Visiting Dubai last week, one of the most noticeable differences from previous trips was that I managed to reach all my meetings on time.
Gone are the days of sitting in static queues of nose to nose SUVs frantically tapping the blackberry trying to reschedule meetings.
Dubai has clearly slowed since the crisis struck. A typical rumour doing the rounds is that a developer that burst onto the property scene with a monster project launched at Cityscape days before the market went into its current slump has shrunk its staff from 200 to just four.
However, Dubai is hardly ghost town. Dubai marina at 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon was thronging with nannies and children playing in the sunshine outside Starbucks, while that evening the Noodle House in the Madinat Souk was buzzing with tourists.
Last weekend Dubai held its annual horse racing fest, the richest race in the world with a $10m prize for the top race, at its spanking new $1bn course, Meydan, which features a 60,000-capacity grandstand. The event was hailed a success by most. Even Sting, who performed at the event was impressed
The point is that Dubai still has a lot to offer, if you like that sort of thing. As Ian Tarry, who runs Mace’s Middle East business says: "Everybody wants to live in Dubai." Whether that’s 100% true is open to debate but plenty of people undoubtedly want to be there.
For British construction industry people who had been working in Dubai, the city-state is turning into less somewhere you do business and more a place to base yourself, and especially your family.
Tarry himself has moved to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia but his family is staying in Dubai because of the lifestyle and in particular the schools, so he returns at weekends.
It’s all very well to base yourself in Dubai and seek work elsewhere in the region, but what about the millions owed to British firms by Dubai’s developers? The news that Nakheel does intend to pay its creditors eventually offers some comfort, as does the news that the British government has sent the formidable (and one of our many former fleeting construction ministers) Shriti Vadera to press the case of British banks owed with Nakheel’s parent Dubai World
Many firms, such as WSP, which worked with Nakheel, have already written off their debts of course, and now look forward to spreading into the wider region. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi are the trio on everyone’s lips. But while Brits may travel there increasingly frequently and even live there during the week, Dubai is where they want to live. The nanies of Dubai Marina look set to be around for some time yet.