Official criteria

The company is confident that the Burj will fulfil the four criteria for the tallest building, as listed by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

The criteria are: the height of the structural top; the highest occupied floor; the top of the roof; and the tip of the spire, pinnacle, antenna, mast or flag pole.

For now, the unattractive brownish concrete skeleton jutting into Dubai's skies looks rather ugly.

Rising 141 floors above ground from the centre of a dusty construction site, with a mass of surrounding cranes and girders, it has no windows, glass or steel, which have yet to be built in.

The building is an international effort, with only the developer hailing from Dubai.

The architects and engineers are American and the main building contractor is South Korean.

The security consultants are Australian and the interior designer for the lower part of the building is from Singapore.

Shocking conditions

Most of the 4,000 labourers building the tower are from India.

Toiling in slave-like conditions in Dubai's summer heat they recieve no set minimum wage and work in three shifts around the clock.

Protests against labour abuse in Dubai are regularly recorded by human rights groups but are rarely reported in the local press.

The $1bn skyscraper is being constructed in the heart of central Dubai, a 500-acre development project worth $20bn.

Construction began 1,276 days ago, rising at a rate of one storey every three days, in what is seen as a mark of the city's ambition for global prestige.

After North American and Asian cities marked their economic booms of the early and late 20th century with skyscrapers, the Gulf states have been eager to show off their success with ever taller buildings.

Temporary crown

When completed, the Burj Dubai will have more than 160 floors and 56 elevators.

It will house luxury apartments, boutique shops, swimming pools and spas, and an observation platform on the 124th floor.

The tip of the Burj's spire will be visible from 95km but Greg Sang, the tower's project director, says he knows it will not dominate the world's skyline forever.

Sang said: "It's a fact of life, that at some point someone else will build a taller building.

"There's a lot of talk of other tall buildings, but five years into Burj Dubai's construction, no one's started building them yet."