Sunrise at Burj Khalifa

The day before my last in Dubai, I knew I wanted to go on top of the world’s tallest building. I was buying tickets to Burj Khalifa’s 124th floor when I stumbled upon the option to see Dubai’s skyline at sunrise. Now, I have a thing for elevated city views. Throw in the golden hour, and you can find me running with my Nikon DSLR in hand—but I hesitated to buy these tickets.

For one, I was tired as hell. I had just taken a 13-hour flight across the Atlantic a few days before. Usually I would spend the subsequent days hibernating in 12-hour chunks, but instead I was thrown into 12-hour tours—first to Abu Dhabi, then on the desert safari. On both trips, I passed out on the way to and from our destinations because I was so sleepy.

Besides that, I wasn’t sure that I would have anyone to go with. The rest of my family had gone up to Burj Khalifa before I even arrived, except for my dad and grandmother, both of whom had a fear of heights. I didn’t think I could convince them.

My dad was probably a guaranteed lost cause, but my mom suggested asking my grandmother. Maybe she’ll agree, she said. I had my doubts, but I went off to ask her.

“Hmm…” my grandmother said. I held my breath. “I could go with you.”

I don’t know if it was the travel bug, my good-girl charm, or the fact that we rarely had any opportunities to travel and do cool things together (probably the latter), but I quickly bought the tickets before she could change her mind.

The next morning, I woke up at 4:30. My grandmother was still asleep, snoring like a grizzly bear. I decided to take a shower first and eat breakfast. By the time I finished, my grandmother was still asleep. I didn’t want to wake her since she was exhausted from all the traveling (the aggressiveness of her snores was a key indicator).

As I was packing my things, my grandmother woke up, asking what time it was and when I was leaving. I told her I was going in 15 minutes, and she didn’t have to come with me anymore. At first she said she was tired and might not go anymore. But then she convinced herself that she should. Our conversation went something like this:

Her: “You can go alone, right? You’ll be fine?”

Me: “Yes, you should stay in and sleep.”

Her: “What time are you leaving again?”

Me: “In about 15 minutes.”

Her: “That’s not enough time for me to change and put on my make-up.”

Me: “It’s all right, Ama, you should keep sleeping.”

Her: “It’ll be safe if you take a taxi, right?”

Me: “Yes, I’m sure nothing will happen.”

Her: “But you’re going alone. You shouldn’t go alone.”

Me: “It’s fine, I can go alone.”

Her: “You’re right. I really am tired and I feel a cold coming. I’m just going to stay in and sleep.”

3 minutes later

Her: “I can’t sleep. I’ll just go with you. I just won’t put on my make-up anymore. That’ll be fine, right?”

And that’s how I found myself going up the Burj Khalifa at 5:30 am with my grandmother. The winds were ferocious and at first my grandmother didn’t want to step outside to the open air but eventually, she did. Her hair got a little messed up. She kept trying to fix it, but the wind was unforgiving. It was kind of funny.

As we were about to leave, the sun’s rays peered out from the clouds. I pointed it out to her and she said it was God’s work. I smiled, watching her fall in love with the view. I gave a little prayer and thanked God—for His glory, for the trip to Dubai, and for convincing my grandmother to experience the sunrise with me.

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