TEBMA Trent Thurman asked me to write up a blog about the April ’09 TEMBA ’10 trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. What an amazing experience. I’ll try to break it down by day, with some pictures, so you can kind of feel out the trip as we saw it. If you’d like to contact me about this, feel free at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS: There are a TON more of these photos on Facebook
Day 1 – Flight in and checkin
After a 16 hour flight, most of us on Emirates out of Houston, we checked into our hotel, the Majestic Dubai. We promptly looked for some food and found it at Barrels in our hotel, featuring a surprisingly good beer, burger and steak fries. An aside: Alcohol is illegal in the UAE, except at hotels. Then it was off to bed for our fist day in the United Arab Emirates.
Day 2 – Dubai tour and American University Dubai
Our tour company, Accent Travel (very good, by the way) picked us up at the Majestic and we set out on a city tour of Dubai. Immediately you are struck by the bustle and the architecture, and the construction projects. Many, many cranes are seen, but very few are running – undoubtedly an effect of the global downturn in the economy. We made a stop to view the Jumeirah Mosque. Here are Trent and myself posing for a quick picture.
We also went to the American University at Dubai, which featured presentations by the vice provost and a marketing professor. We talked about the brief history of Dubai and focused mainly on the future and sustainability of Dubai. It’s important to realize that most of Dubai’s revenue does not come from oil revenues. Abu Dhabi’s oil revenues are invested heavily in Dubai, but Dubai the city-state has comparatively little oil revenue. Also, Dubai has many “free zones” where business are allowed to be owned by foreigners and they pay no taxes. There are hidden taxes (ie phone company is govt. owned), but no income taxes.
At night the group split up and found dinner around the city. My group went to Dhow creek and found a restaurant with a great view.
Day 3 – Abu Dhabi, Masdar
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and accounts for about 80% of the land of the UAE and 10% of the world’s oil. The UAE is about the size of Massachusetts, with a population of 4.1M in 2006 and has 10% of the world’s oil in Abu Dhabi alone. The leadership of the UAE knows that oil revenues will eventually disappear and have chosen to invest in more sustainable enterprises. Dubai has tourism and trade, and Abu Dhabi is seeking to develop clean energy intellectual property & services. We learned a great deal about the Masdar initiative to create Masdar City and Masdar Institute of Technology to serve these ends. Much, much more could be written on this, but Masdar City will be a self sustaining energy neutral city, and Masdar Institute of Technology will be a graduate university targeted to be on par with MIT in the US. In fact admissions to Masdar Institute of Technology are reviewed by MIT.
We then went to the UAE heritage center:
Upon returning to Dubai, some of us went to the 360 bar, which is on its own island with this view:
Day 4 – Visit to the Palm Islands and developer Nakheel
You probably have heard that Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum wanted to double the 70km coastline of Dubai. If not, you just read me correctly. Enter Nakheel. I wish I had more room or better pictures to show you, but here is a model of what we saw. There are hundreds of million dollar homes, each with a beach built on “reclaimed” land, which is sand sucked up from the ocean floor. We viewed a presentation and Nakheel headquarters on Palm Jumeirah (pictured below), Palm Jebel Ali, the World Islands (almost done being created), and the Universe project. I encourage you to look these up.
Day 5 – Amazing
I could fill an entire blog on this day. We started with a visit to Automech Corp, whose CEO Nimish Bhatia is a TEMBA grad. We then viewed automech’s labor camps, which are among the best in the UAE, and then heard a presentation by Nimish at the Fairmont hotel in the Dubai World Trade Center. We learned about doing business in the UAE, and how Nimish applied his TEMBA education to push his company to a profit in 2008 and 2009, mainly by improving efficiency and by utilizing technology. We all left convinced that you could make a tremendous amount of money in the UAE.
After lunch, we headed to a presentation by Jumeirah hotels, and then for high tea at the Burj al Arab. The Burj al Arab is managed by Jumeirah. The Burj al Arab’s helipad was the famous scene of a tennis match between Roger Federer and Andre Agassi. The hotel is considered by Jumeirah to be the most luxurious in the world and is self proclaimed “7 Star.” Did I mention it sits on its own island and has a fleet of Rolls Royces to pick you up at the airport? All this for $1700 (min.) a night. Pictures truly do not do it justice. We were entertained by a classical quartet and enjoyed a seven course High tea.
We then headed out to a Desert Safari! 20 Toyota Land Cruisers, packed with MBAs tearing up the desert was awesome. We did some sand boarding, and ate dinner at an oasis, featuring a belly dance show. There were also camel rides!
Some brave souls stuck behind and chartered a ride on a 700hp dune buggy – no waiver to sign, of course. The thrill was roughly equivalent to launching off the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Day 6 & 7 Fujairah, Dinner Cruise, and SKI DUBAI
The last full day, we toured another Emirate, Fujirah. We had a chance to view mountainous scenery, and had lunch on the coast at a Hilton. The highlight of the trip had to be stepping inside a 15th century mosque, which unfortunately exists in my mind only as my camera battery died.
That evening after a drive back to Dubai, we departed on our closing dinner cruise on Dhow Creek. Aboard a 200′ ship, complete with glass ceiling, live music and great food, we all enjoyed our last night in Dubai together. Here is a view of some passing traffic on Dhow Creek.
With many folks headed out on their flights, a few of us remained in Dubai and had the chance to view the Burj dubai (world’s tallest building) and then go to the Mall of the Emirates, home of Ski Dubai. Ski Dubai is a 900 foot long indoor ski slope taller than some of the “mountains” I skied on back in my home state of Michigan. Pictures really don’t do this justice, but the price was right, and the experience was fantastic.