Big in Dubai

24 November 2004 by
Big in Dubai

If you were to arrive blindfold in Dubai and then have the blindfold removed, you could be forgiven for not quite knowing where you were. First impressions could be Disneyland, second Las Vegas, or maybe a combination of the two. That's because over the past few years Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has altered, and continues to alter, out of all recognition, particularly where hotel developments are concerned. After all, how many other countries have a hotel depicted on their vehicle number plates? Vehicles registered in Dubai have the iconic Burj Al Arab on their plates. Credited with much of this development is Jumeirah International, the luxury

hotel company that just keeps growing. The latest offering is the Madinat Jumeirah, a huge, 80-acre resort meaning city of Jumeirah that opened fully at the start of September. It's different architecturally to its siblings the Jumeirah Beach, shaped like a wave, the Burj Al Arab, like a billowing sail, and the Emirates Towers, like space rockets, but it's no less impressive. The architecture here is low-rise, much more traditionally Arabic, and there's less of a Disney feel. The Madinat contains two hotels, the Mina A'Salam, and Al Qasr, both with 292 bedrooms. There's also villa accommodation in 29 traditional summer houses, conference and banqueting facilities with two grand ballrooms, a 1,000-seat amphitheatre, a Six Senses Spa and a souk, the traditional Arabian labyrinth of shops and restaurants. The whole set-up is connected by nearly 4km of waterways and guests are transported around on traditional abras, or water-taxis. Al Qasr, which translates as the palace, is the centrepiece of the resort. You approach it from a tree-lined avenue framed on either side with sculptures of Arabian horses. Its interior is opulent but in a more subdued manner than the neighbouring Burj Al Arab. It's done in traditional Arabic style, with hues of gold, burgundies, and yellows. The traditional Arabic architecture includes 268 wind towers, which are found in Arabic homes to create draughts, and there are 5,000 palm trees. Rooms are 55sq m, compared with 50sq m in Mina A'Salam, and average achieved room rate is in the region of $400 (£221) a night. When you wander out of your room you can choose from 42 bars and restaurants, lie on the 1km beach, or try out one of the resort's 17 swimming pools under the watchful eye of one of the 248 lifeguards. In charge of the whole operation is Serge Zaalof, previously general manager at the Jumeirah Beach hotel, who has spent the past three years being involved in every aspect of the development of the Madinat. The huge nature of the resort doesn't faze Zaalof. "There's no real difference between flying a 737 and a 747," he says. "As long as you have a good crew on board, you'll have a good flight. You have to break the numbers down into bits."
Madinat Jumeirah []( General manager: Serge Zaalof Al Qasr: 292 rooms Mina A'Salam: 292 rooms Rates: At Mina A'Salam, rates this month start from Dh1,750 (about £262) plus 10% tax and 10% service charge per room per night on a room-only basis. At Al Qasr, they start from Dh1,810 (about £272) plus 10% tax and 10% service charge per room per night on a room-only basis
Zaalof has 15 direct reports into him and all senior managers are empowered to make and implement their own decisions. "They are the guardians of the standards and I have to trust them," he says. Running an operation on this scale calls for elaborate staffing arrangements. Some 3,400 staff representing more than 50 nationalities work at the Madinat, an impressive ratio of more than four staff per room. About a fifth of them have come from other Jumeirah International properties. Zaalof himself did a lot of the hiring, flying to 13 countries with the director of human resources as well as the relevant head of department. Some 22,000 interviews were conducted over the three years it took to get the Madinat up and running. About half the front-of-house staff are female, as Zaalof believes women exude a natural warmth when it comes to hospitality, whereas in housekeeping the majority of staff are men because of the manual labour required. Staff who are hired are greeted on arrival at Dubai airport by their head of department with a rucksack containing all they need to know about working for Jumeirah International. Jumeirah also pays for a flight home every two years at grass-roots level, and staff can build up their one-month annual leave to go home for two months at a time. While in Dubai they live in their own off-site village complex, housing some 7,000 staff with every conceivable comfort, including their own swimming pool. So where do you go to once you've run an operation of this nature? "Maybe to a 12-bedroom hotel in France," laughs Zaalof. "This is the Olympics of my career." For more information about Dubai, contact the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing on 020 7839 0580, or visit []( The Brit abroad Warren Brown, executive sous chef, Souk Madinat Jumeirah Taking up a post in Dubai in charge of eight restaurants was the last thing on Warren Brown's mind. He was head chef at L'Ortolan, just outside Reading, Berkshire, in charge of a brigade of 12. But then, via a friend of a friend, the call came. At first he was hesitant. "I'd never been to Dubai and I knew nothing about it. I thought to myself: go out to the Middle East, is that safe?" But eventually he was persuaded to go and have a look for himself. After a three-day look around and getting to know the company he decided to take the job. Six weeks later he left the UK for Dubai, and has now been there four months.
The Madinat resort covers 80 acres and is connected by nearly 4km of waterways Guests are transported around on traditional abras, or water-taxis
"It's just another league to come and work here," says Brown. His remit is to oversee the eight restaurants in the Madinat's own souk, a traditional Arabian labryrinth of shops and restaurants, overseeing a brigade of 150 with 11 direct reports into him. The restaurants represent many different types of food, including American, Moroccan, fish, a casual-style noodle bar, Italian and tapas, and the first challenge was to mug up on a variety of food styles. Brown's job is to ensure consistency of standards across all the restaurants. He sometimes takes a turn on the stove, and will make random visits both front and back of house during service. Food has to be ordered four days in advance, and most things are imported to ensure the highest standards, which means a lot of crystal ball-gazing. The only downside? A six-day working week and the same working hours as in the UK. But as Brown says, when the salary is tax-free, he gets 30 days' holiday and one paid flight home a year, and the sun shines virtually all the time, it's pretty hard to get down about much. Dubai: the business proposition Originally a small fishing settlement, Dubai was taken over in 1830 by a branch of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa Oasis led by the Maktoum family, who still rule the emirate today. Unlike some of the other emirates, Dubai doesn't have inexhaustible supplies of oil. Consequently, under the eye of ruler Sheikh Mohammed, the emirate has marketed itself heavily on a future dominated by tourism and leisure. Tourism is the fastest-growing industry, and the government hopes to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2010 and 40 million by 2015. Dubai International Airport is the busiest in the Middle East, and according to the Airports Council International, one of the fastest-growing airports in the world, expected to cater for 30 million passengers by 2010, and 45 million by 2018. The city has a population of about 970,000, and according to the Dubai Development and Investment Authority, this figure is expected to reach 1.4 million by 2010. A large proportion of the population is made up of expats. When will they ever stop building? Look out to sea from the Dubai coastline and you can see the work going on. This is Palm Island, a palm tree-shaped resort island on land reclaimed from the sea that
Palm Island will add 120km of sandy beaches to Dubai's coastline.
will add 120km of sandy beaches to Dubai's already fantastic coastline, and be visible from the moon. Palm Island will include 2,000 villas, 42 boutique hotels, shopping complexes, cinemas and the Middle East's first marine park. A second palm island is also under development, and there have been reports that the green light has also been given to a third. Property is on sale to foreigners as well as Emiratis, and Elton John and Rod Stewart are among the rumoured interested parties. The first Palm island is scheduled for completion in 2006 and will be the world's largest man-made island. Also under development is "the world", a cluster of 300 islands off the coast of Dubai and shaped like a world map. Resorts, golf courses, private villas and corporate retreats will be included in this development. Each of the islands is being reclaimed from a depth of up to 16m below the water's surface, and will be further developed to a height of 3m above water as dredging continues. Where are they all coming from? In 2003, Dubai experienced the 15th consecutive annual rise in worldwide visitor statistics, a 5% growth to almost five million visitors from 4.8 million in 2002, despite a global downturn in tourism. Of these visitors, 458,451 originated from the UK and 8,297 from Ireland. Figures for the first six months of 2004 also indicate that these two markets have performed exceptionally well. From January to July, Dubai received 282,000 British and 6,950 Irish guests - a growth of more than 25% and 95%, respectively. Britain remains the main source market for Dubai. Projects in the offing Burj Dubai The world's tallest tower will combine residential, commercial, hotel, entertainment and leisure outlets with open spaces, water features, pedestrian boulevards, an old town and one of the world's largest shopping malls. []( Cargo Mega Terminal at Dubai International Airport Capacity of 675,000 tonnes a year will increase to three million tonnes by 2018. []( Crystal Dome Biggest building in the world at 2.3 million sq ft, with 100 floors combining clinics, sport facilities, conference space, a six-star hotel, restaurants, shops, leisure park and a wellness centre with 3,000 residences and 500,000sq m of space for offices. []( Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club Seven new holes and changes to the existing course will be completed by December 2005. Will feature a luxury 238-room Park Hyatt hotel with views over the marina and creek, plus 94 executive villas. []( Dubai Festival City Biggest tourism and commercial project in the Middle East, spanning 1,600 acres along the creek, with five hotels, 18-hole Al Badia golf course and the Festival Village. []( Dubai International Airport Phase 1 will expand Terminal 2, while phase 2 will provide a dedicated terminal and concourses for Emirates airline. The Department of Civil Aviation is anticipating 70 million passengers travelling through the airport by 2016 and 100 million by 2025. [](
Burj Dubai will be the world's tallest towerDubailand Mixed-use theme park covering more than two billion sq ft, which is expected to attract about 200,000 visitors a day. The development will include 45 mega projects and 200 sub-projects. []( The Palm Two of the world's largest man-made islands shaped as palm trees, containing hotels, more than 1,000 luxury villas, two marinas, a water theme park, watersports and shopping facilities. []( The World Three hundred man-made islands positioned strategically to form the shape of a world map for either private use or development by investors. []( Dubai Marina A "city within a city" to accommodate 150,000 people, it will have an 11km promenade with boutiques and restaurants, hotels and residential properties. [
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