We wrapped up both decks and made our way to the office. The temperature is certainly hot now. . . so hot that we had to resort to a cab.
Yikes. . . This is only the beginning of the warm months and the hottest months are still to come. . . hard to imagine anything warmer than this. The month of Ramadan is approaching at the end of June. . . which must be considerably more difficult when summer months mean both longer and hotter days.
We arrived at the office. . .
Gregg and Matt ran through our first deck, the revised final version of our initial presentation, and I wrapped up with the RISE Strategy deck. As we loaded onto the elevator it seemed very anticlimactic, the conclusion to the last ten weeks. The presentations went well but the F&B industry is tough and I don’t think that they were particularly thrilled with all of our findings.
We head down to the souks (I swear this is the last time) to pick up our shirts from the tailor. The shirts weren’t quite ready yet so we make one last stop for shawarma. . . at Al Marfaa. The restaurant is tiny but they are extremely welcoming. . . make room for us in the back corner. . . I eat sitting on the window sill. As always, the food was great.
The tailors outdid themselves once again. We are paid on average $10-20 for a custom shirt. On their last visit Gregg met a couple from England that was in the shop having several custom suits made. . . we later looked online and found out they are turning around and selling them for over 500 euros . . . masters of arbitrage.
(I think they may have messed up on mine? kidding . . . it is not for me but the guys insisted that I still had to be apart of the fashion show)
3 weeks down . . . it is crazy how fast it has gone. We make our way back to the apartment. . . tomorrow we depart in the morning for Abu Dhabi to make our way back to the US.
If there is one thing they teach you in business school. . . keep the slides simple and keep them short . . . in the famous words of Gregg Silver “oh boy”
We have had several meetings with the executive team over the last week since our initial pitch, and they are very interested in seeing a detailed, tactical approach to the strategy. As we are wrapping up from a content perspective we are really struggling to skim down the material, and rightfully so as I believe the team has really worked to develop a comprehensive implementation plan.
We decide to break for lunch and then revisit the effort. Most of the team hits up the grocery store downstairs . . Gregg and I decide to hit the pool for lunch. I do not think I could ever work from home given that I would likely start talking to myself (more than I already do) and the inevitablie distraction from these guys. . .
(come on . . .of course. . . walt and pete had to make the blog)
but hitting the pool for my lunch break and some vitamin D could likely sway my decision. It’s ironic, we have not one but two pools right outside our apartment and the beach is across the street but we have yet to fully utilize any of the options. Today will mark the last day at the pool.
After work we decide to head back down the souks (I know. . . you are sick of this story, but we cannot help ourselves. . . we are souk masters)
Gregg and Travis needed to pick up their custom tailored shirts and the rest of us tagged along to gather gifts for friends back home . . . last minute I know
En route to the souk . . . we lost JCIII
. . . the metro doors are seriously no joke here
We arrived in Deira. . . first stop . . . Lavash.
I know, I know. . . if you have read any of the prior blogs between the souks and Lavash you are probably wondering if we do anything else around here. . . hang with me
We. Love. Lavash
Another great shawarma. . . another 5 AED. . .
They are now, “like our brothers”
Next we head to the Dubai Museum which had been on the team’s to-do list since we got here. As we approached the museum I hear Gregg,
“are those bats?” – – excuse me?
I look up, and there are hundreds of birds flying, uncomfortably close to human level . . . I was less than thrilled about the idea of wrestling with one of these things. . .
We still decide to enter. . .
What I was not aware of is that the museum is open air and as I turn the corner the bird situation outside was only a taste of what was inside the closed walls. The guys generally seem unaffected . . .while I am envisioning myself running wild,in a panic through the courtyard. . . there was simply no way this was going to be an enjoyable experience.
Travis attempts to buy a ticket
“3 AED please” . . . basically 80 cents
Travis hands him 5 AED. . .
“Sorry no change”
The guys are confused, and I am thanking God. . . get me out of here.
Next stop, the souks
Gregg and Joey had visited a scarf shop two nights ago and made fast friends with the shop owners. Matt and I figured this would be a great place to find gifts, we had no idea what we were in for.
This guy had shelves and shelves and shelves of scarfs. . . and proceeded to pull them all down and remove all packaging, if you looked, he opened. We had scarves all over thep lace. Even when people began settling on their decision, he was still opening more scarves. So.many.scarves.
After around 30-45 minutes of looking at scarves (can’t even believe I just wrote that). . .we began the negotiating.
This was not your typical tourist side shop negotiating. After twenty minutes of negotiating. . . we reached an agreement. Apparently I was stubborn enough . . he only referred to me as “the boss” for the rest of the evening. . . shout out to Negotiations class . . putting my BATNA to use.
I thought we were settled but we had only just began. . . each person had to individually negotiate as well . . .we must have spent 90 minutes in there.
I didn’t think I would buy any . . . I bought six. Crap.
Onto the boats and onto the textile souks.
These guys are good. Both Travis and Gregg are thrilled with their new custom shirts. . . the rest feel its necessary to follow suit and have one made as well. This is a continuous process back and forth to buy the fabric and then confirm with the tailor. . . located just down the alley. . .
These guys are great though . . . gave us orange juice boxes and caramels.
They will be ready in two days . . guess that means another trip to the souks
The end of the Dubai trip. The end of the Rise General Trading project. The end of my MBA program. Everything culminated in one day.
As I walked out the doors of the offices, I was keenly conscious of the fact that I hadn’t just finished a presentation; I had, indeed, finished an entire chapted of my life. Frankly, the whole thing felt anticlimactic and left me reflective and melancholy.
I will say this: Every MBA student should have such an experience. This project was truly a capstone of two years of MBA coursework. Our team had our stubborn moments and moments when we weren’t sure where the project was heading next, but overall, we laughed while working hard and produced something we are proud to leave behind for Rise to use.
The RISE team has done a lot of thinking about food over the last 10 weeks working on our food-related project. We’ve spent hours learning about the US and UAE restaurant industries. The strange thing about Dubai, however, is that the food choices here, particularly in the tourist areas we frequent, mirror those from home. There’s a Caribou coffee in our building along with two Starbucks and two Subways within a 5 minute walk. Then there’s the KFC down the street, the Z Pizza we can see from our window and the fact that the American concepts in the area malls are so numerous that a lot of us haven’t heard of most of them because while they’ve made it to Dubai, they haven’t made it the shorter distance to Columbus yet.
So then where are the authentic restaurants? Well they’re tucked away in neighborhoods that aren’t filled with skyscrapers and they’re so many of them there that how do we know which ones to pick? Our answer was to find a middle eastern food tour. The tour is so popular that we actually had to book it over two weeks ago. It’s now definitely one of my highlights of the trip. Take a look at what we tried over the 5.5 hour tour (yes… 5.5 hours!) and you can understand why my stomach hurt so much this morning.
Falafel mahshi (chickpea falafels stuffed with chilli paste and onions), hummus with a coriander/parsley/capsicum/lemon sauce called tatbeela, Musakhan (Palestinian chicken pie with onions, sumac and olive oil), Kunafa (cheese pie with kataifi noodle pastry on the top)
Bukaj (Baklava shaped like a cloth knapsack), Karabij (pistachio cookies with the soapwart cream), Ma’amoul Madh (spiced date bar) and Arabic coffee (gahwa)
A taste of Syrian pistachio Boozah ice cream at Asail Al Sham on Rigga Road
Egyptian feteer with veggies and cheese, along with spicy ‘shatta’ sauce
Emirati Lamb Machboos (lamb cooked in an Emirati blend of spices and with the rice simmered along with the rice) & Laham Salona (lamb curry with the traditional blend of Emirati spices) and served over two kinds of rice (the regular spiced one and then one with paprika and tomato paste called ‘Bukhari’). Paired with Laban (drinking yogurt) and Shatta (spicy sauce)
Iranian Sangak (stone bread) with cheese and rayhaan leaves (tulsi), Baghali Polo (rice with broad beans and dill), Zereshk Polo (rice with barberries), Maahicheh (lamb shank in tomato broth), Kabab Koobideh (twice minced lamb kabab), Makhloot Faloodeh (vermicelli with frozen sugar syrup and rose water, served with lemon/sour cherry syrups, topped with Saffron ice cream with pistachio and clotted cream), Iranian black tea with mint and sweets
A welcome surprise along the tour was that our tour guide, after growing up in Sharja and Dubai, attended school and got her MBA in the US. It was fun looking at how she built her business by applying all of the concepts we learn about. We talked to her about how she strategically chose which tours to start, how she markets, where she is going to expand to next, who she hires onto her team, and more.
Today is our final presentation to the RISE executives. More on that later. In the meantime I need to go jump on the treadmill…
The UAE team is really struggling here in Dubai . . . dropping left and right. Certain people we are assuming ate at the wrong shawarma shop . . . enough said, I somehow managed to develop a head cold in 100 degree weather, and now Travis.
During our recent road trip to Oman . . . Travis, Gregg and I decided to venture ashore to check out the views. I failed to mention that when Travis and I first got out of the water. . . he looks over at me and asks if he is bleeding. . .
It’s all over his face and hands. . . we can’t even discover the source. He says he’s fine, we brush it off, and continue to move along
Later when Gregg joins, he looks over at Travis,
“Travis there is blood running down your leg. . . “
Another wound . . . Travis remains unaffected. . .
We swim back to the boat and somehow Travis has managed acquire another “scratch”. . . . as he would later reference them to the pharmacist, this was no scratch.
Now, two days later, we are wrapping up the workday and Travis chimes in, very casually
“Hey guys, I think maybe I should have this checked out”
His wound was certainly infected. Gregg and Travis quickly depart for the hospital. A hospital that was located inside a mall.
. . .a themed mall.
While we wait for the prognosis. . . the rest of the team works to get some things done, I checked in at work and decided to take a run. Strangely every building here looks the same, and everyday there is new construction dictating that you learn a new route . . . I was lost . . . but the view certainly wasn’t bad
During the day it had hit the team that this is our last week . . .
We decide to head out for the evening and check out a place called the Speakeasy that is located down the street. Dubai really nailed the ‘speakeasy’ concept. . .
You walk into this bar, which resembles an irish pub. . . dimly lit, darts, a long bar and several booths
However they have club lighting going crazy in the front of the bar and the Grease montage music video playing on tv? I think they may have missed the mark. . .
We were basically the only people there and despite the extremely awkward surroundings we decided to hang around for the band, with whom we became fast friends. . . leaving our booth in the back for ‘front row’ seats to the show
They were requesting songs to play and naturally we recommended ‘Happy Birthday’ for Joey. While Joey’s birthday is not until September. . . today seemed as good as any to celebrate
At this point there were still very few patrons in the bar. . . as such our celebration attracted most of their attention . . . and led to the introduction to a fellow Americano who challenged us to a game of darts
Kate and Gregg vs. Joey and the American
not sure how this happened. . . tied down to the very last shot. . . and Gregg throws for the win.
Of course we were as obnoxious as we could be. . .
We arrived home . . . glad to see Travis does not need to have his foot amputated . . . another great day in Dubai. . . four days left to go
The team is back at it as we prepare for our last week of work and our final presentation on Thursday.
After work we headed to meet the General manager who is handling one of our client’s largest accounts.
Our ride to work has become rather entertaining. . . if you have the pleasure of traveling on the Dubai Metro . . . pay close attention to the English translator
I understand you are not likely to find humor in this story but please understand that he is a very excited man . . . and the guys have found great pleasure in attempting to imitate this accent. . . I spend a majority of the ride avoiding eye contact as I cannot stop laughing
As we wait for the meeting. . . they continue to perfect their accents
For our meeting, Matt took the lead on this addressing a majority of our outstanding operational issues that will help to define the final strategy.
After our meeting the group split, half of the team went to the souks
and the other half hung back to grab dinner and tour the Burj Khalifa. . . I was apart of the latter.
Dinner in a mall. . . again. . . oy vey
However we steered clear of the food court . . at Travis’s recommendation we found a restaurant facing the fountains. Anticipating outrageous pricing for the view. . . we were pleasantly surprised, and the food was great.
However, the view clearly the best part
Shortly after we sat. . . The light of the fountain started sparkling . . then on the building as well. . .
And then the sweet sound of Whitney. . . I Will Always Love You . . . blared throughout the courtyard . . .
I seriously underestimated how awesome this is. . .
After dinner . . . we headed up to the observation deck. . . 124 floors in less an 1 minute. . .
Perfect timing. . . another fountain show. . . incredible
However, my enjoyment was short lived as I was quickly reminded how much I dislike tourist attractions and the subsequent crowds . . .
Riding up on the elevators, the elevator operator kindly asks a large family to wait for the next lift so they can ride together . . . the family continues to push their children through the turnstile anyways. . . completely ignoring his request
Inside as we wait for the elevators, they talk over the woman who is trying to explain the facts of the observation deck, the dedicated lifts, the time up, etc.
Ohhh. . . and they are littering candy wrappers all over the floor (btw everywhere in Dubai is impeccably clean) and the lady ends up picking them up
We arrive on the observation deck . .. where Travis, Matt and myself find space facing the fountain . . and gina in the section next to us. We are patiently waiting, as a woman continues to tap me and nudge me out of the way. . . Matt and I end up having to take turns. . . there are children screaming . . .
Exiting the elevator . . . a boy actually pushed me out . . . seriously?
My adventurous friend and roommate, Gregg Silver, finally convinced me to leave the skyscrapers and excess of Dubai Marina to go to the Souqs (markets) of Old Dubai. My fear of heights barred me from going on a tour of the top of the Burj Kalifia with our other teammates. To get to the Souqs we had to take a boat to get there–a rickety boat. The scene was really old school: merchants yelling at you to come into the store, street meat and textiles everywhere. My personal space was not respected.
I had the negotiation of my life with an Afghan merchant for some special items to bring home. He tried to convince me to buy his goods based on the fact that the US and Afghanistan are friends now (“even though we fight every now and again”). I thought to talk current events, but that would have been in bad taste. When I told him I was interested in an item, his initial offer was 265 AED ($71). Gregg Silver, from the MEAN streets of Beachwood, Ohio knew I was being hustled. He also blurted out that we were from the United States and I could instantly see the Afghani reenacting Johnny Manziel’s money grabbing gesture from the NFL draft. I negotiated with this gentleman for almost 40 minutes. The negotiation lasted so long, his associate brought Gregg a chair to sit down. We adroitly got the gentleman to concede at 40 AED a piece ($11). Little did he know I was on the winning 2010 Lawrence Negotiation Moot Court Competition team at Moritz Law.
After the steely encounter he told me to friend him on facebook (what?). I can’t get Wi-Fi, but he can get Facebook?
I will admit, it took me way too long to loosen up here in Dubai. These are definitely the experiences that open up the world. For this being my first time out of the country, I was satisfied that my biggest adventure was touching down in UAE. I was mistaken in thinking that’s where the adventure ended.
I’ll admit it, I had fun and I am having fun. I guess there is more to Dubai than Lamborghini’s, beautiful women (that it may be illegal to speak with—but you can still have a wonderful time admiring from afar) and upscale hotel bars.
Today I share my blog post duties with the one. the only. . . Gregg Silver:
Day 16 represented our third attempt to get into Oman – after being denied entry twice the day before. Once again, we drove up the coast and arrived at the Omani border. We were all pretty nervous because of the issues we had the day before and we really wanted to make this visit to Oman happen. As we walked into the “Departure Hall”, we paid our fee, got a laugh from the friendliest custom’s officers in the world, they stamped our passports and we left the UAE.
10 feet later, we had been welcomed by the Sultanate of Oman and had to go into their “Arrival Hall” to request visas. Their arrival hall and custom’s officers were not nearly as professional as the UAE’s. But regardless, they got us started on requesting visas.and before we knew it (and another 50 dirham – ~$13 – later), we were back in the car and on our way.
This is where the trip really got started and it was incredible on all fronts. Let’s start with the fact that no one in our group had never thought of going to Oman…. ever, or even knew anything about it before we got there. Within a mile of being in Oman, the claim that the sites were amazing had been validated. The road was hugging the coast and aqua blue sea on one side, with giant rock cliffs on the other. It was a perfectly paved 2 lane road with lights lining the street and pull off parking so you could stop to take pictures.
We stopped twice to take pictures in the first 5 miles of the drive. Finally the group decided we would never make it to Khasab at that rate and we needed to get there first – we could just stop for pictures on the way back.
As we continued to ride along the coast and take in breathtaking views of the mountains, water and small cities along the fjords, our UAE radio station blasting out today’s American hits. “She Looks So Perfect” by 5 Seconds of Summer was exactly what we had in mind as we rolled along the cliffs of Oman.
An hour or so past the border, we arrived in Khasab. Many people refer to Khasab as the Norway of Arabia and from what I read, it is because of the rock formations and the fjords, which are similar to those in Scandinavia, although much warmer. The town itself was very very small and seemingly it was deserted. As we tried to find a lunch spot, it looked like there were only three options, Yemeni food, Omani BBQ, or a supermarket. We decided to go to with Omani BBQ where we ate kabob, rice and cucumber/tomato salad on a raised floor – it was pretty good.
Next, we set out to find a dhow cruise to take us out into the Straits of Hormuz – we had heard this was the “can’t miss” thing to do. The first place we went to was closed, but the second place we went in, the guy said we could go on a cruise for 100 dirham ($27) in 15 minutes, no problem.
With that, we drove over to the Khasab marina and boarded a dhow cruise boat. There were about 15 people on the boat from all over the world, India, Germany and Australia among them. As the boat set out the views were already incredible. We hugged the coast until we ended up in a large bay. As we coasted through the bay, all the sudden we saw a pod of dolphins 100 feet away. We hovered around for a while as the dolphins got comfortable with us, then, all the sudden we gave it some gas. As we motored across the bay, all the sudden there were dophins on both sides of the boat trying to keep up. To see the dolphins next to us was crazy to see; they were much bigger than expected.
After a few rounds of this, our boat cruised further into the bay until we arrived at a rock in the middle of it where we anchored. The captain was throwing pieces of bananas into the water, which amazingly, was attracting hundreds of rainbow type fish to hover in the area and attack as soon as it hit the water. The crew then distributed the snorkeling gear and our group jumped into the water off the side of the boat.
Travis took his quadricopter out and it took off from the boat to get an aerial view of the area (or to do surveillance in Oman – either is possible), which turned out great as well.
Eventually I snorkeled to shore to explore, but I didn’t have shoes and the island was all rock and gravel. Terribly painful. After a while, I just decided to wear the flippers to salvage my feet from any more pain. It looked hilarious, but it was 1000 times better on my feet.
As the sun began to set and we got close to the port, all the sudden we saw 100 speedboats (no joke, there were a ton of them) filled with cargo covered in green tarps speeding off directly away from shore, seemingly into the center of the Straits of Hormuz. The team thought it was impossible that they were headed for Iran since they are not friends with Oman, but Matt later found out, that the boats head to Iran. It’s not weapons or drugs or anything, but just American products they can’t get in Iran (TV’s, cigarettes, clothes, etc.). Apparently, the boats come from Iran in the morning, full of goats (yes, goats on boats – sounds like a rap song) and other cargo, and then they leave right at sunset to increase the chances they won’t be caught by the Iranian Navy. It’s a bit freaky to think about, and also makes you think about how close you are to Iran there – 30 to 45 minutes on a boat – but it didn’t feel unsafe, and I don’t think it was. A couple boats even waved at us as we went back to shore.
As we went back up the coast, headed back to the UAE, we enjoyed the sunset and realized it is truly a hidden gem.
Our excitement to travel to Oman and Abu Dhabi took a quick reality check today.
Anything that could have gone wrong today. . . did.
We were ½ hour late out the door, not bad for our group, but late nonetheless
Off to Oman. . .
First stop in Ajman. As I mentioned yesterday, we are still trying to remember the adjustment to the work week. We arrive in Ajman, it’s Friday morning, everything is closed. We snap a picture of the mosque . . . Gregg sits in the back, broken hearted as we drive through the souk – closed for business on Fridays. “No souks!”
Continue heading to Ras Al-Khaimah, aka R.A.K City. Again, everything is closed, this city actually looks abandoned. At this point we are starving, the only source of food we can find is the mall food court. Are you kidding me? I’ve had a lifetime’s share of food court experiences on this trip.
We grab food and continue on to Oman. . . we had long since abandoned our Mapquest directions and resorted to using google maps. . . and subsequently all of Matt’s data. The drive to Oman is beautiful, beautiful homes scattered throughout the desert, we leave the coastline view and drive towards the interior. .
Before we even realized, we were no longer on a road. . . driving along, five deep in our chevy Malibu. . .
We approach what appears to be a very small border control area. . .
“No entrance, Emiratis only”
In the famous words of Gregg Silver . . Oh boy . . .
Google maps had served us wrong. The guards were nice enough, and pointed us back in the right direction. On our drive back to the main road we began to realize this was likely some type military entrance or training area. Get us out!
We head to the ‘correct’ Oman border, park, head inside, hand over our passports
“Yes, one car for the five of us”
Apparently, when you cross the border with a rental car you need a specific form provided by the rental agency. Travis had informed them of our plans but they had failed to inform of us of the need for this form. . . boo to Budget rentals.
At this point . . .we are feeling completely defeated.
It must be said though, the border patrol agents are as nice as they come. They worked to provide alternative solutions, another rental from town, hiring a taxi, even a bike. Our phones where not working since we were now in the Oman territory and switched over from Du. . . (oh….duuuuu). The agent proceeds to hand over his personal phone for our use, many thanks to the UAE border patrol.
We were informed Travis would need to be in person to receive the form, the closest location was back in RAK city approximately 30km . . . off we go.
You must understand that this was no ordinary excursion. . . today would mark Travis’s 30th country in his passport. . . a monumentuous occasion and we were determined to make this happen
We arrive at the Budget store in RAK city, more paperwork and forms to be filled and transmitted between offices. Faxed back and forth. I think they should have been apart of the GAP program.
However, the Budget agent did go above and beyond to assist in getting our paperwork worked out.
By the time it was completed it was about 5:30pm and the team was at a cross roads. Continue on to Oman, getting at most an hour of sunlight or head back to Dubai and begin again tomorrow. The only problem with tomorrow is that we were planning on Abu Dhabi. Ultimately we decided to try again tomorrow. . . back to Dubai
Once we arrived back in our city we agreed on dinner, Lavash . . .Travis simply needed to try the 5 AED shawarma. Like everything else, this journey proved more difficult . . . the highway system is not exactly intuitive at one point we pulled up the Google maps and saw the roads were literally intersecting from every single direction.
Now back at the apartment, eating my cold Falafel wrap and I have somehow developed a cold. . .
Still not quite used to our week ending on a Thursday. The team had a meeting at The Address Hotel with the CEO after work to discuss the last component to add to our final presentation next week.
Although the client and the holding company are well established, their vision for where they want to take the company parallels with a startup, which is giving the team a lot of freedom to be creative about our strategy. As we wrapped up the meeting a local hotel in the Dubai Marina, we decided it was finally time to listen to our client . . .
We needed to get out of the city.
We headed back to the apartment to change for the evening and spontaneously decided if we were going to do this we were going all in. Oman tomorrow. Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Being our last weekend here we wanted to fit in as much as possible.
Rental Car Check
Blogger who did a similar route and detailed her travels Check
PDF maps with guided routes Check
Now it was time to go celebrate.
We headed back to Madinat, again, at the advice of our client who insisted that we needed to try the “Tiki Puka Puka” (if that is even the name. . .we improvised).
Imagine a long island, but worse. . . I could not get this thing down. . . each drink and I would look down .. . making no progress. . . feeling defeated
I look to my left, Joey is done.
The group heads back to our original stomping grounds . . Bar Zar
Matt and I decided it was time to become one with the locals (joking, this place is littered with expats)