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April 7, 2015
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Middle East: Top Locations for Memorable Meetings


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The magic and mystique of Arabia has enticed visitors from around the world to Middle East destinations for decades. Ancient wonders such as Jordan’s Petra, the Dead Sea and Egypt’s pyramids at Giza are top draw cards. In addition, contemporary manmade structures such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, Burj Khalifa, and architectural landmarks such as Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art add a slew of modern venue options with an all-important local flavour. As the region shapes up as a global meeting and event hub par excellence, these iconic attractions are becoming highly sought-after by planners seeking inspirational venues that offer a sense of destination. 

1.    The Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt 
Despite claims the Giza Pyramid experience has become over-commercialised, you still can’t stage a meeting or event inside one of these elaborate tombs, or indeed, atop the Sphinx. However, the next best thing – ringside seats with magnificent views of these ancient relics – is offered at two nearby hotels: Mövenpick Hotel Cairo Pyramids and Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort. The former, located on the Giza plateau, offers a multi-functional venue with floor-to-ceiling windows – the Joy Club – catering for up to 300 people; a boardroom for more intimate meetings; plus lavish gardens for outdoor events. Delegates can trot across the road to visit the pyramids, while the hotel faces the new Egyptian Museum, currently under construction. Another option, Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort, offers corporate golf sessions and team-building events at its nine- and 18-hole golf courses with pyramid views. The property includes a designated conference building with eight venues including two ballrooms that can accommodate 500 people. There are also six meeting rooms and a business centre and many of the 229 guest rooms boast views of the Great Pyramids. 

2.    Petra, Jordan 
Inhabited since prehistoric times, Petra is a Nabataean caravan city, half-built and half-carved into rock and recently named one of the official New Seven Wonders of the World. Facing this archaeological marvel on a steep sloping site is the 100-room Petra Marriott Hotel, where meetings and events can be staged on the doorstep of Jordan’s national treasure. Many of the hotel’s meeting rooms actually overlook the awe-inspiring rose-coloured Petra Valley. 

The biggest venue is a ballroom with the Petra Mountains as a stunning backdrop. It accommodates up to 120 people and is divisible into two. For conferences and presentations of up to 55 delegates, Teatro Auditorium is available, while coffee break set-ups offer ‘Red City’ vistas and mountain air. Leisure add-ons include Petra site tours and visits to other top attractions such as Wadi Rum, Shoubak Castle, Aqaba and the Dead Sea. For authentic al fresco events, Bedouin-style settings with a mountainous backdrop are a popular choice. 

3.    Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar 
For an immersive cultural experience unique to the Gulf, look no further than Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), where works dating back to the 7th century are housed inside an architectural masterpiece, designed by Pritzker Prize Laureate I M Pei. 
MIA’s indoor venues include the Grand Hall located in the atrium, which can hold up to 2,000 people – ideal for gala dinners, graduation ceremonies, launches, receptions and other memorable events. Conferences, lectures, seminars and movie premiers are best staged in the auditorium with 195 fixed seats, in-house projection, digital sound and a cinematic screen. 

Outdoor venues where delegates can take in the Doha skyline, bay views and MIA’s elegance, include the courtyards close to the corniche, offering a relaxed seaside ambience. The biggest outside option is the Park, however, covering 280,000 square metres of space featuring a 24-metre-high sculpture by acclaimed US artist Richard Serra – a venue already home to several annual international events. As an added bonus, conference and meeting delegates enjoy exclusive gallery viewings, but if you’re really looking to impress, the museum can arrange for arrival by traditional dhow or luxury yacht. 

4.    Yas Island, Abu Dhabi 
Where better to get all revved up in a super-charged environment than on Yas Island, home to Yas Marina Circuit (YMC), which each year, stages one of the region’s biggest sporting events – the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. YMC itself offers a range of corporate packages from meetings and conferences staged on site to team-building exercises and incentives involving competitive racing. 

The manmade island’s many hotels are also geared up for meetings and events, including Radisson Blu Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island and sister property Park Inn by Radisson. Together they provide eight meeting facilities spread over two floors, the biggest of which is the Galaxy Ballroom, which can cater to 500 guests or small groups when divided into three separate event spaces. Seven smaller meeting venues, many of which overlook YMC, can be customised, accommodating up to 445 people. Outdoor poolside banqueting options are also available. 

The Park Inn property hugs the edge of the 18-hole Yas Links golf course, where corporate golf events can be arranged. Both hotels work closely with YMC and nearby attractions including Yas Waterworld and sports hub Al Forsan, to tie in unique activities for delegates attending meetings, conferences or incentives. 

5.    Burj Khalifa, Dubai 
If your company or client has lofty ambitions, then one of the world’s swankiest hotels, located inside the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, should do the trick. Understated elegance might be Armani Hotel Dubai’s mantra, but there is nothing subtle about the 828-metre skyscraper where it is housed. The ‘Burj’ is now deemed Dubai’s leading icon affording views of an evolving city that are nothing short of spectacular. Planners looking to stage high-end meetings or events inside the 160-room Armani Hotel Dubai boast a medley of venues from which to choose, depending on the occasion. 

The biggest, the Armani Ballroom, can hold up to 450 people for conferences, product launches or gala dinners in a space that combines Armani’s signature style with advanced technologies. Think stylish dark grey carpet surrounded by black marble handpicked by Giorgio Armani himself. Other options include the Armani Pavilion – a stunning outdoor terrace set amid gardens and water features at the foot of Burj Khalifa and facing the Dubai fountain; the Armani Oasi – a modern, laid-back terrace venue with fountain and Downtown Dubai view from its vantage point on the third floor, suitable for informal gatherings; and Al Majilis – a private venue designed in the style of a traditional Arabian meeting room, for high-level gatherings with a sense of location. 

Armani Hotel Dubai also offers discrete boardrooms, classic meeting rooms and contemporary lounges for compact gatherings. 

6.    Burj Al Arab, Dubai 
‘Seven-star’ meetings with breathtaking views and natural daylight are the name of the game at Dubai’s original iconic building – the sailed-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel. 

Opulence more than 200 metres above sea level define the private venues at Jumeirah Group’s flagship hotel, all located on the 27th floor. They include the twotier Al Falak Ballroom, built in the style of a Viennese opera house and boasting coastline views, accommodating up to 350 guests. There's also the Athruaya, Suha, Al Areeka and Tameen meeting rooms, which can take between 12 and 50 delegates;and the 12-seater Suheil boardroom, with coastal, city and Palm Jumeirah panoramas through its floor-to-ceiling windows. 

Another option, the Assawan Amphitheatre on the 18th floor is a hotspot for cocktail parties or corporate dinners with a capacity for 100. The Sunset Garden and Marina Garden provide scope for open-air gatherings in a lush setting. 

7.    Dead Sea, Jordan 
Arguably one of the most spectacular natural and spiritual landscapes in the world, the Jordanian east coast of the Dead Sea has evolved into a major hub for religious, health and wellness tourism. 

This area of the Jordan Rift Valley has also gained kudos as a meeting destination, thanks to the raft of hotels and convention centres that line the Dead Sea’s shores. They include Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea, which sits on the edge of this famous salt lake, providing uninterrupted views across the vast sea towards the West Bank, in close proximity to some of the world’s most renowned religious sites and a well kitted-out convention centre featuring 11 venues, including a 182-guest auditorium and a 600-guest grand ballroom. Outdoor venues are plentiful and showcase the beauty of the Dead Sea with options ranging from team-building exercises on its shores to cocktail parties on one of the many terraces. 

The resort’s lush lemon gardens are also popular for corporate dinner parties. Whatever the occasion, delegates are likely to be more alert than ever given the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth. At more than 400 metres below sea level, it is blessed with oxygen-rich air that promotes concentration. Off-site events are another option with the events team geared up to organise dinner under the stars in Wadi Rum with a private orchestral performance, or a night tour of Petra. 

8.    Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi 
Unadulterated glamour will dazzle delegates at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace where the total meeting and conference space spans 7,000 square metres. The largest venues are the Auditorium and Ballroom accommodating 1,100 and 2,400 guests, respectively, while there are more than 40 meeting rooms to choose from. Add to the equation six large terraces and a variety of pre-function areas and the options for private meetings, cocktail receptions, banquets, concerts and congresses are almost endless. These diverse facilities play host to a number of events annually, from large corporate conferences for the likes of Etihad Airways and Rolls-Royce to local entertainment festivals and sporting events such as Polo at the Palace and Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Every venue showcases the majesty of the palace. 

Outdoor events on the Palace Terrace boast unparalleled views of the Arabian Gulf; the Auditorium features soaring ceilings and UAE emblems; and the indoor ballroom is adorned with Swarovski chandeliers and golden ceilings, making it a popular venue for royal weddings. Even cosy events held in the smaller outdoor alcoves around the palace offer spectacular views of the architecture surrounded by manicured gardens and beautiful water features. The catering options are equally as sumptuous with personalised and themed buffets created by award-winning chefs. A private beach is available for team-building activities, complemented by group dining in a traditional Bedouin outdoor setting.

9.    Palm Jumeirah, Dubai 
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai – a five-star themed resort that commands the prime position on the apex of Palm Jumeirah and is a one-stop-shop for business and pleasure. On top of its water parks and aquatic attractions, the property has become one of Dubai’s top event destinations, particularly renowned for its mega live music extravaganzas on the beach. 

Traditional indoor venues include 14 meeting rooms, three ballrooms and two boardrooms. The main Atlantis Ballroom accommodates up to 1,500 guests while the two smaller Silk and Spice Ballrooms, each divisible into three rooms and catering for up to 200 people, bring the Atlantean theme to life with aquatic décor and motifs. Large events of up to 2,000 people can also be staged around the Conference Pool while the resort’s flagship venue, the Asateer Tent, seats 1,500 for dinner or holds 2,500 people for cocktails. Its terrace overlooks the beach. 
For an 'out of the box' approach, events can be held in the Royal Beach, Dolphin Bay Beach, Aquaventure Beach, or even The Lost Chambers Aquarium, while intimate gatherings are often hosted in the Nobu Japanese Garden and bespoke dinners with butler service in the Royal Bridge Suite or Grand Atlantis Suite. 

10.    Makkah, Saudi Arabia 
At 601 metres tall, Makkah Clock Royal Tower, a Fairmont Hotel, is one of the tallest buildings in the world. Located in the heart of Islam’s most sacred city, the iconic 1,600-room property boasts views of the Holy Ka’aba, Al Masjid Al Haram and across Makkah’s growing urban landscape. 

For Muslims across the world there is nothing more momentous than holding an important meeting or grand event in the Holy City of Makkah, which is why the property comprises a plethora of impressive venues. They include the elegant Al Jiwar Ballroom, accommodating up to 1,500 guests and offering a media room with live broadcast capabilities, a roving camera monitoring system and eight translation rooms. A unique feature is a built-in systematic amphitheatre with 700 seats that open in an astonishing 20 seconds. 

Makkah Clock Royal Tower also offers seven meeting rooms and a VIP meeting room and lounge. Prestigious events previously staged at the property include the Makkah Islamic Conference, which welcomed dignitaries from across the Arab world, including the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. 
The venue is just steps away from the Grand Mosque and the Holy Ka’aba – a spiritual setting that encourages creativity, productivity and focus. Post-meeting add-ons include private tours of the lunar observatory at the top of the clock tower, plus excursions to the city’s major landmarks and spiritual sites. 


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