Well needless to say I had a simply mind-blowing experience out in the United Arab Emirates at the EG Middle East study tour (and the EG Middle East Real Estate Forum) last week. I had never been to Dubai before.
And anyone who has ever been to Dubai will remember the first time they clocked the sheer enormity of it all.
I am still recovering. And it feels like I spent three days on LSD. I was out there promoting the Constellation, which I believe is on a hugely accelerated timetable, what with HS2 coming into Crewe in just over 10 years. But I came away in total awe, being completely humbled by the scale and the speed at which things can be achieved in the UAE. Ten years is glacial by their standards.
Having said that, I certainly elicited a lot of interest from investors in the potential of Crewe as an inward investment opportunity. Courtesy of the lovely Simon Marshall of the Scarborough Group, I am now calling it “Canary North” among the investor community (although this is much in jest, really; and I am likely to get a right slap for this moniker from my politicians, when they catch up with me. It will give them the hives). I am still open jawed at the whole concept of the Palm Jumeirah (we took a boat trip around it, it seems entirely stable, settled, and opulent beyond words) and the sheer chutzpah of the ruling elite in Dubai just deciding to extend their waterfront from 70km to 800km by building out into the sea.
Dubai is all-consuming. It is breath-taking. And actually, I think it has something of a sense of humour.
My photo is courtesy of the lovely Paul Marsh of Holistic Capital who sent me this picture taken from the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa saying “I thought you might like a reminder of the day you braved the stairs up to the tallest bar in the world!”. I suffer from frightful vertigo, and poor Paul had to hold my hand and lead me, as I shut my eyes and put one foot in front of the other to get up there! Thank God there was a bar at the end of it. What an image! Do not tell me that it is natural. And do not tell me that vertigo is not a wholly sane response.
Well! I have seen the future and it works! Dubai is only 50 years old and is a full blown “aerotropolis”. The Dubai Expo in 2020 is going to be really something. I, for one, will certainly be making the effort to attend. And I don’t know much about MIPIM Asia, but it seems self-evident to me, with the brilliant inroads that Damian Wild and his able team made in Dubai last week, and in this brave new post-Brexit world, there must surely surely surely be scope to take the MIPIM concept out to Dubai; I was most impressed with how much our two real estate markets are inextricably linked. And Dubai is hardly short of hotel rooms (unlike Cannes which, as we all know to our cost, is way over capacity each March).
Blimey! It was overwhelming. It was bling on steroids. And it was a MOST worthwhile few days. It massively justified the investment that the Constellation partners made in sending me. I sold the Constellation hard. And I’ve been offered an extraordinary level of support in shaping our investment opportunities for the Middle East investment market.
I learnt a lot. I had a lot of fun. And it blew my mind.