” Arab money loosing favour with Dubai construction “

written by Wayne Brown

So I’m back in Dubai. This time to facilitate a Leadership Mindset workshop with a group from across the Middle East.

I consider myself as a fairly well traveled Australian, having lived in 23 cities, situated in 6 countries, plus working in more than 85 global locations.

Having been based in Shanghai and Hong Kong for the past 14 1/2 years, leading a very local existence and learning to understand the Chinese ways, it’s great when opportunities arise for me to facilitate or coach with other cultures.

To listen and learn, to see and experience first hand, the things which people value and believe.

And as you can see from the workshop flip chart shown here, this was one session which would really help exposes those cultural differences.

BUT first, to explore U.A.E. & Dubai…

An oasis, located on the coastal edge of a desert. The business mecca of the entire Middle Eastern region, not only the country of United Arab Emirates.

And there’s oil in them-there sand dunes. Perhaps so, but for the time being at least, it seems the wealthy have slowed them appetite for tall buildings and mega construction projects. Reports from those closest to the job market – our HR fraternity – report a noticeable slowing in jobs vacancies, with many of the expat community packing up and heading off to greener pastures.

It’s a situation which was re-stated during my last visit. Money is tightening, bad debts increasing and construction as a whole seems to be slowing rapidly.

United Arab Emirates, federation of seven emirates along the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

The largest of these emirates, Abu Dhabi, which comprises more than three-fourths of the federation’s total land area, is the centre of its oil industry and borders Saudi Arabia on the federation’s southern and eastern borders.

The port city of Dubai, located at the base of the mountainous Musandam Peninsula, is the capital of the emirate of Dubai and is one of the region’s most vital commercial and financial centres, housing hundreds of multinational corporations in a forest of skyscrapers.

Map showing the broader Middle East countries.

You can find U.A.E. and Dubai around the middle, right side.

Abu Dhabi is the capital and the second most populous city of the United Arab Emirates. The city is situated on an island off the Persian Gulf from the central western coast, while the majority of the city and Emirate reside on the mainland connected to the rest of the country.

In 2019, Abu Dhabi’s urban area had an estimated population of 1.45 million people, out of 2.9 million in the emirate.

Conversely the current resident population of Dubai as of July 2019, is 3,290,000, making it the most populated location with-in the U.A.E.

Interestingly however, is that the majority of the population are expats, migrant blue collar workers from neighboring countries of India, Pakistan, Philippines, Egypt, Iran, Nepal and China and white collar from a number of the western countries.

Looking skywards, for our tribal diehards…

The following two tables are extracted directly from the CTBUH website Dubai – Skyscrapper Center. As you can see from the first table, this city hosts a lot of high rise buildings – soon to be more than 200 of them above the 150m mark. And even more impressive is that 35 of these are above 300m. For our industry that means significant size and value maintenance contracts!

Population 2,213,845 (2013) Source: Dubai Statistics Center
Area 4,114 km² • 1,588 mi² Source: Dubai Statistics Center
150m+ Buildings 190 Completed51 Under Constr.
300m+ Buildings 22 Completed13 Under Constr.
Tallest Building Burj Khalifa (828 m)
Global Ranking #4 in the world by no. of 150m+ completed buildings
Regional Ranking #1 in Middle East by no. of 150m+ completed buildings
Country Ranking #1 in UAE by no. of 150m+ completed buildings
First 150m+ Building Burj Al Arab (1999)
Average Building Age 9 years
Most Common Function Residential, 52%

It’s worth noting the omission of one building from the below list which is currently underway – that is the Dubai Creek Tower which is scheduled for completion by 2021 and stands as high as the Burj Khalifa at 828m – isn’t ranked however, as it is purely an observation tower.

1 Burj Khalifa 2010 828 m
2 Marina 101 2017 425 m
3 Princess Tower 2012 413 m
4 23 Marina 2012 392 m
5 La Maison by HDS 2021 387 m
6 Elite Residence 2012 380 m
7 Uptown Tower 2022 370 m
8 The Address Boulevard 2017 370 m
9 Ciel Tower – 366 m
10 Almas Tower 2008 360 m

During my recent visit I took the opportunity to visit the upper most observation deck on the 154th floor of the Burj Khalifa building and witnessed some spectacular sights.

Currently the worlds highest public observation deck. Soon to be rivaled by the Jeddah Tower, in Jeddah, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

And the many other attractions of Dubai…

Being situated in a desert, provides visitors with some unique opportunities – Hot Air Ballooning and Dune Buggy racing over and across the shifting sand hills. Camel riding and witnessing sand flooded highways.

Bargaining with the gold merchants in the souks. If you are willing to try your luck then Deira Gold Souk is probably the most famous gold souk in the Emirates, containing a rich area of jewelers and bullion dealers in one area.

The old port docks for the wooden merchant ships give a glimpse of life on the seas in this region as they load and set sail for Africa and other neighboring countries.

The elaborate projects such as the Sail hotel, the man-made Palm Island residential complex and even larger nearby Dubai World and the many other unique resorts or mega complexes planned or under construction.

My favorite however remains the Dubai Mall and shopping experience this location offers.

Early evening at the main entrance of Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall – the world’s largest shopping center with marine aquariums, ice rinks and over 200 restaurants or refreshment stands. In total there is more than 1200 stores plus the magic of the fountain outside.

My favorite location among the 1200 shops to select from – Kinokuniya book store

For the coffee lovers, you are well catered for as well, with a number of the main brands on offer, including multiple Starbucks outlets.

And that’s about a wrap…

As for my learning during this most recent visit? Well I’m based on the sessions I facilitated in recent years and those 6 leaders from Middle Eastern and European countries whom I presently coaching, I can honestly say that I don’t see much difference deep down. Sure we have differing cultures and these some times mean our behaviors differ.

But my experience is that we share many common core values. I like Dubai as a dynamic city aside from the heat. The building architecture is creative and in many ways I can see the competition between architects in China and Middle East – two of the fastest growing regions in our world today. Below are my thoughts and observations about the future of this city.

That’s it for now, for my next trip we visit the southern cities of China. The new home of one of the worlds highest test towers. Looking forward to catching up with everyone then.

Until then, stay safe and happy travels!