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Within presentations and reports for work, I try to make the boring text and numbers a little more interesting.  In the main, I use photos of terminals, tank farms and refineries from a distance; but I also like using shots from a nearby town.  Last year I used an image of Sur in Oman when discussing the LNG terminal located there.  It gave the people who don’t leave the office a feeling for where our equipment ends up around the world.

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I returned last night from a very frustrating trip to Dubai.  I’ve always known integrity is rare in the business world; now I add decisiveness.  People are so busy covering their backs.  Half – if not more – of their energy is invested in avoiding decisions. Result in our case: A year’s work – of putting small pieces together for a business deal – fell apart yesterday because of one man.  He was born without a spine.

Anyway, this is a positive blog, and positive it shall remain.  My meeting was in Jebel Ali and I had to rent a car to go in.  I therefore had some free time in the afternoon, and for the first time in Dubai I had a car.  I’ve driven there before, but I was stuck often there with colleagues.  Non-photographers are not as patient when, say, we’re waiting for the sun to be at exactly the right angle…

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A short hop to Dubai for a day.  I didn’t bring my camera this time, so it’s another old photo I’m afraid.  You can tell from the columns on the left bank of the road.  These are now the supports for the metro track, which is almost complete including stations.  The photo above was taken in February 2008.

Dubai is still quiet – but the queue for the taxis at the airport was unbelievably long.

From 30,000 feet, a dust storm is rather beautiful.  That’s what we should do in fact: we should build stations high up where the weather is both cooler and dust-free. Just look at that blue sky!

Even dust seems to produce beauty:  I love the view above – taken from our cruising altitude.  Dubai wasn’t anywhere near as dusty as Kuwait – but it was a ‘yellow’ journey from start to finish.  Below are a few shots from the trip, starting with the airport, Dubai, the ‘World’ and Kuwait.  

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Dubai is awake again.  Whilst it’s still not to the Dubai I knew before the recession, there are plenty of positive signs.  I used the Sheikh Zayed road to measure the activity level on a previous trip.  This time I was actually stuck in traffic on a few occasions.  There are still unfinished buildings with no obvious signs of any work in progress; but roads, shops and restaurants are reasonably busy.  With the summer heat, malls feel busier and I’m told hotels are taking more and more bookings for the summer.

Work-wise, some of the projects previously on hold have been dusted off and are taking shape – even if only on paper.  In all my meetings, I sensed a readiness to do business again.

I hope this continues and I wish Dubai all the best.

Last night, as we were packing up and leaving the exhibition centre, I noticed many police cars and wondered what had happened.  This morning, I read in the paper about an event around 8pm last night by Abu Dhabi Police.  I then saw this guy on a Harley – flashing police lights and all – coming into the hotel.  I took these shots and couldn’t believe my eyes!  This is ridiculous – I thought.  Why would a police department do this?

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The last thing I want to do is to write about my hotel experiences on this blog.  This time however was a little different.  Whilst the place is not far away from home (Abu Dhabi) it was an experience worth sharing.  The property is imposing and the furnishings very luxurious.  It’s not to my personal taste but it is very impressive.  

During my five day stay, Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy spent a night here each.  I found it very strange that heads of state stay at a hotel – but this made sense of all the money that had been spent on this place and the many years (if ever) it will take to get some sort of payback.

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That’s all I’ve done today! We’re exhibiting at Gastech in Abu Dhabi.  Our stand is looking good after our final touches yesterday.  I say final touches but it took us until half past eight in the evening to finish off.  The nice little model you see above was damaged during transit.  It took three hours to fix it!  Business has been bad this year – so this is a good time for this event.

Like many things, The Exhibition Centre in Abu Dhabi is about twenty years ahead of Kuwait!  I love the scale this city works on.  It’s time we started to take the same giant steps! 

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I’m in Dubai again today.  Although I thought I had imagined it last time, the place is really very quiet.  The airport was virtually empty with no queues for immigration and taxis.  The roads are, in Dubai’s standard, deserted!

The above is a view that I’m very familiar with.  I stay at this hotel many times during the year.  The main road, Sh Zayed Road, usually has bumper-to-bumper traffic most of the day – and the early part of the night.  The swimming pool is always, and I do mean always, so busy that I never thought of going down for a quick swim.  During the busy afternoon time on a glorious sunny day, there were four people there.

I’m sure Dubai will pick up again.  I pray it’s soon.  They deserve it with all the hard work that has gone into it.

I visit Dubai almost monthly and I’ve never seen it this quiet.  The airport, the roads, the shops and restaurants – all seem to be looking for disappearing trade.  Taking into account the financial crisis around the world, and how much Dubai relies on foreign trade, it’s not a surprise.   The place has been exploding into something much larger than its own foundations, and this was simply unsustainable.

There are challenges and many projects are being shelved, but this is a breathing time for Dubai that is well overdue. There is also a shy positive feeling when you talk to business leaders.  I saw a manufacturing company, a petroleum terminal manager and a banker.  All agreed that this is not a collapse but a correction.  A correction that Dubai has needed for some time.  A moment for reflection to avoid going too far (more than now). 

Signs of progress are as visible as the cancelled projects.  I saw a train moving on the tracks at Sh Zayed Road.  On Monday, there was a visit  by the leader of the UAE to all the major Dubai projects.  It was a clear signal to the region, and the world, that Abu Dhabi stands behind what Dubai is doing.  Sure, they will probably buy a nice portion of it, but I hope it’s a clear indicator that this magnificent ship on the Gulf will continue to sail.

The second (and final) selection of matchboxes.  Mostly of hotels, and roughly grouped into continents.  Some of the matches missed out in the first post (EAT) were added here and there… 

Above: Movenpick (Heliopolis-Egypt), Sheraton (Doha-Qatar), Le Meridien (Casablanca-Morocco), Crowne Plaza (Farwaniya-Kuwait), The Residence (Tunis-Tunisia) & Sheraton (Muscat-Oman).
 

The Bellagio (Las Vegas-USA), Sacred Sea Room (Las Vegas-USA), Aladdin (Las Vegas-USA), Luxor (Las Vegas-USA), MGM Grand (Las Vegas-USA), Stratosphere Tower (Las Vegas-USA), Best Western (New York-USA), The Doral (Miami-USA), Pacific Time (Miami-USA) & again Luxor (Las Vegas-USA).

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My host drove me around Abu Dhabi for half an hour today, which was enough to get a flavour of the city.  I really like it.  It’s well maintained and there are some exciting projects nearing completion, and others further into the future.  Abu Dhabi is also preparing to host a FormulaOne race.  Parking is a real issue in the city.  It’s not uncommon to make a 999 call to complain about someone blocking you.  The police call him/her on their mobile and ask them to move their car!

The gardener in me was so impressed not only by the endless green space, but by the quality and variety of the shrubs and trees,.  The area near Emirates Palace and the garden within its walls makes me forget I’m anywhere near the Gulf.

I asked about old Abu Dhabi and where the old souq is… I was extremely surprised to learn it had been removed.

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I use flickr to store my photographs and link them into this blog.  To my amazement, not only is Skype blocked in the UAE but for some reason flickr is too! I will upload the photograph above when I return.  

This photograph is of the carpet pattern at the Intercontinental Hotel. Security is very high in the Emirate as they host IDEX.   The gentleman on the x-ray machine at the hotel entrance asked me to take a random shot pointing to the ground.  The flash had to come on too.  I’ve never been asked to do that before – and I’ve never posted an unplanned shot before so here we are.

I’m finally at my room.  With the extra number of guests in Abu Dhabi, it is just about coping.