Jon Emery spent 19 years at Hammerson before announcing a shock departure this summer to join the board of major UAE shopping mall developer Majid Al Futtaim. He landed in Dubai in October…

What brought you to Dubai?

I’ve spent 20 years building a successful career in the UK, as has my wife, who works for [insurer] Aon. We thought it was time for an adventure and we looked at this region and decided now was an enormously exciting time to be here.

I investigated a number of companies here but felt Majid Al Futtaim had the type of values and reputation I could relate to, plus a product type I understand.

I like the fact MAF is a developer-owner – they don’t just build and then sell their development – which makes them more focused on the quality.

What are you working on?

I’m building a team and infrastructure to deliver diverse projects across wider GCC region, Egypt, KSA, Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Levant focusing on Syria. The types of project include super regional, such as Mall of Emirates, Bahrain City Centre, and soon to be Midif in Dubai. Plus, iin the not to distant future, Qatar Entertainment City project and Abu Dhabi Sports City project. I'm working on community malls up to 75,000m sq and hotels clustered as part of super regionals as well as stand alones and a variety of broader mixed use projects which involve more extensive master planning with MAF acting as master developers.

Where are you living?

I’m living temporarily at the Grand Hyatt Residencies until my wife and two sons come over in January. I am exploring places for us to live but at the moment I’ve got a shortlist of three: Arabian Ranches, the Palm and Jumeira. I keep changing my mind, though…

What’s the best thing about Dubai?

The energy and enthusiasm – everyone here has made a choice to come, so they’ve got a tremendous sense of purpose.

What don’t people back home realise about Dubai?

The quality of the people, the intellect, that is here – people back home underestimate what can be achieved in Dubai. It may be slowing down, but it’s going to take off again from a hell of a starting point.

What do you miss about the UK?

I went back recently and I had one autumn day when the sun was shining and the air was crisp – it was like drinking champagne… But the next day was more like a pint of bad beer!