#DiscoverDubai16 Part 1

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a Study Mission by Visit Dubai, part of the DTCM for what surely is one of the most exciting cities in the world. The idea of a Study Mission (or FAM trip) is to bring a group of decision makers from various companies to a destination to show them the available event spaces, hotel and dining options, team building activities etc. By doing this the organisers educate the group on their 'product' and hopefully encourage them to hold events there, bringing in business and inbound tourism for the destination.

Anyway - enough of the explaining - this post is really about me sharing with you the amazing discoveries that I made while in Dubai that may be useful for #EventProfs and sun seekers alike. I also hope it will reassure people who have never been on a FAM trip on their own before, it was so far away from the lonely experience I thought it was going to be. The group of people I met there were honestly so lovely, and there was that thing where you just click with some people instantly. Which obviously makes the whole experience even better.

Day 1

On the first full day we had a site visit at our hotel, the Intercontinental Festival City, which is a 5* property with flexible event spaces and hospitality that is second to none. Honestly so on point, as Brits we are used to playing everything down (No I've TOTALLY got these two bags on this never ending flight of stairs even though they weigh a tonne) so sometimes it was overwhelming, but in a good way. You wanted for NOTHING. It makes some UK 5*s look like Holiday Inns in comparison. No offence Britain... but I mean you just aren't on the same level.

Then we went on to our second site of the day at the Park Hyatt, another incredible 5* resort set in beautiful grounds, that can both host a large conference and offer a variety of team building break outs on site at reasonable price points. After this we had lunch in one of the hotel's restaurants and moved on to a sea plane trip which was also accessible from the property. Initially, the idea of this excited and terrified me. Sure I get to see the city from the sky, but how the hell does a plane take off and land from a body of water? However, the landing was surprisingly smooth and it was an amazing excursion that would be perfect for C-Level delegates. The planes can hold a maximum of 9 guests so there is a feeling of exclusivity, plus the journey can be tailored to the clients needs. As long as there is space to land, the SeaWings team can personalise the journey.

Next up was a desert safari, the team drove us out to the desert in a convoy of 4x4's. When we reached the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, we hopped out of the cars and met with our knowledgeable guides. They provided us with headscarves for protection against the heat and sand, and as an added bonus mine totally went with my outfit... Then we split up into groups, got in our open top Land Rovers and drove across the most beautiful stretches of desert - stopping every now and again to take in the scenery, listen to the history and watch the wildlife that roams free around the reserve.
Own picture
In keeping with the traditional Bedouin experience, we then drove to a falconry camp - but by camp I'm talking carpet and cushions with nothing else around us as far as the eye could see. As the sun set we watched the falconer and the show while she explained the significance of the birds to the desert. We sipped on sparkling date juice (as you would expect these kind of excursions are 'dry') and waited until the day had almost completely slipped away before moving on to the dinner camp.

Though this was the last aspect of our desert experience, it was by no means the lesser part. The Land Rovers pulled up outside a more sheltered camp, camels waited outside and local Emirati traditions greeted us as we entered the space. We washed our hands with rose water, ate dates (of course!) and had a small cup of Arabic coffee. There were various stations around the outside of the camp, where you could see the traditional Arabic breads being made, get a henna tattoo, watch the lamb being cooked, or observe the intricate process that creates the coffee. There were also two tents within the camp with low lying tables and cushioned stools that served as dining areas, and overlooked a central space with cushions and hookahs where the group relaxed after dinner to watch the camp entertainment.

On our trip, the entertainment came in the form of a woman doing a traditional Bedouin 'hair dance'. Essentially she had a gorgeous head of hair and whipped it gracefully for 10 minutes to various songs, she was stunning and it did look amazing but we were all concerned she might have got whiplash towards the end. Then another traditional dance - Yowla - where two men danced in unison and performed tricks with dummy guns. Strangely mesmerising!

Own picture
As we were all sitting in the middle of the camp reflecting on what had been an amazing day and trying desperately to recall every detail, (in my opinion) the cherry on the top was revealed. There was an official astronomer at the camp who dimmed the lights and gave us a mini lesson in the many constellations that we could see from the desert. AND he had a legit telescope that allowed us to observe the moon, the stars, and Jupiter. Then at around 10.30, we drove back through the tranquil desert with only the headlights to guide us, reached our parked 4x4s and headed back to the hotel.

If you had a group of delegates that you wanted to impress and give them a team experience out of the ordinary, I would 100% suggest this half day of activities. It is certainly not something that is easy to replicate and so would only enhance the longevity of your event experience - as they would definitely talk about it for a long time after!

Part two to follow..
It was way too wordy for one post!

If you haven't been to Dubai before and are considering it as a destination I could not recommend it more, and if you are thinking of visiting or hosting an event there I would highly suggest talking to the Visit Dubai team who have a wealth of information they can share with you. Please note for in depth event info I will also be writing blog posts for ISES UK that will provide a more 'professional' account of the trip including room rates and recommended venues etc.

*Pictures of our trip belong to Visit Dubai unless otherwise stated.

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