A young urban explorer takes to the rooftops, camera in hand.
FOR Ibnu Anwar, rooftops are his playground. We’re not talking about a twostorey house rooftop, but tall skyscrapers or any building’s rooftop where he can get a good view of the city.
Armed with a camera, the thrill- seeker is on a mission to conquer some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. So far, he has been on St Stephen’s Basillica in Hungary, 12- e Heroes of Stalingrad Ave, Ukraine, The Address Hotel Dubai and Bristol Hotel de Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, 30- year- old Ibnu Anwar ( whose real name is Mohd Tarmizi Mohd Anwar) has a unique passion for rooftopping.
For the uninitiated, rooftopping is a controversial practice of scaling skyscrapers to take dizzying photographs. Despite its obvious dangers and risks, there is a growing number of enthusiasts – some who call themselves urban explorers.
Sadly, many of these enthusiasts have pushed the envelope, and seem to be taking increasing physical and legal risks in recent years. It is, however, not a new pursuit. A 2015
Guardian report suggests that rooftopping, or “buildering”, has been around for more than 80 years, citing a 1937 book called
The Night Climbers Of Cambridge as being full of photographs of agile young men ( exclusively) climbing up drainpipes, over fences and balancing atop the spires of the old colleges.
For Ibnu Anwar, it is thrilling, fun and keeps him fit.
Depending on his mood and schedule, he usually “rooftops” on weekends with his friends. Currently, he is working as a lighting specialist consultant in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which has lots of tall buildings – like the Marina 101 – affording panoramic views of the city.
This hobby is more than just a physical activity, it is also a form of urban photography.
Ironically, it began from a an innocent photo from the top of a new building taken back in 2007, when Ibnu Anwar worked as an interior designer at a construction site in Dubai.
“It became more serious and I got addicted to shooting from angles above. It was breathtaking,” Ibnu Anwar explains.
Friends also influenced Ibnu Anwar to get into rooftopping. His “rooftopper” friends, mostly from Russia and Ukraine, sparked his curiosity in this hobby.
To him, rooftopping has been a liberating experience because it gives him the privilege of being able to view cities from unique angles.
“There is a sense of freedom that cannot be described, viewing the city from an unobstructed view – it is magical.
“Sometimes I will just climb to the roof of skyscrapers just to chill and enjoy the scenery,” he says.
His first attempt was quite an unpleasant one.
Ibnu Anwar recalls, “The first time I did this activity, my legs were trembling, dizziness overwhelmed me and my heartbeat went crazy. These vertigo- like symptoms and the adrenaline rush seeped into my body.”
But the feeling of being high above is something indescribable.
“It is a totally different feeling from standing on a balcony. The amazing bird’s eye view, looking down on the city – traffic full of ‘ tiny’ little cars and people – can certainly make your heart skip a beat!” he says.
There is no special technique to hit the rooftop: only tremendous courage and self- confidence, plus a few days of preparation prior to scaling to the top.
“You have to be there two or three days before the activity to study the structure and plan how to reach the highest peak of the building. It is also important to find the perfect position for the camera to get a great shot,” he explains.
His passion for travelling also makes it easier for him to indulge in his hobby. To date, he has left his mark in nearly 18 countries. But there is one particular building that remains his favourite.
“It is The Address Hotel in Dubai because you can see the stunning view of the ‘ dancing’ fountain at Burj Khalifa,” he says.
Depending on the building itself, he would take the lift to reach the rooftop and climb the spire to reach the peak of
the building. There’s not much gear involved either.
“I only use gloves for a firmer grip on any steel materials such as the ladder.”
“Thankfully, I’ve never gotten badly injured and I am still in one piece. This activity is very dangerous because one small mistake may cause you to fall and the rest is history,” he says.
Ibnu Anwar does not encourage anyone to simply try rooftopping, unless they know what they are doing. To keep himself fit, he swims regulary.
“It’s only dangerous when someone does not have the skills. Everything we do comes with a risk,” he says.
The young man also warns about security in buildings and irking law enforcers. Most rooftops, he shares, are closed to the public for safety reasons.
“I’ve been caught twice by the security guard at the same building in Dubai and got chased out of one of the tallest buildings in Ukraine,” he reveals.
Indeed, the authorities have been clamping down on rooftoppers – last year, rooftopping pioneer Tom Ryaboi was arrested in Toronto, Canada and earlier this year in Egypt, German tourist Andrej Ciesielski was also arrested for climbing The Great Pyramid of Giza.
The most tragic incident in rooftopping however, happened to Andrey Retrovsky, who fell to his death after a failed rooftopping attempt in Russia.
Ibnu Anwar says his family and friends remain supportive of his hobby.
“They constantly advise me to be careful,” he says.
Looking back at his experience, rooftopping has changed the way he views the world.
“We always forget to look around and see how beautiful the world is because we are busy working and living a busy lifestyle. We need to start looking at things from different perspectives.” he says.
So what’s next for Ibnu Anwar? The Petronas Twin Towers, of course.
“I wish I could climb the Petronas Twin Towers because as a Malaysian, I am proud of this iconic building!” he says, laughing.
Rooftopping has been a life- changing experience for Ibnu Anwar.
“I feel like I’m the king of the world,” he declares.
To see some of his fascinating exploits, follow Ibnu Anwar on instagram @ desert_ wayfarer
2 Are you afraid of heights? Ibnu Anwar in Gulliver, Kiev
4 On the top of St Stephen Basicila, Budapest.
1 Sky is not the limit for Ibnu Anwar as he looks on the streets of Dubai from Millennium Tower. 3 On top of his favourite building, The Address hotel in Dubai.