22:53 GMT+4 – Our first full day started with most people taking advantage of breakfast’s availability from 07:00 until 11:00, specifically the latter end. Our first business appointment with NASDAQ Dubai was not until 14:00, and most in the group did not get to sleep until 03:00, 04:00, or later so the sleep was needed. True to the nature of MBAs, some in the group had their own external business meetings early in the day outside of the class’s scheduled itinerary.The temperature was warm enough to tempt us to wear shorts and other light clothing, ominously foreshadowing the heat we’d enjoy later while in our suits.
Whenever we managed to get to breakfast the resulting meal was great.A full buffet plus optional extras prepared by the hotel’s chefs (omelets seemed to be popular) awaited all of the guests. Among some of the things notable to me were the baked beans (presumably catering to the UK visitors), and the selection of various cheeses (brie anybody?). Finally around 13:00 we met in the lobby and departed in the heat to see the stock exchange. Jeff Singer was our presenter and is the president of the stock exchange as well as a former BYU graduate. He provided some insights into the contrast between the NASDAQ Dubai exchange which is in a free zone, compared to local exchanges which are not, and how that makes NASDAQ Dubai appealing for some companies because of similarities to other international exchanges. He also talked about some differences here because of the culture, such as the buying and selling requirements of shares and how it influences trading (T+3 internationally vs. T+2 here) and principles behind that. Another difference is based on the parties themselves; Sheiks are not as profit-oriented as many investors in other exchanges, and they have a primary goal of building the economy.
Finally, he mentioned the religious and cultural differences that affect interest and how, under Islam, interest is not allowed the way most of us think about it in other parts of the world.
Our second visit was to the Burj Al Arab hotel, part of the Jumeirah Group, with Gerald Lawless who is the Executive Chairman. His presentation talked about the hotel a little, but primarily covered the Jumeirah Group as a whole and was pretty amazing. The group’s ownership of hotels and management of other properties sounds, admittedly from a biased source, like an amazing example of customer service and business growth. Interesting points that I still recall include, despite starting most of their businesses in just the last fifteen years, running their amazing luxury hotels with virtually no debt. We did not see a balance sheet, so that could all be relative, but it was an interesting statement to make. My own opinions are likely swayed by the sensory overload disguised as the Burj Al Arab hotel, which is worth reviewing online or via pictures taken by others on the trip if you cannot attend in person. Before the presentation, we were greeted and escorted through the incredibly beautiful hotel to the room where we’d have our presentation, which had an awesome view out of the hotel. After our presentation, our taste buds were overwhelmed with a variety of foods brought in by the hotel. Finally, we were taken on a tour of the Royal Suite, which was, to say the least, incredible; views from a hotel restaurant and from their panoramic elevator, and just about everywhere else were simply amazing. It is easy to see why their guests would like to come, stay, and return regularly. As a luxury hotel that focuses on service it may not be surprising that each floor (which is actually two floors in height; suites each take two levels) has its own butler servicing the dozen or so suites, but it shows where the company’s priorities reside as differentiators.
Returning to our hotel the class split off into groups to find food, or explore Dubai, or do whatever else seemed appropriate at the time.Across from the hotel was a Lebanese restaurant which apparently had humus that was well above par. The area around the hotel is bustling with restaurants and other shops of various kinds, most with their names written in both English and Arabic for the benefit of locals as well as tourists.