Dubai is known for the unexpected, such as air-conditioned bus stops, the Palm development and ultra-luxury hotels. For me, as an "Intermittent
Intermediate Skier", I was fascinated by the indoor ski area in a local mall. With limited expectations of real training, I knew this would be a great story and the perfect location for a photo of a Christmas card.
After a party of Southern Fried chicken in the Mall of the Emirates Food Court, I covered my summer clothing with a
colourful ski outfit and I was in the escalator ski and sticks in hand. After a few runs, it was finished for hot chocolate in the adjacent St. Moritz Café and the perfect end to my Mideast odyssey.
As a Man traveling alone in the Middle East, I followed two practices that I find working for me worldwide :
1. I arrange a pick-up service at the airport before I leave for home. In certain countries, taxis may not be safe for both men and women. After a low civil war in sub-Saharan Africa, I learned to ask my hotel what they recommended, especially when traveling alone. In large capitals when I arrive during the day, I often opt for public transportation, especially trains/subways or taking a taxi.
2. I choose a 5-star hotel with several restaurants, ideal both in the hotel and in the neighbourhood. Alternatively, when it was affordable as I found in Cairo, I took a driver who waited for me or took a taxi around Lisbon to try out top restaurants. At every new location, I always ask a lot of questions, especially to get the opinion of local women, before I walk alone in the dark.
In the Mideast I also had 2 extra rules of thumb :
*Although I would be a very hot desert weather during both sightseeing and a business conference, I wore long-sleeved shirts and trousers.
*When I was the only woman alone in local restaurants, I always chose a seat/table next to other couples, groups of women, couples or families.
5 tips I learned to combine business with pleasure :
1. To save on airline tickets, you must view connecting flights that allow longer stops.
2. Where possible, take care of business first, especially if complex flights can cause long delays.
3. Arrive at the weekend and take a test drive to find the fastest routes for your meetings. Even with a GPS, it is easy to encounter problems. In a city abroad I found huge buildings in the area around my first meeting. Even walking it was almost impossible to get through, and street addresses were obscured by the scaffolding. In another strange city, when I arrived at an appointment, I discovered that the outside door was locked and I had trouble reaching someone inside via my cell phone.
4. Fly in or wear a suit or a suitable business look in case your luggage does not arrive on time.
5. Set multiple alarms on a travel clock, on your mobile phone and at the hotel operator. Even in top hotels, I have had a missed wake-up call or room service error for a flight for a quick day trip. (If you cannot function without coffee or breakfast,
make a backup plan if necessary if room service is not displayed.)
The key is to plan ahead where possible and have some time to investigate your destination. Otherwise, a video conference instead of a personal meeting may be a better value.