at least the age of 13, when he began sketching 40-story towers—­buildings that would have been hugely tall in the 1950s. “No kids drew that,” he says, laughing.

More than a half-century on, Smith is nowhere near done. He spent decades at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in Chicago, where he began by working on the 459-m (base to tip) Hancock Tower before leaving to start his own firm in that city in 2006. The timing was good: Burj Khalifa, which he designed while at SOM, was being built, and oil-rich countries like the United Arab Emirates had plenty of money to spend. Smith hooked clients in China and the Persian Gulf who were eager to have him try to break his record.

When Smith met TIME in Dubai one evening in June, he had just come from signing a deal across town to design what will be world’s tallest office building (the Burj’s 163 floors have apartments and the Armani Hotel), which will anchor a new mega-development near Dubai’s boat marina, timed to open when the World Expo is held here in 2020. Though the new building’s height is a secret, he says the Burj will remain taller. Yet Smith will design offices all the way up, rather than pad out its final height—as the Burj and many others do—with a needle-like spire and top floors too narrow for use.

Then there is Smith’s most extreme project yet: Kingdom Tower in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. When it opens in 2019, it will be the first building ever to exceed 1 km. Its vast interior will have 59 elevators­—five of them double-deck so they can stop at two floors at once—that will travel at speeds designed to prevent ears popping. Financed by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the tower will anchor a new suburb of Jidda, called Kingdom City, which the Saudis hope will draw millions of pilgrims traveling to nearby Mecca and Medina.

Although Smith says there were few dramatically new technical challenges involved in reaching this height, supertall buildings do not come cheap: the Burj’s final cost was about $1.5 billion. Construction can also drag on for years. Kingdom Tower’s workers spent more than a year simply digging a foundation strong enough to support its structure, which will have 157 occupiable floors and use about 80,000 tons of steel. “These buildings are massive efforts,” Smith says.

Still, the drive to build upward continues, in part because supertall buildings can transform an entire city. The Burj stands in what was a decade ago a quiet area on the wrong side of town. Now it anchors what’s known as Downtown Dubai, with a massive shopping mall, five-star hotels and office towers. Tom Cruise even scampered up its side in the film Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. But such supertall buildings rarely pay off financially; the Burj itself has had trouble filling up. “There are a number of reasons people try to build very tall. First is ego,” Smith says. “Someone says, ‘I just want to build it, and I am rich enough.’ It is for bragging rights.”

But if there is no limit to human vanity, is there one for skyscrapers? Possibly not. Smith keeps a scale model of a building 1 mile (1.6 km) high that he and his team recently designed. That is almost twice the height of the Burj, or nearly four Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another. It is hard to imagine anyone living at such altitudes, and Smith says the model was “pure research.” Yet he concluded that if someone is willing to pay billions for it, a mile-high building is feasible.

The major technical challenge for super­tall buildings is wind, which tends to push into structures and accelerate upward­—what engineers call the stack effect. That can cause full-on motion sickness for dwellers on triple-digit floors. To break the vortex, Smith designed Kingdom Tower with a sloping exterior, and the Burj as a series of uneven steps with a Y-shaped bottom. From afar the Burj looks like a thin, jagged stalagmite shooting out of the earth.

The other problem is less obvious: ­elevators. Beyond a certain length, elevator cables have been too thick to spool, requiring people to switch elevators once or twice to reach the top of the tallest buildings, which turns a trip to the lobby into a commute. Yet even that problem could soon be solved. The Finnish company Kone recently unveiled a lightweight, carbon­-fiber rope that will be capable of lifting people all the way up Kingdom Tower in a single elevator ride.

Smith believes the most likely roadblock ahead for even taller towers is not engineering, but money. A mile-high building would have about 600,000 sq m of space, double the Burj. “The biggest challenge would be filling it,” Smith says. “It would need a really thriving economy.” With oil prices down since they dreamed up Kingdom Tower, the Saudis could struggle to sell out their own building. Yet that might not deter others. “If the Saudis have a higher building, then definitely Dubai will make one even higher,” says Abdulaziz Rsheadat, of the Burj Khalifa’s protocol department. “We have to be the world’s tallest.”

The more worrying question is whether the earth can sustain this mania for height. On the one hand, supertall buildings can spur public transportation that might never be built without it; one of Dubai’s rapid-transit Metro lines was completed four months after the Burj opened in 2010. And they also save space by building up rather than out. That’s an advantage in a dense city like Hong Kong or Tokyo, though less so in comparatively empty Dubai. Putting 5,000 tenants in one gigantic tower requires a footprint of about 2 hectares, compared with 12 hectares if they were spread out in three-story buildings. “You can save that land for other uses,” Smith argues. “You can put photovoltaics [solar panels] on it, or wind turbines, or agriculture.”

But the reality is that supertall towers are energy-sucking machines. Keeping the Burj lit and cool takes the equivalent of as much as 360,000 100-watt lightbulbs and about 10,000 tons of melting ice. And although supertall towers save land, they actually waste living space inside. “They are about 70 to 75% efficient,” Smith says. “The rest [of the building] is devoted to corridors and circulation that you do not need in a low-rise building.”

These towers, however, were never meant for efficiency, but rather for awe, and even shock. And so there will likely always be demand for new ones. As the sun sets outside the Burj, Smith leads me into one of its three lobby areas to show me a favorite design flourish: a backlit wall extending about 15 m up, with dozens of smoked-glass panels that send a warm yellow glow up the interior walls of the building when the lights behind them are switched on. The wall is unlit, however. At Smith’s request, building staff scurry around trying to find the right switch. Finally, after about 20 minutes, they find it. The panels light up, and the building glows. But it is a rare treat. “They usually leave it off,” Smith says, disappointed. “It uses too much energy.”

TIME Aviation

Watch 2 Daredevils Fly Over Dubai With Jetpacks

The HD video will take your breath away

Swiss pilot and engineer Yves Rossy recently flew over Dubai on a jetpack alongside his protégé, skydiver Vince Reffet. On Monday, the daredevils shared an extraordinary HD video of their experience that’s bound to give you the chills.

The footage was shot from a chase plane and two GoPro cameras attached to the men as they soared over the desert and cityscape—at one point, they even circle around the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Rossy has also flown with his self-made jetpack over Mount Fuji and the Grand Canyon.

TIME viral

Watch This Truly Insane Video of People Leaping Off Dubai’s Princess Tower

New Dream Jump sport takes free-falling to a whole new level

Ever wondered what it’s like to jump off one of the world’s tallest buildings?

A team of athletes decided to to just that, hurling themselves off the world’s second highest residential structure, the Princess Tower in Dubai, during a two week extreme Dream Jump event.

Luckily for us, these adrenaline junkies filmed themselves while tumbling off the 400-meter-high platform — free falling or zip-lining — in a variety of head-shaking stunts before parachuting safely to the ground.

To make the event possible, organizers Dream Jump along with XDubai and Skydive Dubai used over six miles of rope from an eight meter long platform.

Thanks, guys, but think we’ll take the elevator.

TIME United Arab Emirates

An Enormous Sandstorm Is Making Life Hellish in Dubai

Amateur footage shows the city blanketed under a thick orange cloud

A massive sandstorm has hit the United Arab Emirates, massively reducing visibility and causing disruption to air and road traffic in several Gulf cities.

The bad weather is caused by strong winds that have whipped up desert sand and dust, leaving the fine particles hanging in the air, reports the BBC.

Flights were disrupted at Dubai’s two busy international airports on Thursday and delays have left many passengers stranded.

In the capital, Abu Dhabi, the reduced visibility has caused a serious traffic accident with a 24-year-old being airlifted to hospital.

The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology has warned that visibility will be reduced to as little as 500 meters and forecasters say it could last days.

The storm has also been blamed for a rise in the number of patients admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems.

The fine particles in a sandstorm can trigger acute asthma attacks in sufferers and can leave people coughing, wheezing, short of breath and prone to infections.


TIME desalination

This Plant in Dubai Makes Half a Billion Gallons of Fresh Water a Day

With 1.8 billion people projected to live in areas afflected by water scarcity by 2025, TIME visits the Jebel Ali plant in the United Arab Emirates where ocean desalination is getting a fresh look.

It’s in your clothes and your food, the appliances in your home and the electricity that powers them. It’s in television and the Internet and the air. It’s in us—or more precisely, we’re it, given that about 60% of our bodies is made of it. To call water the basis of life doesn’t give credit enough, yet we often treat it like an afterthought. Until it’s gone.

Already 1.2 billion people, nearly a sixth of the world’s population, live in areas afflicted by water scarcity, and that figure could grow to 1.8 billion by 2025. Globally, the rate of water withdrawal—water diverted from an existing surface or underground source—increased at more than twice the rate of global population growth over the past century. Climate change could intensify desertification in already dry parts of the planet. The world is projected to hold 9 billion people or more by 2050—and they’ll all be thirsty.

So in 2015 and beyond, the challenge of water scarcity will only grow, which could lead to global instability. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Efficiency can stretch existing supplies (in the U.S., overall water use has fallen even as the population has grown). And an old technology, ocean desalination, is getting a fresh look as high-tech plants churn out millions of gallons of freshwater a day. The Jebel Ali plant in the United Arab Emirates, shown in this photo essay, can produce 564 million gallons (2.13 billion L) of water a day from the sea, a sign of the sheer scale that may be needed in a drier future. The truth is that we can do anything with water—except go on without it.


Now You Can Virtually Wander the Streets of Dubai

Julian Finney—Getty Images The Burj Al Arab, a 7 star hotel, is seen on February 25, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The first Arab metropolis to get Google Maps 'Street View'

Google added ‘Street View’ to its map of Dubai on Monday, marking the feature’s first foray into an Arab country.

Virtual visitors can tour the city’s most notable landmarks, including the “dancing fountains” outside of the Dubai Mall and the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, which can be viewed both from the ground floor and the observation deck 124 floors above the city.

“We hope that you’ll be inspired to explore its wonders in person,” the Google Maps team wrote in an announcement on the official blog, “but until then, they’re just a click away.”


TIME Style

Sarah Jessica Parker’s Shoe Line to Launch in Dubai

Sarah Jessica Parker
Nigel Waldron—Getty Images Sarah Jessica Parker.

The "Sex and the City" star is set to appear in the United Arab Emirates promoting her shoe line's international debut

Sarah Jessica Parker is perhaps taking a cue from her Sex and the City alter ego and heading to the United Arab Emirates with her shoe line.

But while Carrie Bradshaw visited Abu Dhabi in the franchise’s second film (which was panned by critics), Parker is preparing to launch her SJP Collection in Dubai, marking the line’s debut in the international market. The collection will be available from Dec. 3 and Parker will be making appearances at Harvey Nichols on Dec. 7 and Bloomingdale’s on Dec. 9 to promote the line.

Parker created the shoe collection with the CEO of Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus. The shoes, which are already available to buy in the US, are identifiable by the signature strip of grosgrain ribbon on the back of every heel.

[The National]

TIME Travel

10 Things To Do Wherever You Are

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
Getty Images

Traveling this holiday weekend? Whether you’re headed to New York or San Francisco, Singapore or Tokyo, we’ve put together a list of your destination’s must-see attractions and activities. So if you want to hit the tourist hotspots, or if you prefer to see how the locals live, these ideas will make your Labor Day planning a bit less laborious:

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