My introduction to the Emirates


Published: November 17th 2023

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Going down. Help!Going down. Help!Going down. Help!

One of the crosses I had to bear in my role of heading up the trading desk for Queensland Sugar was that I was expected to make regular presentations at International Sugar Conferences, which usually occurred every couple of years. Yes, I know, dirty job but someone had to do it! My final such stint, held some 6 months before I took early retirement from QSL, was held in Dubai.

Now they tend not to go too down-market for these conferences, and this was no exception as it was held at the extremely comfortable Park Hyatt complex. This luxury hotel is situated very centrally in Dubai, on the banks of the renowned Dubai Creek (and trust me, a ‘creek’ in Dubai bears little similarity with your local suburban creek!), which even had its own golf course as well as the usual myriad of pools, spa and fitness facilities, and conference facilities. Furthermore, it even had its own private beach.

Outside of the conference itself, there were a range of activities available for the participants. One of the most memorable for me was the Dubai Desert Safari Excursion. This tour provided the full desert experience, including dune-bashing in 4WD vehicles,

Burj Al ArabBurj Al ArabBurj Al Arab

quad biking, sandboarding, and a camel ride, topped up by a great barbecue dinner buffet. There’s nothing like shitting yourself, convinced your 4WD is going to roll over on the sand dunes, after a tough day at the office!

No visit to Dubai would be complete without taking in a cocktail or two on the upper decks of the Burj Al Arab, at that time the tallest (and likely, the flashiest) hotel in the world. Thank goodness for company expense accounts! As well as the pure opulence of it, it offered a superb view over the city itself, the luxurious Jumeirah beach resorts, and the famed Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s man-made islands, fanning out into the Persian Gulf, which we later visited in person.

Another eye opener for me was the famed Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort with a massive indoor ski area. The park maintains a temperature around freezing point throughout the year. It is located right inside the popular Mall of the Emirates, with its slanted building perched on top of the mall. It is surrounded by a cluster of chalets and restaurants, and as well as skiing there are opportunities to build a snowman, roll down the hills,

Inside Ski DubaiInside Ski DubaiInside Ski Dubai

ride the Twin Track Bobsled or explore a snow cavern. To visit a complex like this in the middle of the desert was an amazing experience.

As well as having the mandatory round of golf ourselves (almost an inherent part of any commodity traders’ conference!), we were fortunate to be in Dubai at the time of the annual Dubai Golf Classic, held at the Emirates Golf Club. So, we got the opportunity to follow the fortunes of, and naturally give plenty of good advice to, such luminaries as Tiger himself (when he was in his heyday), Harrington, Els, Jimenez, McDowell et al. Needless to say there was no expense spared to put on this event.

But perhaps the most life-changing event happened to me towards the end of the conference itself. I was in a Q&A panel with a couple of others, including my equivalent from the Thai sugar industry, who I had got to know quite well through the years. Now back in Oz, I was just an employee of an industry body, but in Thailand, most of the sugar companies are privately owned and the CEOs generally represent that family. So this guy’s family company owned

Tiger and Jimenez coming off the 12th holeTiger and Jimenez coming off the 12th holeTiger and Jimenez coming off the 12th hole

four sugar mills, a couple of bus companies and some construction businesses, so they were pretty well-heeled. He was due to retire later that year and knew that I was too, so we were chatting about what we might each do in our newfound leisure hours. He mentioned that his company was a major contributor to a foundation in northern Thailand that looked after children who were orphaned as a result of AIDS, a not unusual affliction in that part of the world, and that they were always hassling him to visit them, but he was just too busy. So I jokingly suggested that perhaps his company could continue to contribute the funds and I could go up there and spend some time in his place. A couple of weeks later, I got a call, asking if I was serious. Thus started an interesting period of my life where I would spend three weeks each year in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, assisting with the Sem Pringpuangkeo Foundation.

If you are interested to read anything about this excellent foundation, I have posted a number of blogs below, the first of which is #117. I was intimately involved with the

Camels in all sizesCamels in all sizesCamels in all sizes

operation of the foundation for three years until a full-time job back in Sydney precluded me from continuing with my visits.

That completes my brief visit to Dubai and regretfully I have not had the opportunity to return, apart from the odd transit stop in either Dubai or Abu Dhabi airports. Maybe some day but I fear I am fast running out of time ….


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#introduction #Emirates

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