The Abu Dhabi module is a great opportunity for participants to find out more about the region and to meet some of the companies based in the region. However, for me, a big part of the trip was to see whether the UAE would be a good place to live. To that end, I was happy to see that there was plenty of time built into the schedule for us to get a feel for life in the UAE.
No trip to the UAE is complete without a visit to the desert. On Friday, the first day of the UAE weekend, we headed into the desert in specially equipped Land Cruisers. After a few team building activities, we had a thrilling time dune bashing while enjoying the sunset. Dinner was at a campsite where we also got to ride on camels, get some henna tattoos on our hands, and watch a mesmerizing belly dance.
The INSEAD alumni generously held a reception at the Capital Club, a prestigious private club in the Dubai International Financial Centre for us. There, we got a chance to meet the several alumni in the region and get their thoughts about living and working in the region. Everyone I spoke to was very positive, with one lady based in Saudi Arabia even observing that the country’s attitudes to women working were being increasingly relaxed. In true INSEAD tradition, the highlight of the evening for many of us was definitely going to the Armani club at the bottom of the 828m-tall Burj Khalifah.
Shopping at Dubai Mall
With scorching summers, often the only entertainment available is a trip to the mall. Our trip coincided with the start of the Dubai Shopping Festival so I was thrilled to find that we had a free evening to shop. The bus dropped us off at the Dubai Mall at the foot of the Burj Khalifah. I found that with just over three hours available, it is impossible to walk through the whole mall. A targeted strategy is definitely required. Tip: The Dubai Fountain, a 900-ft long fountain that shoots jets of water 50 storeys high, is located right outside the Dubai Mall. Evening shows start at 6pm and are repeated at half hour intervals. Get there early to get a good vantage point.
The conclusion? With a vibrant expatriate community and a host of entertainment options, I find myself starting to entertain the idea of a possible move to the UAE.