One of my first solo International conferences was in Abu Dhabi in April 2015. It was my first time in the Middle East and it was fabulous! I loved Abu Dhabi!
During these trips abroad to organise these conferences I don’t have a lot of time to explore, as any event organiser can attest, these trips are usually filled with early mornings organising and late nights networking with a couple of hours reserved for sleep and perhaps a meal if you’re lucky! But I always try to have at least a day (usually the day before it all kicks off) to see where I am and appreciate my new surroundings. With this trip we visited the Heritage Village, had a walk around in the sweltering heat and I spent an afternoon at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is by far the most beautiful mosque I’ve ever seen. No offence to the other mosques, I really haven’t seen many (that may be a future project for me to consider) but nonetheless; stunning. Absolutely stunning. I unfortunately didn’t get to have a tour where I would have learnt the history of all the intricate details I spent hours admiring but I did pick up one lesson: The 5,700 square meters of hand-knotted carpet in the main prayer rooms is one huge piece that was applied in one go. Crazy!
We also attempted to visit the Emirates Palace but I was in a strappy top and my colleague in shorts, so that visit was cut remarkably short haha!
The event took place at the lovely Intercontinental which has restaurants, bars, a private beach, pool, gym etc so we really did not need to leave the hotel much.
Although this was one of the best International events I’ve organised, it was also one of the most complicated.
Tip: research, research, research. My saving grace with this event was that my hotel event manager was competent and helpful. Without her I would have been royally screwed! There are all kinds of hoops to jump through in order to organise an event in Abu Dhabi (and the rest of the UAE I’ve been told), they really do not make it easy for you. Permits were the bane of my life during this time! Not only did we need one for the event itself (which involved collecting passports and forms from all of the speakers, who getting a simple yes/no answer out of is taxing!!) but we also needed many many many things in order to conduct our facility tour of the Etihad hanger (understandably).
Thankfully to the untrained eye the conference went very well with no hitches or delays!
Best friend: Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority Website