Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! The Peak of Megalomania or stunning vision? http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,667262,00.html#ref=nlint The world's tallest skyscraper will open soon in Dubai, even as the emirate continues to be battered by the financial crisis. Is Burj Dubai an expression of failed megalomania or proof of Dubai leader Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's stunning vision? The view is clear, the air is soft and silky, and only a thick strip of red separates the sky and the sea at sundown. The boundary between grandeur and kitsch becomes blurred here, halfway up the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest tower. It smells of paint, varnish and new leather, and the steps of female visitors on parquet and marble produce an elegant-sounding echo that suddenly disappears when they step onto soft carpets. An artificial island in the shape of a palm tree is visible to the southwest, and farther to the north is a man-made archipelago that looks like a map of the world. But only the furniture, the carpets, the smells and the sounds are real. The rest is an illusion. The visitor isn't gazing out at the Persian Gulf from 400 meters (1,312 feet) up in the air; in fact, he or she is standing at ground level -- in a model apartment with an enormous mural stretched outside its floor-to-ceiling windows -- at the foot of a hermetically sealed building. The model apartment is located at the recently closed sales office of Emaar Properties, the real estate development company behind the Burj Dubai, which has over-extended itself -- with projects from India to Morocco -- and is now selling some of its condominiums at half the list price. After falling by 32 percent in last two weeks, Emaar's stock price gained 15 percentage points again last Thursday. Emaar, like the entire city, is on the brink of ruin, and yet it behaves as if nothing has happened. Dubai, like no other place in the world, epitomizes globalization, "innovation" and "astonishing progress," as US President Barack Obama said admiringly in his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo in June. But it also stands for mind-boggling excess. In Dubai, utopias almost feel real sometimes, and reality is sometimes nothing but a mirage.