Dubai: the city guide for businesspeople

An ariel photo of The Palm, Dubai

Downtime in the gleaming metropolis that is Dubai involves gourmet restaurants, sleek hotels, helicopter rides and desert safaris…

Where to stay in Dubai

A photograph of a large swimming pool within a hotel resort in Dubai

Dubai’s famous artificial archipelago might be replete with tourists, but Fairmont The Palm is an excellent choice for business visitors too. Packing all the typical attractions of a full-service resort – including access to pristine beaches that are blissfully devoid of the crowds clustering the shoreline opposite – it’s also strangely serene (I managed to get work done undisturbed in both the main foyers, as well as the ninth-floor executive lounge). The Gold rooms and suites offer a range of amenities equal to any modern office, and afford superior views of the Palm Jumeirah island while maintaining the sleek, modern oriental furnishings and Byzantine-infused Arabic décor that is one of this hotel’s most appealing hallmarks.

Choosing between scores of dining options is as close as a visitor here might get to stress, although the mixed seafood platter and oysters make repeat visits to the Seagrill on 25° restaurant pretty much involuntary. Service is attentive without being intrusive, in keeping with the overall air of discreet, understated elegance in the whole establishment. Although you need a car to get to the mainland, this takes only about 10 or 15 minutes. This hotel, with its abundant attractions, makes a powerful case for anyone doing business in Dubai to stay on the Palm Islands – against the received wisdom of many business travellers.

Where to eat in Dubai

A photograph of a restaurant in Dubai

The Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) walk is fast becoming Dubai’s most popular restaurant zone, with Indego by Vineet (Indian), Zengo (Japanese) and El Sur at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi (Spanish) all drawing salivating crowds. Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen began trading in late 2015 at Atlantis The Palm, where a new Lebanese restaurant, Ayamna, will also open early next year. Ramsay’s former student Jason Atherton’s Marina Social at the new InterContinental Dubai Marina opened late last year, and his signature dish, giant Italian beef tomato filled with burrata, is a culinary marvel. Sticking with British forays into the Dubai culinary scene, if your sweet tooth beckons, Dum Dum Donutterie – the East End ‘gourmet’ doughnut brand – opened a flagship Middle-East store on the Jumeirah Beach Road in March.

What to see in Dubai

A photograph of a desert safari excursion in Dubai

It’s likely that any business trip will entail being stuck in high-rise glass-and-granite splendour, with fine dining and urban opulence in abundance. So, it’s good during downtime to change your perspective on the city with a 15-minute helicopter ride, or go and take in what surrounds it – various camel-back private desert safari options offer a stark reminder of exactly where you are in the world. For a taste of urban Dubai, the vibrant Deira area offers souks and markets where bartering is de rigueur. The $163m (£113m) Union Museum, charting the UAE’s history from pre-union times to the present, is due to be finished by September.

Etiquette in Dubai

A jewellery store in Dubai

As cosmopolitan as modern Dubai has become, and despite its liberal western veneer, Islam is the majority religion in the city-state, and Foreign Office figures suggest Britons are more likely to get arrested here than anywhere else in the world, with acts such as public drunkenness and lewd behaviour among the common offences. Within the local business milieu, forget your existing sales presentation, advises Joe Hepworth of the British Centres for Business. “Coming in, drinking lots of tea and coffee and talking about football or horse racing, your family, and getting to know each other is the way to build up business here.”

For the flight

A photograph of the city view from a hotel terrace

Christopher M Davidson’s Dubai: The vulnerability of success – which tracks the city’s business narrative from its origins as a small fishing and pearling community to its post-oil development strategies – is a riveting read. Jeffery Deaver decided to set segments of his 2011 James Bond novel Carte Blanche in Dubai having been charmed by the sharp juxtaposition of ancient culture and ultra-modern high-rises. It’s a rollicking fictional ride through the City of Gold. On the film front, Tom Cruise swinging around the loftier portions of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol makes for adrenaline-pumping pre-visit viewing.

Read our report Doing business in Dubai

For more city guides see:

Madrid: a city guide for business trips

Mexico City: a businessperson’s guide

The businessperson’s guide to New York

Useful info on Dubai


About author

Nick Scott

Nick Scott

A former editor-in-chief of The Rake and deputy editor of the Australian edition of GQ, Nick has had features published in titles including Esquire, The Guardian, Observer Sport Monthly and Rolling Stone Australia and is a contributing editor to Director magazine. He has interviewed celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Elle Macpherson, as well as business people including Sir Richard Branson, Charles Middleton and Nick Giles and Michael Hayman MBE.

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