United Arab Emirates
This was a wonderful experience out of the whole skyline Dubai experience. You can take a boat that won't cost you more than 50DH and cross the creek to the spice market where people are very kind and show you their goods and products. Definitively a place to bargain and get good deals. Very close by is the God Souk which is an amazing street filled with gold and jewelry shops.
D 85 - Dubai
Google map: bit.ly/w3vHlz
Having spent a considerable amount of time in Dubai, I can recommend this city for some serious retail therapy for so many reasons!
1. Dubai is home to the largest mall in the world. You can find over a whopping 1,000 stores in the mall and when you are tired of retail therapy, head to one of the many spas, cafes or restaurants (or check out the aquarium or ice rink) and then admire the views from the Burj Khalifa (yes, you guessed it, the tallest tower in the world - Dubai is very fond of superlatives).
2. Dubai is home to a large number of expats and the shops in the city reflect that. You can visit department stores like Bloomingdales and Galeries Lafayette in the same mall or head to the smaller shopping centres like Mercato (built to resemble a Venetian city - only in Dubai) where you can find smaller boutiques and one off shops such as Ivy which stocks clothing and accessories from places like London, Monaco, France and Italy.
3. Dubai isn't short of space. Located in the desert, the shops are all generously sized, and more importantly, wherever you go, never expect to queue for a fitting room (yes, even H&M and Forever 21 have a plentiful supply of them).
4. Finally, when you are done flexing your credit card (or, more likely, denting it beyond all recognition), jump in a cab and head down to one of the many beaches for some tanning and cocktails. Try ShoChos for their delectable ginger martinis.
Ignore the overhyped bling of Dubai's five star hotels and choking traffic and head out instead for an overnight safari in the spectacular rolling red dunes half an hour south of the city.
My wife organised a birthday convoy of 4x4s, hotdogging over yardangs and zeugans accompanied by the screams of fear (or delight) as we flew over crescents of mountainous ochre sanddunes.
An evening camp in a natural bowl, smoking perfumed shisha and eating a birthday dish of barbecued quail was topped by an undamaged and proudly presented black forest gateaux served under the gaze of a herd of wild camels sihouetted against an endless silent starlit sky.
You get a comfy mattress in your tent, the chance to pee in the sand under Ursa Major and fresh, unbroken eggs for breakfast transported carefully by gentle Palestinian drivers.
And to witness a spectacular desert sunrise on the morning after your birthday is enough to make anyone feel alive.
+971 4 343 9966 / 303 4888
1st Floor, Emirates Holidays Building
Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
PO Box 7631
Google map: bit.ly/fU56XA
This is possibly the best hotel in Dubai, if you are looking for the type of quality you might need from a top business trip. The service is probably globally second to none. Forget the gaudiness of the Burj Al Arab, this one gets my vote
Infinity pool with great views of Dubai. Drinks and snacks available, children are not admitted. Day visitors can pay to use all the hotel's leisure facilities.
Dubai may not seem like the most esoteric or otherworldly of destinations, but there is one location that is an absolute must for those visitors who would like to sample the rich religious and cultural landscape of Dubai: the Shiva and Krishna Mandir in Bur Dubai at the back of the Al-Fahidi museum (itself well worth a visit with a fascinating range of exhibits including entombed bronze-age skeletons).
The mandir is not reserved solely for Hindus, and non-Hindus are welcomed warmly. You can buy jasmine garlands (gajra) and as you leave the mandir you are given a prasada token - a small carton of lentil soup and some bread.
The only drawback, it can get very congested, especially at the shrines themselves, so if you have small kids, or are claustrophobic then you might try to go when there are fewer people around.
It's a unique insight into the cultural life of Dubai, and a touching sign of religious tolerance: the Mandir abuts a mosque and worshippers and visitors to the vicinity are treated with respect. However, please don't forget to observe local sensitivities regarding dress. Never enter a religious site wearing revealing clothes - and that includes shorts: a pretty tall order for a place as hot as the UAE.
After visiting the Mandir, stroll around the neighbourhood of Bur Dubai; you can enjoy the huge range of Subcontinental and East Asian cuisine on offer and marvel at the rich diversity of the area - as well as the tacky shops, themselves somehow worth a visit.
To get to the Mandir just walk from the Dubai Museum (Al-Fahidi fort) towards the Dubai Creek, about a 100 meters or less from the museum. Turn left and you will see what looks like a large scale busstop overlooking the creek: this is the rear entrance to the mandir complex (which also includes a Sikh gurdwara). If these directions don't help, ask any resident and they will readily show you where it is.
It seems that anyone who’s anyone doing business in Dubai takes a room in the Jumeirah Emirates Towers on the Sheikh Zayed Road. It's a huge building in the middle of the central business district and has a business centre with full secretarial services, as well as workstations in all the rooms and free Wi-Fi. For female guests who want it, there’s even a ladies floor where all the staff are women. The advantage of this is that they put a yoga mat in your room and there’s a nice array of luxury cosmetics. Also, if you’re a woman doing business in Dubai it’s best to pack trouser suits rather than skirts; despite the large amount of foreign business here it's still a conservative place.
At Dubai Airport, it’s a real hike from arrivals to baggage reclaim, so if you can it’s best to take a wheeled case that is small enough to be taken on as hand luggage.
If you want to up your understanding of the history and culture, then a short trip round the Dubai Museum at the Al Fahidi Fort will really put everything into context for you – you can then impress your hosts with your knowledge.
Bear in mind that if you are entertaining a mixed group including locals, they will always be reluctant to be seen in public having too much of a good time anywhere where alcohol is obviously served, whatever their private feelings about it. A good solution to this problem is horse racing at Nad Al Sheba which happens on most Thursdays in the winter.
Patronised by the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, horse racing is widely regarded as a good thing. It is enjoyed by all and there are a variety of corporate options provided by Dubai Racing Club which are cheaper than you would expect. Food and alcoholic drink is available to whoever wants it and the privacy of a box will be appreciated by locals.
Nad Al Sheba
One reason why Emirates Towers is the hotel to be in if you are doing business with the Dubai government (or one of its agencies) is because, as well as being an excellent business hotel, it is owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
It’s worth extending this principle to other business you may be doing in the city. Most businesses based in Dubai itself, rather than one of the Free Zones, are part of large, family-owned holding companies, many of which will have hotels among their interests. It’s always worth staying in the leading hotel of the group you are doing business with. It probably won’t make the deal but such courtesies are valued highly in the Gulf.
You are likely to meet plenty of extremely well-educated, modern young Emirati women – particularly if you are dealing with the government. However, remember that traditionally Muslim women are not supposed to touch men outside their family. Therefore, however warmly they smile when they hand over their cards, don’t automatically attempt to shake their hand unless they offer it. I might also add that Arab men are normally slightly more sensitive when touching each other and no one will infer weak character from your failure to crush their hand with your firm grip.
Favourite restaurants: Gordon Ramsay’s Verre at The Hilton Dubai Creek for European cuisine. Go for the food, not the décor, and because it’s somewhere you can actually talk. Lebanese is often the fallback for mixed entertaining but Iranian is a good alternative and in many ways closer to the Emirati palate; I would recommend the Shabestan at the InterContinental. Sadly, both are on the Deira side of town - but they are well worth the effort.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, PO Box 72127, Dubai, UAE.
Tel.: +971 4 3300000
Verre at the Hilton Dubai Creek, Beniyas Road, PO BOX 33398, Dubai, UAE.
Shabestan at the InterContinental, Dubai Bin Yas Street, PO Box 476, Dubai, UAE.
Tel.: +971 4 222 7171
If you get bored or blinded by the bling, visit the recently restored Bastakia area of Dubai down by the Creek. Here you will find the only decent domestic architecture in the city, built about 100 years ago by Iranian and Arab merchants from the other side of the Gulf.
Apart from pleasure for it’s own sake, a familiarity with Bastakia can be a useful conversation starter. Not only does it demonstrate interest in Dubai’s heritage, but a fair number of the city’s movers and shakers over the age of 40 will have grown up in Bastakia. On more than one occasion, the recollection of those days has opened up these essentially private people.
The area is called Bastakia - don't miss the Majlis Gallery, which is the local arts centre
If you are doing business in Dubai, particularly anything legal, patience is the key. Tea will be served regardless of deadlines and fairly lengthy requests after the health of family members and mutual acquaintances will follow thereafter. My tip is follow the maxim 'less haste, more speed.' Observe your hosts' order of proceedings and the goodwill engendered will ultimately be to your benefit.
Hospitality is taken very seriously and if at all possible accept invitations to dinner if given. Most of all, enjoy the different way of doing business, engage in the sometimes convoluted process and the subtle verbal games and learn that there is another way of doing things.
My tip for a hotel is the Marriot in Deira. Away from the glitz so that you can concentrate but close enough to everything that you want, first class business facilities and a rooftop pool. The best restaurants are the Sphinx at the Pyramids and Shabestani Iranian restaurant at the Hyatt.
My tip for a hotel is the Marriott in Deira. Away from the glitz so that you can concentrate but close enough to everything that you want, first class business facilities and a rooftop pool. The best restaurants are the Sphinx at the Pyramids and Shabestani Iranian restaurant at the Hyatt.
Oriental, seafood restaurant at the Grand Hyatt in Deira. The restaurant location and setting are ideal for meetings, the staff are quietly efficient and knowledgeable about the food, they have a great selection of wines while the signature dish, Pepper Crab, is truly outstanding.
Grand Hyatt, Deira
Hotel Bab Al Shams is top for luxury, away from all the hustle and traffic of central Dubai (50 minutes by taxi from the airport) with service levels rarely matched for twice the price and a unique location. Simply a desert oasis.
The queues at immigration can be huge at peak times. Pre-book the Marhaba service. They will meet you from the jetway, drive you through the crowds and escort you through dedicated lines at immigration. They will then find your baggage whilst you browse the inbound Duty Free. I've saved at least an hour, the best value $21 in the Emirate!
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