I was recently fortunate enough to be invited by a number of Dubai MICE businesses to experience one of the world's leading incentive and meeting destinations, the City of Dubai during the Dubai Rugby 7’s Tournament. As a guest of Emirates Airline, Jumeirah Hotels, The Representation Company, All About Flights and Dubai DMC 24 Degrees, we were royally entertained throughout the 4 days and got an excellent overview of what the city now has to offer the UK corporate incentive market.
Leaving from Heathrow, we were lucky enough to be upgraded both ways to Emirates Business Class on an Airbus38O which I have to say is wonderful. The seats were comfortable and spacious, the entertainment offer excellent, the food delicious and the staff very friendly – they really couldn’t have made the 6-hour flight any more enjoyable. Gone are the days when flying was a chore – this was all part of the fun, and I loved the time in the bar – which made the flight whistle by.
We were spending our first two nights at the Jumeirah Mina a Salam within the spectacular Madinat area – a 5 sq miles hotel village comprising three lovely properties linked by a river that means you can move between them all by boat – a bit like a gondola in Venice. The hotel is lovely; charming reception areas and high-quality bedrooms, all with nice views overlooking the spectacular Burj Al Arab.
Having had a quick nap to recover from the flight we were scooped up by bus and taken to the Dubai Marina and on to a very smart yacht for a trip around the bay. This is a great way of seeing the City from offshore and getting your bearings and a perfect ice breaker for a group.
And then it was back for a good look round the whole Madinat resort by boat and a site inspection of the famous Burj Al Arab. This is a very spectacular building and the newly built outside area and beach facing infinity pool are fabulous. The hotel itself is clearly impressive – made up of 125 two floor suites and some very dramatic banqueting rooms, all decorated in classic Arabian splendour…i.e. a lot of gold…I gather it is being given a facelift next year so is likely to be brought a bit more up to date, so I look forward to a return trip then.
Having left the Burj, it was a short walk back to Madinat for dinner on the beach. The whole ‘outdoor dining by the sea’ option is always a winner in my eyes and is guaranteed to make anyone feel special. The temperature at this time of the year is perfect and made for a really memorable evening.
After a late night in one of the 6 nightclub/bars on the Madinat property, it was an early breakfast and a viewing of the latest hotel in the Jumeirah collection – the magnificent Al Naseem Hotel. This really is a very special property, an ultra luxurious, contemporary spin on an Arab theme. The décor is stunning, very chic and clever – with lots of really lovely small touches. The bedrooms are large and airy with super cool bathrooms and all have sea views – I can’t think of many nicer rooms in any hotel I have stayed in. Meeting space is impressive, private dining rooms very smart, restaurants excellent and plentiful. This really is a VERY nice property.
Then it was off to the Dubai Polo Club as a guest of the hilarious Steve Thompson, a true one off. His quickfire banter keeps everyone entertained as he explains the ins and outs of polo and introduces us to his polo ponies. This is a fun activity and his very tame ponies are perfect for the horse shy, giving us a safe half hour trying to hit the ball around the pitch – it is a lot harder than it looks!
I am sure the poor ponies were relieved when we dismounted….
The polo experience is well worth considering as a group activity. It is very well put together, Steve is hilarious and it has that cache of being something very exclusive that virtually no-one has ever tried.
The full package would normally take up the morning, but we were in a rush to get to the rugby so we were rapidly moved on. And how! 15 Harley Davidsons rock up to take us across the desert like a posse of Hells Angels. This was a cracking way of getting out of the City and experiencing the searing heat of the desert whilst feeling like Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. A brilliant half an hour and a clever way of getting us all to our next destination – The Dubai 7’s Rugby Tournament.
The Dubai 7’s is one of the world’s biggest and best International Rugby Events, held every year in the first week of December. We were very graciously invited as guests of Emirates and were royally entertained in their private hospitality area, mixing it with a number of rugby legends – including possibly the greatest rugby league player of all time – Martin ‘Chariots’ Offiah.
The hospitality facility and package was exceptionally good and any sports fan would have loved the rugby – fast paced and thrilling.
A long and quite energetic day closed with a visit to another excellent Jumeirah hotel – the Jumeirah Dubai Creek. This is a modern city centre hotel with smart, comfortable if not spectacular rooms but which has the advantage – if that is the word – of being right next to the famous Dubai Irish Village, a hugely popular night spot with pubs, restaurants and live music playing until the early hours. This place rocks, even if it is a bit weird being in an Irish themed bar singing Danny Boy in the middle of Dubai…
The following morning was scheduled rest and recover time, but I was quite keen to see what Dubai had to offer golf-wise, so Chris Lind from Shore Events and I decided to book a time on Dubai Creek Golf Course. We were not disappointed, a great course in immaculate condition on a sunny day and a very competitive match which we ended up drawing. Well worth the early morning.
For our final night, we were booked into another excellent Jumeirah hotel – the superb Zabeel Saray on the Palm. There is clearly a lot of big hotel building on the Palm with a new Kempinski and M hotel getting ready to launch, but for now the Zabeel Saray is the king of the palm leaf. One of those hotels that you walk into and you gasp…a huge, golden, palm dripping fountainarama. The rooms are all suitably big and comfortable and all overlook the sea and have swanky marble sunken baths. I really liked this hotel and our lunch there, overlooking the stunning pool, was delicious.
And then it was off for our final evening, as luxury jeeps picked us up and hurtled us across the desert once more. We headed out for about 40 minutes before turning off into the sand and making the most of the 4 wheel drive up and down the seemingly endless dunes. This is good fun and quite exciting, with the drivers keen to show off and plenty of space in which to do it. They ended up in the magnificent desert hotel called the Al Maha, which is very special – a series of remote private lodges with stunning views over the desert and private pools and dining areas. For an exclusive use group this would be a sensational place to stay for a night.
So, as the sun set over the desert, the jeeps returned to take us further into the seemingly endless hills of sand and a rendezvous with a white coated waiter, champagne and delicious canapes. This was shaping up to be a very special evening…
An hour’s reception in the heart of the desert watching the sunset, before a short drive to a small encampment lit with flaming torches and set for dinner under the stars.
We did feel a bit spoilt!
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