Once all of the customizations and product modifications were completed, it was time to go back to train the entire staff at DTCM and help roll out CRM to the entire staff in Dubai and their Overseas offices.
Two Weeks of Training Abroad
My colleague and I were asked to conduct the single longest training Simpleview has ever done - two weeks of training covering a huge variety of topics. Since we had made the journey once, we knew what to expect for the flight and getting settled at the hotel; however, being in another country for half a month was going to be an experience on its own.
On the final day of the week - we decided to take the Dubai Metro Line down to the Dubai Marina to walk around and grab a bite to eat. The Dubai Metro is much like any light rail that you see any major city. Each metro station is air-conditioned and trains arrive at the stations every 5 minutes or so. Even with this frequency, every train is packed to the brim with people. Though the trains are full, they are still quite clean. There are signs throughout the train reminding people of the regulations and fines they would get if they violate any of these rules. All of the signs are written in English and Arabic and have clear pictures illustrating what is not allowed. This included things like chewing gum, eating food, drinking water, etc.
After enjoying the sunset and taking some photos, the convoy made its way over to a camp that is set up in the middle of the desert. At the camp, tourists had the chance to ride a camel, take out quad bikes, or just enjoy the evening while getting henna or shopping small merchant tents. The evening was capped off by a few shows including a belly dancer and dinner.
Unlike the first time to Dubai, we scheduled our days a bit differently. Since the workweek in the United Arab Emirates is Sunday - Thursday, we wanted to hit the ground running. Though we took off on Sunday, we arrived in Dubai on Monday night and were expected to begin training Tuesday morning. Arriving at the hotel just before 10 PM Monday after 16 hours of being in the air, we went right to bed. As you might expect, sleep was not easy since we were trying to sleep when our bodies told us it was the middle of the day.
The training took place inside the hotel where we were staying. Though this was convenient, we literally didn't leave the hotel for three days while we ran training sessions and tried to get caught up on sleep. Though we didn't go anywhere, we talked to the staff at DTCM and began to build our plans for the two weekends that we would have in Dubai to try to see some of things we missed the last time we were inside this spectacular city.
Once we arrived at the Marina, just like every other part of Dubai, you are surrounded by huge apartment buildings. Dinner cruise ships floating through the marina are decorated like floating Christmas ships, people are driving their extremely expensive cars through the streets - Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porches; it seemed like if you were driving a Mercedes, you were driving a low class vehicle in this part of town. As we walked passed each restaurant, a waiter or waitress would show us their menu and talk about their specials for the evening. Every type of food was represented, from Steak houses to pizza places. Every place also featured places where you could sit outside and smoke shisha - a hookah pipe with flavored tobacco. Some of the restaurants were even enticing people to come in by offering free shisha. The lights from the tall buildings glittered on the water and it was very pretty sight to see at night.
We used the first day of the weekend to sleep in and recover after our very long first week of travel and training. On top of the work we were doing in Dubai, we both had on-going work for our other clients which needed to be tended to. The first day of the weekend is actually a work day in the US and we both wanted to make sure we had some time to respond to emails and requests. Day two of the weekend will be a day we will never forget.
We got up early, 3:30 AM, to catch a shuttle bus in the lobby. At this hour, the five-lane freeway was deserted. The shuttle wound its way through the city stopping at hotel after hotel picking up a few people at a time and began driving out of the city of Dubai. It was pitch black, with the land only lit up by the scarce light from the moon. All we could see in the distance aside from the road we were on was sand.
Eventually the shuttle drove off road taking us to a basket and a balloon half full of air. Giant fans were running, filling the night with tremendous sound. The "captain" of our balloon gave us a safety briefing and explained how we would be getting into the balloons when they were ready for lift off. It was our first ever ride in a hot air balloon and we were about ready to take off over the sands of the Arabian Desert. The burning propane was fired into the balloon to make it fill with hot air and eventually pull the basket upright. As the basket stood up we were given the order to get into the basket. As a group, 24 people piled over the edge of the basket, filling every inch and before you knew it we were airborne.
Aside from the occasional firing of the jets to keep the air in the balloon hot, the night was still with no sound. As we climbed into the sky, the views became more and more spectacular. Floating with the wind, the light began to break from the East, over a few mountains in the distance. The sunrise revealed miles of sand and villas. We floated over dunes and goat farms before landing at a camel farm, far from anywhere. The entire time in the air, we were trying to capture the experience on camera, until we stopped and looked around and just allowed ourselves to enjoy where we were and what we were doing.
The Gold Souk
Though the balloon ride really was a full day's worth of activity, it was only 10 AM by the time we got back to the hotel and we decided to go to another attraction that Dubai is known for. We went to the Gold Souk. This is a traditional market where the main good is - as you might guess - gold. This market was located in a part of Dubai which is older and away from much of the glamor of Downtown. Stepping out of the taxi was like being transported to another world all together. Shop after shop in this market featured products that, as a whole, had to have been worth millions of dollars. At times merchants trying to sell their merchandise surrounded us, constantly asking if we needed watches, shirts, souvenirs, or gold. Negotiation is the name of the game here! If you are a savvy shopper, you would be able to find what you are looking for and drive a hard price. The only challenge is, while in the midst of negotiations, trying to recall the cost in U.S. Dollars since the only currency used is a Dirham.
We had set out from the Gold Souk to find the spice souk - however because the temperatures were soaring, we decided to travel back to the hotel to shower and rest. We walked to the metro line - when hopping on the train, we noticed half the train was crowded, like normal, but the other half was quite reasonable. After boarding and looking around, we realized why there was such a distinct divide. It turns out there are specific sections of the trains which are set up for woman and children only - and if you are found to be in a section you don't belong, there is a fine. I quickly moved into the crowd of men, while Monica stayed comfortably in the woman and children section.
The Next week featured many training sessions with the teams at DTCM. We learned a great deal about how their processes worked in concert with several other festivals going on around Dubai as well as helping to enhance the image of the city. The week was so busy, there was little time to do any further exploring during the week - but we did have one more weekend and the best adventure was yet to come.
On Friday - which is the equivalent to Saturday in the US - we had signed up for a desert safari. We had not been told much by the staff at the offices, other than we would have fun and that we should go for the experience. A nice man in a Toyota Land Cruiser picked us up at our hotel around 4:30 PM. Once strapped in, we noticed the vehicle was equipped with a roll cage. When the driver was asked if the car had ever rolled, he said, "not often". We picked up a few others that were visiting from England and we were off. In what felt like a matter of minutes, the bright lights of Dubai were gone and we were driving down a road surrounded by sand on both sides. Before the adventure began, we stopped off at a little gift shop so people could use the restroom and get last minute supplies. This was the stop for all of the SUVs this company was taking into the desert that day, so the little shop was overwhelmed with people.
Once set, the SUVs made a mad dash up the road and bounded into the desert. With the four-wheel drive engaged and some of the air removed from the tires, the army of land cruisers raced around, over, and in some cases down sideways in the sand dunes. Though we were not driving, you could feel the car drift through the sand. The best way for me to describe the feeling is being slightly out of control in 2 feet of snow. The driver expertly piloted his way over ridges and bouncing from dune to dune. Incredibly, all of the SUVs took their own routes and it was surprising we never hit another vehicle considering how it seemed there was little controlling the car and yet the vehicles would get so close together! This was not a ride for those with a weak stomach. The constant movement, the unpredictable jumping and dropping, and the speed at which we were moving would cause even the strongest stomachs to feel weak at times. One of the passengers in our vehicle did become car sick. The driver pulled over to make sure she was OK, but the fun was not over yet!
We pulled onto some of the highest dunes in this part of the desert - just in time to watch the sunset. The heat of the desert distorted the sun's rays enough that it was easily one of the most spectacular sunsets we have ever seen. The sand was so soft and you easily sink down a little with every step you take.
Dubai Museum, Dubai Creek and Departure
Our final weekend day in Dubai was spent exploring the Dubai Museum, which is inside the oldest fort in Dubai. We were able to learn about the early times in the city and how life changed dramatically with the discovery of oil in the 1960s. I was reminded about how rapidly this amazing place had seemingly popped up out of no where and within just a few years has become one of the most impressive cities in the world.
Each night, several boats launch in the Dubai Creek - these boats offer dinner cruises which are both scenic and offer some of the best food available. We were able to take one of these boats down the Dubai Creek. Everywhere you look from the deck of the boat, tall modern buildings surround you, yet some of the other boats in the water look to be little more than rowboats with motors.
We wrapped up the final few days of training in the offices of DTCM - our flight was scheduled to leave only a few hours after our final sessions came to a close. Though we had stuffed as many activities as we could into our few weeks stay, we were sad to be leaving it all behind. There was still so many more things to see and do - the shopping festival, the botanical gardens, massive go-cart tracks and many more - it just all could not be seen or done during the time we were there.
My colleague and I added up our time spent in Dubai, collectively between the two trips, it amounted to just under 1 month. Of course not all of that time was available for exploring the amazing city of Dubai, much of it was in fact working to set up the Simpleview CRM to meet the needs of a very large organization; however, there was not nearly enough time to see and experience everything Dubai has to offer.
If you ever find yourself with a chance to go to the city of Dubai, seize the chance and explore - you'll be glad you did.