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There are few places that divide opinion as does Dubai. This is a city where record-busting skyscrapers and artificial islands are commonplace. Its constant stream of ambitious projects and brash self-publicity are certainly not to everybody’s taste.
Many would argue that the current global financial crisis finally signalled the “end of the party” – and that as a result of overindulgence and unrestrained spending, Dubai is now suffering from the hangover.
In my opinion, however, it’s an amazing place to live and work. And no matter what one’s opinion of Dubai is, few would argue that it’s not a remarkable city.
I am currently on a six month secondment to the finance department of Lovells’ office in Dubai. I write this piece whilst gazing at the city’s magnificent skyline – the blazing Arabian sun is all but blocked out by countless skyscrapers, a myriad of gleaming glass and steel. Despite seeing it every day, it is hard not to be impressed by the view. It is all the more extraordinary when one considers that just a couple of decades ago I would have been staring at nothing but an endless stretch of desert.
These skyscrapers are testament to Dubai’s ambitions to become a global financial centre, and it has achieved that ambition in an extremely short space of time. Accordingly, my preference to work in the Dubai office stemmed from my ambition to qualify into the transactional side of the profession. The opportunity to gain experience of working on cross-border deals and to learn how business is conducted within a completely different cultural context was extremely attractive.
The small size of the office here affords the trainees scope to play a more prominent role within the team, and to get involved with a broad spectrum of work that, in London, would span across a number of departments – including banking, structured finance, capital markets and restructuring work. Much of the finance work here also has an Islamic flavour – my understanding of the intricacies of sukuk and marabaha transactions is slowly, but surely, improving.
Outside of the office, Dubai, quite rightly, has a well-earned reputation for its high-living. There is a plethora of events happening across the social calendar: Dubai Rugby Sevens, the UAE Desert Challenge, the Dubai Gold Cup Polo, the Dubai Desert Golf Classic, the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Dubai Tennis Championships, the Dubai International Jazz Festival, the Dubai Desert Rock Fest, the Gulf Art Fair and the Dubai World Cup Horse Racing, to name a few. Whether you enjoy lazing on the beach, going kite surfing, sailing, diving or riding, playing tennis, golf, football, or polo; going dune bashing or on desert safaris; bartering in the souks or splashing out in the huge shopping malls, you will never be short on things to do. Dubai must be the only city in the world where you can go skiing when it is 40 degrees outside!
The unrestrained construction and record-breaking may have, at least temporarily, scaled down, but the party certainly has not stopped. Dubai’s well-documented economic problems of the last 18 months haven’t, in the slightest, affected what has so far been an amazing experience.