Dubai’s business landscape expands by leaps and bounds.
BY SHARON KING HOGE
9–5 | DUBAI
With a free trade zone, limited import duties, no tax rate and 5 percent annual growth, Dubai offers a prospering business environment. A city boasting various dedicated commercial districts, more than 500 hotels and more than 10,000 international restaurants, the capital of the emirate nearly overwhelms the business traveler with venue opportunities. Business is conducted Sunday through Thursday (although U.A.E. public sector employees now work Monday to Thursday with a flexible half day on Friday under the New Labor Law), with limited hours during Ramadan. Dealing with locals calls for the protocols of conservative dress, mocktails and a relaxed attitude to time. Essential above all is wasta, the term for networking. Getting to know your clients, accepting invitations to their homes and presenting appropriate gifts when entertained all prove important aspects of making deals. To proceed with arrangements, the simplest logistic is to select one specific district for meetings and meals. Taxis and Uber and Careem car services are inexpensive and available, the car fare from the airport to the commercial district runs around $10–20 (or just more than $1 per ride on the ultra-sleek rapid transit Dubai Metro, with convenient stops at popular business neighborhoods). But focusing on one locale avoids traffic and saves time. Conventionally, business transactions center around the Dubai International Finance Center, the leading financial hub of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. The 272-acre zone intermingles financial institutions and companies with retail, restaurant and residential. The Ritz-carlton DIFC provides direct access to the zone as well as extensive event and meeting spaces, half a dozen restaurants and the popular Lobby Lounge for snacks and afternoon tea. Access to the exclusive Club Lounge enables Club Level guests to entertain clients in a semi-private setting. Out-of-town colleagues may appreciate meeting in the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. After a trip in the elevator to 360-degree views from the 124th-floor Observation Tower, guests can enjoy a three-course lunch in the third-floor Burj Club. Or opt for something more extravagant from the critically acclaimed Business Lunch menu at windowed At.mosphere on the 122nd floor. Within the Burj, book meeting space and “discrete and stylish boardrooms” at the pricey Armani Hotel, touted as the world’s only 7-star hotel, featuring a cocktail lounge and five restaurants. Steps away explore Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest indoor retail complexes, enclosing six levels of luxury brands, an ice rink, a multicolor four-story-high waterfall, an aquarium, and restaurants offering every type of international cuisine from fast food to fine dining. Consider meeting colleagues at Media City, the regional hub of media, creative and digital industries comprising commercial and co-working spaces and studios. In addition, the chic Arjaan by Rotana offers six fully equipped meeting rooms, while Radisson Blu Hotel can arrange for catered meals in its leather-upholstered meeting spaces. More adventurous business clients may enjoy an outing, and Media City lies in the vicinity of the Emirates Golf Club, Jebel Ali Racecourse and Dubai Marina. If it’s too hot to tee off, the championship Emirates Golf Club includes facilities for swimming, fitness, tennis and dining. Jebel Ali runs races from November through March. Yacht and speedboat day cruises from the Marina may feature meals, swim platforms and sundecks, along with sightseeing views of the tree-shaped islands of Palm Jumeirah, the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel and camels loping down the beach. Keeping to the water, book a dhow lunch cruise on Dubai Creek near Port Rashid with local dishes served to diners as they float past original city sites. Named World’s Leading Cruise Port for the 13th successive time in 2020, Port Rashid, one of the world’s most luxurious cruise terminal complexes, is gradually being replaced by equally lavish but more centrally located Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal. The new gateway, opened in 2021, comprises two terminals with entertainment and leisure spaces and premium retail shopping. Ships carrying more than half a million travelers pass through on voyages around the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and to and from Africa, the Seychelles and Mauritius, the Holy Land, India, Greece, Europe and the Middle East. Dubai anticipates opening its newest business and residential zone in October, converting the former site of Expo 2020 Dubai into District 2020, a “15-minute city” allowing travel from one side to the other without need for a car. Along with a recording studio and exhibition center, it will retain some of the fair’s country pavilions such as the falcon-shaped U.A.E. structure and the extraordinary cantilevered and mirrored pavilion of Saudi Arabia. A second hotel will be added, and Rove Expo 2020 Hotel will continue to provide comfortable meeting rooms, a lounge and a pool overlooking the expo’s landmark Al Wasl Dome amphitheater.