January 5th, 2013 - After a very short layover in Bahrain, we finally made it to Dubai to meet up with the rest of our MBA class from the University of Iowa. What we arrived to was very different than what we had experienced over the past 6 days. Dubai is a very modern city with tall buildings, wide roads, and construction projects on nearly every corner. It wasn't going to have the historical significance of the sites we visited in Istanbul and Jordan, but we were there to learn about global business.
The class took the place of an international business course requirement for the MBA program. While in Dubai, we visited with 8 different multinational corporations and organizations to learn about doing business in Dubai and the Middle East and how it's different than in the States. All of our official class work was done prior to the trip, so all we really had to do while overseas was simply listen and soak in as much information as possible.
Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, a little larger than the state of Illinois, was formed in 1971 which
makes it one of the youngest countries in the world. Since the discovery of oil in the early 50's, expatriates have been flocking to the UAE looking for jobs. Only 20% of UAE's 8 million residents are Emirate citizens. Many expatriates come from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and other Gulf nations. They come because there are more job opportunities and they send much of what they earn back to their families in their home countries. You cannot obtain citizenship by taking a test or residing there for a certain period of time; you must be born into citizenship. The government takes great care of its own citizens, providing them with housing, jobs, and even an annual monetary gift which is rumored to equal around $60,000 USD.
Thousands of international companies have flocked to the UAE because it is a tax haven. There are no income or sales taxes collected by the government. The government makes their money by collecting fees through things such as tolls and business licenses. If you wish to start a business in Dubai, you must first find an Emirate sponsor who will essentially be your partner. Depending on how the contract is drawn up, you
will likely have to agree to pay this Emirate partner a fixed percentage or dollar amount each month, regardless of how well or how poorly your business performs.
Our first full day in Dubai consisted of a panel discussion with several Iowa alumni who now live and work in the area. This was one of the most beneficial parts of our program because it gave great, candid insight to what business in Dubai and the Middle East is really like. Then we had a bus tour of the city later that afternoon and a dinner boat cruise on the Creek that night.
Another extremely beneficial visit was to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce the next morning. They gave a lot of great information about what attracts new businesses to the area and some of the challenges the city is facing. Throughout the rest of the week we also met with GE Healthcare, the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), Shell, the American University of Sharjah, ATIC, Nakheel Properties, and the Emirates Group. Each organization had some great insight on global business strategies, but as you can imagine, some presentations to our group were much stronger than others. The recurring
theme throughout all these presentations was the power of networking and how it helped a business begin or how networking helped the speakers get to where they are at today. It was interesting to see how the power of networking is something that transcends all the way across the globe.
One of the last days, we had a business trip to meet the ATIC group which was down in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. After our business visit, we went and saw the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It is a magnificent structure entirely made of white marble and was definitely one of the most spectacular sights we saw in the UAE.
We had some free time during our last day in Dubai, so a few of us went to the top of the Burj Khalifa to check out the views from the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, it was a bit overcast that morning, so our views weren't as spectacular as they could've been, but still very impressive nonetheless. Finally, our time in Dubai ended with a 4X4 dune bashing safari in the desert followed by camel rides, sandboarding, dinner and belly dancing. It was a great way
to end an amazing week in the UAE and two week tour of the Middle East!
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