Windows in the Sky

Cleaning windows on the world’s tallest building is a dangerous job but someone has to do it.

The world’s tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It stands at over 2,700 feet, nearly a kilometer, and has 24,000 separate panes of glass. It is Dipak Ghal’s job to keep them clean and it is certainly not a job for the faint of heart. “The work is interesting and the view is beautiful,” he says as he begins his day from the top of the 160th floor; preparing to rappel down. He is one of about 60 migrant workers who were hired from the Philippines, India and Nepal to clean windows here; and in the dry, dusty, desert climate, there is plenty of work.

Before coming to Dubai, Dipak had never seen a building this tall let alone rappelled down one. However, his brother talked him into leaving Kathmandu and trying it out. So he watched some videos and jumped onto the action. The job is no stunt though. Safety is always the top priority. They inspect all their equipment before they get started, ropes and harnesses, and then double-check them. Before they begin they also check the wind speed—one big gust could be deadly. “The wind can toss you around the building right to left. If it’s too strong, we don’t work that day,” said Dipak.

Once all the inspections are completed, they hoist themselves over the edge and get down to work. It takes them about three months to complete every window and then they start all over again. Cleaning the windows by rope is the most efficient way to get the job done, says the cleaning contractor, and you can make a lot of money. Dipak is new to the job but he pulls in more than $600 a month. That is more than a construction worker makes actually building skyscrapers. “My mom always asks me why I do this and says it looks dangerous. She wants me to come back to Nepal and get a regular job. But I tell them, no no no, and I like it and this is a good living,” says Dipak’s fellow window cleaner Subash Chander.

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