This souks – Day 12

Post initial presentation we spent much of the day revisiting our strategy and allocating our remaining areas to research.

At 4pm, Gregg, Joey, Travis and myself headed down the street to meet the CFO.  This was our first working session with Steven and we were looking forward to his insight for forecasting revenue streams within the F&B industry.

He requested that we meet him at Make Business Hub in the Dubai Marina.  This coffee shop doubles as a workspace for freelancers, creative types and entrepreneurs, they were even hosting a business plan competition that evening.  Essentially, you can just come in to grab a coffee/snacks or you can buy packaged hourly sessions which included powered workstations and internet, pretty interesting concept.


Since our point of contact had studied and lived in the US, I rarely felt international barriers within our working relationship outside of the obvious time zone issues.  It’s ironic though, during both our presentation yesterday and our meeting with the CFO today the conversations continued to lead down the path of , “well is that how it works in the US?” “would people be willing to do that in the US?” The executive team consists of various different nationalities and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that our perceptions are certainly not consistent across both teams . . . it’s been a real learning experience.


After our meeting a few of us headed back down towards Bur Dubai to visit more of the traditional souks.  We love souks!

The souks are traditional Arabic market places in the oldest areas of Dubai and a real cultural experience.  The largest souks include the Perfume Souk, Spice Souk, Textile Souk, Fish Souk and the Gold Souk.

First though. . . we needed dinner. . . and when we found this place we couldn’t pass it up.


My first shawarma experience. . .

lavash menu


Gregg, Matt and myself got the original and Gina went with the Falafel.  The food was incredible and as you can see, 5 AED . . $1.35.  We have been missing out.  We all agreed . . . every remaining meal for the next 10 days would be at Lavash, even if it is 30 minutes away.

Afterwards, we headed over to the textile souk

textile souk shoes

then we grabbed a water taxi over to the spice souk, for a whopping 25 cents

water taxi



And finally we grabbed the metro home.


Need to remember this for our next visit to the fish souk . . .



Beat the Clock . . . Day 11

Today was a big day for the team, our strategy proposal to the executive team at RISE.  Even with advanced technology and the resources Fisher has provided our team, seven thousand miles and an eight hour time difference made regular meetings during the initial project planning portion of our assignment rather difficult.  Add on the fact that our client is working on a new venture which often lead to pivotal changes in scope.

In our initial draft presentation we wanted to be sure that we had effectively understood and addressed the scope of the project with the development of a unique strategy. We spent a great deal of time over the last week compiling our deck, we spent the morning running through additional topics and questions that we felt needed to be addressed

. . . and Gregg and I felt confidant to present, now we just needed to get to the meeting.

Being MBA students who all have relevant work experience, we understood the importance of researching the location and leaving early to ensure an on time arrival. We left a few hours early to make sure we made it downtown to the office and we could grab lunch before the meeting.  It was easy enough to get there and plenty of time to spare, we even scoped out the building before we grabbed lunch, or so we thought.

Why are there two EMAR 2 buildings? Building 2 and Tower 2, of course! After correctly identifying where we needed to be, we had to get there, the difficulty lies in the construction.  While it is great that the city development is moving at a rapid pace, that also means even crossing the street can be a challenge.

99 degrees out, dressed in suits, and we cannot find the entrance to the building. . . I literally felt like was melting. Our half hour window was quickly closing.

Luckily it all worked out, and we arrived with a few minutes to prepare. . .

group 1


The presentation went smoothly and generated really good conversation to keep moving the group forward.  Based on our research findings the team really felt we needed to push back on some of RISE’s initial strategy and it was well received today.

Debriefing after the presentation . . .


The Burj Khalifa outside the office. . .





For the last week we noticed a significant amount of traffic buildup at one hotel, so after work we decided it was time to figure out what was going on there. . .

We discovered Barasti Bar located at Le Meridien



Great views of the marina area, pretty relaxed atmosphere since it was a Monday night and amazing deals.

I am still confused by the singing irish man? but nevertheless I am sure we will be back.

Everybody’s Working for the Weekend – Or Just Those in the UAE – Day 10

In the words of Gregg Silver:

Today was not our most exciting day in the UAE. As our work week started, we faced the reality (after an incredible weekend) that we needed to get a ton of work done on our presentation. This was made more challenging and more fun at the same time given that our work day began and many of our friends in Europe and the US were posting and messaging us about their raging Saturday nights. 8:30am here is 12:30am back in Ohio, and 5:30 or 6:30am across Europe… wait, some of the European teams were out that late?? Regardless, the plan for tomorrow is to meet with the company’s CEO and CFO to share our ideas. While we had been working diligently last week, the Powerpoint deck had not been flushed out. So, today was spent hammering out the granular details of the slides, revising, discussing, revising again, and discussing even more.

For all those thinking that these trips are all fun and no work, this is definitely not the case, and today was proof. We worked from 8:30am until 7pm, and then worked again later tonight – all of this from the confines of our condo and the Caribou on the first floor of our building. Tomorrow will be the first day we actually go to the office and we are pretty excited about it – cabin fever during the work day set in days ago.

As we had some serious discussions, one thing lightened the mood again and again. We found pictures of Travis going down Poseidon’s Revenge at Atlantis yesterday (for those just tuning in, it is the craziest water slide in the world – you enter the ride standing up, the floor drops from under your feet and it’s virtually a straight vertical drop). There was something unusual about these pictures though. While all of us smiled in our pictures right before the floor opened, the next shot was always our faces in a panic as we dropped. With Travis, this was not the case. See for yourself, absolutely hilarious – or maybe it’s the cabin fever again, you tell me. The picture made all of us wonder if he has a pulse? No fear. Travis has been our wildcard throughout the trip. He may be a man of few words, but when the opportunity strikes, he’s down for the challenge: eating lamb brain, hot dog and french fry pizza, buying native attire to wear around town, or flying a quadricopter down the beach (possibly running surveillance operations – but we aren’t sure), you just never know with him. I’m starting to think he is Chuck Norris’ lost son. Either way, he has helped all of us feel more engaged in the culture.


ImagePic 1 – before the floor opened, Pic 2 – already has fallen 2 ft., Pic 3 – captured from a different time down the slide, almost out of view, dropped about 4 ft. – – Still no change in facial expression the whole time.



ImageMunching on brain



ImageSand boarding in his new gear.



ImageEnjoying hot dog and french fries pizza.



ImageTravis with his quadricopter on the beach. Trying to do some recon work. It was pretty cool.

Anyway, we hope to have more exciting stories to share about our venture into the UAE business world tomorrow and the after work excursions we plan to have.



Since writing this post, Travis continued to surprise the team. Today, before posting this entry, Travis performed a concert for our entire team, exhibiting his talents. Again, this may be shocking for many of those that (think they) know him, but legitimately, the guy is ridiculous. He doesn’t just sing and play guitar, but he’s good. Some of our team members were hoping for a late night serenade in bed as a result, no joke. As it is, the team has told Travis that if we need a couple minute break from the project, he will need to break out the guitar and play a little diddy.




Hidden Talents . . . Day 9

I would not say that waterparks are generally my cup of tea, but at the advice of my friend I decided we should check out the Atlantis Waterpark. Likewise, most of the teammates were interested as well . . .so we packed up our things and headed for the Palm. For those of you who are not familiar with Dubai . . . it’s time for a geography lesson by yours truly. . .

As oil supplies dwindle, Dubai turns towards global business and tourism for continued rapid growth of the UAE Emirate. Dubai is located on only 37 miles of coastline and knew that in order to increase tourism to the desert state they would need to continue coastal expansion. So what do you do when you run out of room? Well, you simply build more. . .and that’s what Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Nakheel Properties did.

the palm


Building three separate, artificial islands in the shape of a palm tree and topped with a crescent. The islands boast both residential and leisure activities, including the Atlantis Waterpark which is located on the farthest tip of the Palm Jumeirah, the smallest of the three islands. In total, they add 520 km to the Dubai coastland. The Palm Jebel Ali is the middle-sized Dubai island. This is the island of entertainment which offers a wide variety of tourism, including a water theme park, water homes and six marinas and a Sea Village. The Palm Deira (recently renamed Deira Island) is set to be the largest and anticipated to be done in 2014. These are the only manmade structures you can from space.



Due to engineering challenges, this effort was highly criticized and believe to be impossible, but I have come to learn. . . in Dubai. . . anything is possible

So the RISE team arrives at the Aquaventure Waterpark. . . and everyone decided to not waste any time. . . first stop: The Tower of Neptune. If you have ever seen their commercials, you are probably familiar with this image.


Great! We conquered the park and it was only around 11am. We spent the rest of the morning on the same side of the park and then headed for lunch. Venturing into the other side of the park, we realized that the morning had only served as training wheels. While we were standing in-line for a particular slide we saw this


What could they possibly be sending through here, certainly it was too steep for human bodies to gracefully slide down.

Poseidon’s Revenge. Of course they are, only you don’t sit down and build up courage until you push yourself along. They’ve taken away the option of changing your mind. . . first you load into this spaceship contraption

tube 2

“3. . . 2. . . 1” echoes from inside your pod, and. . .

team pr 2

The floor drops out below you, as you can see, the normal reactions . . . fear, anxiety, death screams, I am pretty sure I blacked out.

Then there’s our wild card . . . Travis

travis final

Note, exactly the same facial expression and he is smiling . . . I have discovered his hidden talent

This picture undoubtedly makes me cry from laughter, every time I look at it

On the way out we decided to stop in the Aquarium, nobody was particularly interested as we have all been to plenty of aquariums but figured since it was included in the price we might as well check it out. This is no regular aquarium.

sting ray

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is designed as the underground tunnels of a lost civilization and includes sharks, eels, seahorses, piranhas, and this guy. . .


The waterpark was definitely the right call.

Arabian Nights . . . Day 8

When the RISE team arrived in Dubai we had one day off before work which was unfortunately wasted as we tried to acclimate to the time change.

For our first week we having been living in a resort bubble, completely disconnected from the traditional local culture.  Today . . . we changed that

We began this morning by heading to the other side of Dubai where the souks are located. We planned our transportation, Dubai has an incredibly efficient metro system throughout the city which would make getting over there rather easy.  However, we failed to account for the fact that it was Friday. . . their holy day.


This may not seem like a huge deal but you have to understand the effort it takes to walk over there when temperatures are pushing mid 90s by the time we wake up in the morning.  We were defeated. . .we debated heading back to the apartment . . . but finally decided to cab it.  We arrived and unloaded to the overwhelming, delicious smell of fish . . . our first souk


One part vegetables/fruit one part fish/meat, this souk was literally alive with locals running back and forth to get their grocery needs and eager stall tenders who compete on an entirely new level of sales.  It was loud, hot, smelly . . .and awesome.

our brothers

greg fish

live crabs

kate fish


After the fish, we headed into what we could only call the “meat locker” which was too disturbing for me to cover in detail or photograph, as I stared in horror one older man came up and “meowed” in my ear. . . this was my own personal nightmare . . . so you will have to hit up the guys to learn more.


Again, with our insufficient planning on a Friday morning, there was not much open in town as it was holy day, but we decided to stroll around and check out the old city.  The boys found a fabric shop and tailor, they are venturing into the custom suit process which is predicted to be unbelievably cheap.


Around lunch time, we decided to head back and get cleaned up for this evening. . .

News Break: Travis is fully acclimated to the local culture



For the evening, we took a 45 minute drive outside of Dubai, into the desert for some . . .

dune bashing

roll bar
there are roll bars for a reason


sand boarding . . . while I feared the idea of heading down a steep, sliding sand dune littered with rocks and trees while attached to a snowboard . . .the sand boarding itself was not very difficult





however, getting back up to do it again was. . .



falcon friends . . .


camels . . .


henna . . Gina and I both got henna tattoos, I was marveled by this woman’s speed


henna 2

and we ended the night with a campsite BBQ and belly dancing . . .




Incredible . . .

Honey Bars. . . Day 7

With our presentation fast upon us, we spent much of the morning with our heads down.  The team compiled our final pieces for the first cut at our presentation, and spent the afternoon rationalizing our plan.  We also had our first meeting with Steve . . via Skype which was helpful to run through our ideas as we further define our strategy.

We even worked straight through lunch. . . for those of you who know Matt . . .he does not like to miss a meal. The boys headed to a local pizza place for dinner . . . once again Travis consumed the most interesting meal

photo[12] copy
pizza with hot dogs and french fries. . . this may not be traditional middle eastern cuisine but it was certainly interesting.

Gina had friends in town so she headed back to the same place for dinner with them, the rest of the team decided it was finally time to do this. . .

joey gregg

Hey it’s the weekend here right?
Gregg informed us we would be playing power hour before heading out for the evening, all the classic hits from the 90s where we discovered Matt’s love for Nelly. . .


Moving on . . with the advice of Gregg’s friend we headed down towards the Burg Al-Arab . . .and found a great place down by the water

photo[11] copy greg matt katebarzar



This area is designed like a souk (flea market) only it is filled with luxury brands and restaurants, they even have a honey bar (perhaps this is not uncommon, but this concept is new to me)


All together it covers about 4 km leading to the Burj Al-Arab which is the only 7 star hotel in the world and actually located on the water.



We have a lot planned for this weekend, really looking forward to it. . .

So Travis brought this toy . . . Day 6

and by toy . . . I mean this really amazing quadricopter

If you are like me . . . I had no idea what this was, a hybrid toy helicopter and video camera?. . . but infinitely cooler

controlled through GPS . . . it can fly extremely high (of course the team tested for validity), it has a homing device, it records video . . .I mean . . .

photo 4

and i have trouble figuring out the remote for the tv. . .

photo 3


Anyways . . Gina and I decided to take a walk around the Marina and grabbed dinner. . we were gone for about 3 hours, very nice relaxing dinner

Of course, while we were gone . . . boys will be boys. . .



They headed down the beach at night and tested out the ‘copter’

Not only did they get a nice video of the Dubai Marina Area, they turned the ‘toy’ into a fighter pilot . . . sorry Gregg

Grad Students Use Their Brains . . . Day 5

It’s another hot day in Dubai . . .and the construction continues


This building is located across the street and due the rapid progression in three short days I’ve decided to start documenting, will it be done before we leave??

Not likely, but it is truly incredible the amount of construction going on in this gigantic city and how quickly it is completed.  The city that grew overnight . . .


We woke up to a very surprising email this morning. . .

Ghassan is the CEO of RISE Trading and our sole communication within the company.  He has been traveling in the US and was not scheduled to be back until the 12th but an important meeting brought him to the UAE last night . . .and he wanted to meet for lunch today to discuss our progress. . .

We spent the morning drafting our discussion points, highlighting three key areas of focus and remaining areas where we felt we needed further clarification.


We were supposed to meet for lunch at 1pm, Ghassan called to inform us the Sheikh requested to see him and he would have to delay our meeting.  The Sheikh has been extremely hands-on in Dubai, driving the development of this cosmopolitan city and has a focus to provide the best customer experience from touch down to take off in this city.


So the team hung tight and had lunch . . . another exciting day in the Dubai food world.

Gina and I stuck with appetizers and salads. . along with the rest of the team we enjoyed the traditional lebanese cuisine.  Today. . .Travis was our brave soul . .

Travis also ordered a salad.  . .

a salad of lamb brains


And yes it looked just like you are probably imagining right now.



Gregg took a try. . . and followed with “I bet Kate will try it” . . come on

How do I describe it. . . chewy

I make a note for our assignment: ‘I don’t think this concept would franchise well in the US’



After lunch Gina and I ordered coffee. . . my first experience with Turkish coffee . . . AMAZING!  Our coffee has nothing on Turkish or Arabian coffee. . . I am officially hooked.


Ghassan joined us shortly after lunch.  Ghassan is actually a graduate of The Ohio State University and worked with Gina back in Columbus.  Today’s reunion marks more than 20 years since they last saw each other.  Technology is truly amazing . . .


We split up to run a few errands after lunch and then meet back at the apt.  Somehow our half ended up back here first without a key . . . whomp whomp.  In the evening it is quite nice out in our courtyard so we just hung out and waited for the others.

It’s ironic that coming over here, after working with the team for 7 weeks, I felt that I knew very little about my new colleagues.  But within a few short days of living in-country we are really getting to know each other, sharing our personal experiences and our life stories.  We bring together a very wide range of circumstances and it is really helping me to better understand them and facilitating a better team.  This really is our very own Real World Dubai . . stay tuned

Cinco de Mayo . . . Day 4

Today we mean business. . .

The RISE team spent this morning diligently working to find data outlining the US and UAE food & beverage and retail markets.  With around seven weeks of work behind us, we still have a lot to learn and more work to put into our plan. . .

Lunch time we went our separate ways . .

Joey and Gina took a few minutes to relax. . .

I went town to our courtyard to read a book and grab a snack at the grocery store. . .

Travis went to a meeting for the Rotary Club of Dubai. . .

This may seem like an interesting activity however, Matt and Gregg take the cake for interesting . . or should i say peanut butter and jelly . . . burger


Yes, that’s right . . burger

Now like many WP’s, I have grown to love my daily PB&J sandwich on my drive from work to class . . . I now fear that this concept may forever ruin my love for this evening snack

the PBJ . . direct from the site, “Grass fed beef smothered in peanut sauce and strawberry jam with balsamic strawberries, melted cheddar, natural BF aioli, salad and relish all on a wholemeal bun.” . . . aioli??

Aioli is glorified mayonnaise. Not only do I loathe mayo, but to combine mayo with my adored PB&J . . .I’m scarred

But hey . . .I certainly applaud Gregg’s willingness to try new things



It’s funny . . . we must still be adjusting as we struggle to not only remember what day of the week it is, but also what day it is. . . how could we forget. . . cinco de mayo?!  It dawned on the team about mid-day and we set out on a mission to find a place that evening to celebrate.

In the UAE there are strict restrictions against the sale and consumption of alcohol so we had yet to participate in this popular collegiate pastime, but put a bunch of determined, bright, MBA students together and they will find a way.  It really is not all too difficult, while restaurants do not serve alcohol, most hotels have a license and we found Girders down the street.




The team enjoyed happy hour and then we headed down the beach walk in search of Mexican food (Dubai may have every version of every cuisine here, however, Mexican food is not very popular). . . RISE ended the evening at El Chico’s . . . Happy 5th everyone!


Mall Rats . . . Day 3

I’ve stolen this title from Gregg’s personal blog. . . as it is all too fitting for today’s events

In Dubai, the holy day is Friday so the RISE team begins our work week on Sunday . . . today.

The first week of our assignment includes a great deal of observation within Dubai, studying the current franchise trends, gaps between the offerings in the United States, general demographic information, etc. Basically, we need to get acclimated and fast as we have to present our findings first thing next week.

We began with a morning team meeting, a touch base to determine where we are in our research for the original assignment, our roles while in-country, and defining the project plan that Matt has developed for the team.  We still have a lot of work to do . .


We spent the second part of the day exploring the Mall of the Emirates and the largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall.  The team’s first experience together on the metro . .


Lingering around food courts, pointing out our findings for further discussions certainty attracted attention. . .

Mall rats. . .

These malls have it all when it comes to food.  Both include multiple food courts, all appeared to be heavily populated with American concepts including the usual suspects (McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, etc.) and more surprising players (Garrett’s, Shake Shack, P.F. Chang’s, Texas Roadhouse).



Aside from food. . . Dubai malls have everything . . . literally

ice skating . .


an aquarium . . .


even a ski slope . . .



By 7pm the boys decided to head back and checked out the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world at 2,700 feet and features a water show that rivals the Bellagio in Vegas.


Gina and I put our Ops study to practice and hit up Zara . . .