Five Tips for Combining Business and Leisure Travel, Destination Mideast

Each summer I ask myself this question: How can I run two businesses and still have time to enjoy my life? According to research, Americans are most likely not to take vacations. I would suggest that you combine both business and pleasure when traveling overseas.

After signing up for the conference in Dubai, I became fascinated with the modern Mideast. I wanted to know more about its ancient culture. After extensive research, I found a flight that included a short stopover in Jordan before flying to Dubai.

I reserved an airport pick-up and a 5-star Amman hotel. Many restaurants are nearby. The Egyptian dialect of Arabic I had learned is very different from that of the Jordanian.

Jordan is an important crossroads. The history of Jordan is fascinating, from Alexander to the Nabataeans to Romans, Byzantines, and the modern world. Jordan has a vibrant culture, along with its historical monuments. It was obvious when a wedding party from the locality marched through my hotel lobby to celebrate their marriage.

On the next day, I went on a tour to discover Amman’s Roman ruins. The view of Amman was breathtaking as the muezzin called for prayer. As I had only a few days to explore, I hired a driver who would guide me around for 12 hours a day. The distances weren’t too great, and we spent the following day exploring Jerash’s Roman remains. Alexander the Great is widely believed to be responsible for writing its history. Pompey’s Romans destroyed it in the 1st century. We ate outside in the vineyards while enjoying the mild weather of October. It was a rare sight to see a tour bus.

My next day’s journey from Byzantine Madaba to the Dead Sea took me there. The spa is known for its treatments. Before returning to Amman, I spent some time looking at the sea.

To save the best, the Nabataeans constructed Petra, also known as a rose-colored city. Petra is an UNESCO World Heritage Site that rivals the Pyramids. The site has several small buildings and outdoor cafes. Handicrafts are also available to buy. It is necessary to ride camels on the tourist route from the entrance. This makes for some great photo opportunities.

After a week of unforgettable experiences, I was eager to visit Dubai for a conference and to do some sightseeing. Dubai is known to have many unexpected features such as the Palm Development, air-conditioned busses, and ultra-luxurious hotels. I am an Intermittent Intermediate skier and was interested in the indoor skiing resort at a local shopping mall. It was an adventure I didn’t expect to get a great workout, but it would make a nice location for a holiday photo. After a delicious Southern Fried Chicken meal at the Mall of the Emirates Food Court, I dressed in my ski gear and headed up the elevator with my skis and poles. After a few runs, it was time to enjoy hot chocolate at St. Moritz Cafe. It was the perfect end to my Mideast experience.

I was travelling alone in the Middle East and used two techniques that I have found to be globally effective.

1. I arrange for airport pickup before I leave. In certain countries, taxis may not be safe. After I survived a sub-Saharan Civil War, I learned that I should ask for recommendations from my hotel, especially when I was alone. If I’m arriving in a major city at night, I like to use public transport, especially trains and subways, or take a taxi.

2. I selected a 5-star resort with multiple dining choices, both inside the hotel and outside. I would have a driver wait for me in Cairo if it were cheaper. I could also take a taxi from Lisbon round trip to top restaurants if it was more affordable. I always ask a lot of questions before I visit a new location, and I’m especially interested in the opinions of locals.

When I was in the Middle East, I had two additional rules.

1. I wore a long-sleeved shirt and slacks even though I would be attending both a business meeting and sightseeing in the hot desert.

2. When I was alone in a restaurant, I chose to sit at a table or seat next to couples, families, and groups of women.

Here are five tips I have learned for successfully combining business and pleasure.

1. Book connecting flights with longer layovers to save on airfare.

2. Do your business as quickly as you can, especially if there are complex flights involved that could cause long delays.

3. Test your routes over the weekend. Even with GPS, it is easy to become lost. In one city, I was surrounded by massive construction when I had my first meeting. The scaffolding made it nearly impossible to move around the area and obscured street addresses. The outside door of the building I was staying in was locked when I arrived. My mobile phone was also unable to reach people in the building.

4. If you don’t have time to wait for your luggage, bring an outfit or suit.

5. You can set up multiple alarms on your phone with the hotel operator, and also on your mobile device. Even the most luxurious of hotels have had me miss a morning wake-up or room service error before a flight on a day trip. You may need coffee or breakfast to function, so make sure you have a plan B in case the room service fails.

Plan ahead and spend time exploring your destination. Video conferencing may be cheaper than face-to-face meetings.


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