Posted by: englishdubai | November 21, 2007

A Tale of Four Cities

Last week saw me make a whistle stop tour around the Middle East. As no stranger to travel I did my regular optimized packing but was amazed to find one of my colleagues only brought with him a small roll-a-long with his laptop and all his clothes in it. Made me think that maybe some further compression of my luggage might be in order.

The first city was Dubai, and I had the pleasure of presenting in the conference rooms in the Fairmont Hotel on the 33rd floor. The view was glorious:

Though it did make feel a little queasy – not sure how I will manage if/when I move into my 33rd floor apartment in Dubai Marina early next year.

After the meeting was done I had to make a mad dash to the Gulf Air office in Dubai in order to pick up my paper flight tickets. I will be glad when all the operators move to e-ticketing as it took nearly an hour to get the tickets and I certainly was not flying to to KSA without my onwards tickets in hand.

Flying and arriving into Riyadh was interesting. My trip coincided with the OPEC summit and the Brain Stem Research conference. The end result was all hotels in Riyadh were sold out and it took over and hour to clear immigration where normally it takes an hour.

I was glad to have the hotel limo pick me up – but the travel was heavy and on arrival at the Al Fasilah hotel there was some confusion over the room bookings. The great end result was my and my colleagues each got a nic bedroom serviced apartment for the evening. It was very comfortable and I settled in with room service and a movie on the in room DVD player:

Here is the lounge in the serviced apartment

And here the nice bedroom –

I would have been happy to stay here all week. Following the event to a packed room in the morning I then made a mad dash to get my flight to Doha via Bahrain. Again the busy airport led to a queue of nearly an hour and a half and I only just made the gate in time for the short flight to Bahrain. It was a relaxing flight though I was a little pertubed that my seat mate was an elderly lady who looked liked yoda’s grandmother and due to her oxygen tank sounded like Darth Vader’s sister.

On landing in Bahrain I only had 45 minutes to transit 30 minutes of which were waiting at the transit desk and convincing the airport staff that I could get a visa on arrival at Doha. Again I barely made the gate. The flight to Doha is only 20 minutes so the staff on the place serve the drinks and snacks before the take off. The good thing on arrival at Doha airport is that it was only a short queue at immigration before I was whisked away to the Intercontinental glad that I had made it.

Since my last trip to Doha – they appear to have gone into overdrive on the construction front and the skyline has changed considerably. I have the feeling that they really have the ability to build a fantastic beach front city attracting world class investment both business wise as well as increased tourism.

The constuction in Doha:

After the event it was evident that a whole host of IT companies had chosen that day to also do various events in Doha. It was nice to see my old colleagues and partners I previously worked with – I was not surprised to find they all wanted to work with me even closer than before. Great I thought, and certainly with the growth in Qatar there will be plenty of opportunity for all.

The last city of the tour was Amman in Jordan. This involved heading back to Bahrain – but this time I had the boarding card for the onward flight to Amman so no transit desk for me. The trip up to Amman was uneventful and not a mad dash. It was actually relaxing and I was able to catch up with three episodes of “The Shield” on the flight

Amman is an exiciting city and you can see clearly the influences from its neighbors on the growth of the place. It reminded me a lot of Istanbul but without the awful traffic. On checking into the Grand Hyatt we all got upgraded to suites as the place was full. I got a nice junior suite but I was a little envious of one of my co-travellers who ended up with the nine room, 250 sq meter Royal suite with a wrap around veranda proividing spectacular views of the city. We worked out he got a 91% discount on the rack rate.

Here is a little sample of the view

Again a good meeting in Amman and we were also treated to dinner at Al Hourwazza restaurant who provided some of the best arabic mixed grill I had ever tried. In fact me and my colleague liked it soo much we had it twice.

It was a long week – tired but happy I flew back to Dubai. My only comment on Jordan is that I think their airport is feeling a little old and worn out and could use an upgrade. On refelection on the week I though I would give some awards:

Best View – 33rd Floor Fairmont Hotel, Dubai
Best Breakfast – Grand Hyatt, Amman
Best Room – Al Fasilah Residences, Riyadh
Best Room Service – Intercontinental, Doha

I have a feeling that this will not be the last Middle East tour I will do – and if I continued to get upgraded suites/apartments it will be a breeze.


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