Unilever is located within the Free-zone of Dubai, so we had to pass a security check point to get through the gate to get in the zone. Luckily, the guards accepted the passport copies that our professor provided and waved us through the check point and into the gate.
We were warmly received by the staff and led to a conference room where a presentation was given. The presenter talked about the safety policy of Unilever regarding their employees. It turned out that most of their workers are expats from various countries. The average worker puts in about 60 hours of labor per week (48 regular hours plus some overtime). The workers are allowed a month off with pay every year during holidays to visit their families. Since most of them are far away from home, the company provides an internet room for them to contact families often. The company provides housing in the zone to keep workers close to the facility in order to encourage good safety and hygiene habits. The company also provides wholesome activities and entertainment room for the employees and recently celebrated their 5-year accident-free record with a day of fun sporting events and activities. I was impressed by the company’s efforts to keep their workers safe, clean, and happy so they are willing to work hard to produce quality products for their customers.
After putting on some safety gears (hair cover, white lab jacket, safety vest, work boots, etc.), we were allowed into the tea factory. Different foremen gave explanations on how the different teabags were put together, processed, and packaged. We were shown various machines that handled the different stages of the production process and the innovative methods designed by the workers themselves to alert problems at different parts of the machines. One machine had a dancing monkey blaring loud noises to indicate a jam in a certain stage of the process. It was quite eye-opening to see how the workers built some element of fun into their otherwise uneventful daily routine.
After touring the factory, we were taken into a lab room where a tea tester explained the process of determining the quality and content of different tea products according to the taste and feel of tea. She showed us how she would take a sip of tea, swoosh it a little bit in her mouth and spit it out before giving the tea a certain number. That number would then be entered into the computer to make sure all the same type of tea would have the same content and taste during production to ensure quality. Even though we did not get to try out this procedure ourselves (for obvious reasons), it was still a very educational experience.
One thing about Unilever that touched me the most is their sense of social responsibility. They make it a corporate goal to increase their profits while minimizing the environmental impact of their products and processes. They also sponsor many educational programs to promote healthy hygiene practices in school age children and encourage under-privileged women to become local distributors of Unilever products in their communities. Of course, the fact that they sent us off each with a bag of sample products and free Magnum ice-cream bar made this visit one of my favorite of the trip.
The late afternoon hours were spent in an exciting “Sandowner” dinner safari when we went on a sand dune hopping adventure on nice 4WD vehicles. We were taken to the edge of an animal reserve where the guides deflated the tires before taking us onto the desert and started driving fearlessly up and down the sand dunes. Along the way, we saw some beautiful animals and experienced a sandstorm that lasted for half an hour. Of course, the storm came all of a sudden right after Tyson asked one of the drivers how often the sandstorm would occur!!
After the ride, we went to a base camp which was set up in the middle of the desert and enjoyed a falcon show, a camel ride, fun activities and some delicious food. Actually, by the time dinner started, it was already dark and we couldn’t really tell what we were eating. However, most of the food tasted great and nobody got very sick, so overall, dinner was excellent. After the meal, we watched some belly dance by a beautiful woman who seemed to have endless energy. When the dance ended, all the lights around the camp were turned off so we could have some quiet star-gazing time to marvel at the wonder and beauty of Heavenly Father’s creations.
By the time we arrived back at our hotel, it was well past 11 pm and we were all very grateful for a soft, clean bed to jump into.