The two star cities of the United Arab Emirates — Dubai and Abu Dhabi — are becoming increasingly global cultural centers. The BBC recently reported that Abu Dhabi’s national collection of cultural and sporting assets is expanding at an extraordinary rate.
Dubai’s event market is following suit. This means that permanent venue spaces are now becoming booked out well in advance, says Carmen Clews, managing partner at Harlequin Marquees & Event Services in Dubai. “There is therefore much more of a demand to create a temporary environment for an event,” Clews says.
This increasing demand is great news for tented event companies in the region, and they are meeting clients’ needs with upscale venues and high-end decor. “The finished look is a lot more contemporary nowadays, with clean and crisp lines,” Clews says.
“The settings tend to be quite stunning here in Dubai, so using clear glass or Perspex panels — allowing in the natural light and making the most of outside views — has definitely been the most popular trend,” she says.
Beautiful locations such as beaches and deserts bring their own set of challenges. Tent companies have to arrange for 4-by-4 vehicles for traversing the sand, and extreme temperatures need to be offset with plenty of shade and water on site, Clews says. The deep sand at the sites also means companies have to employ extra long stakes to anchor their tents properly. (“The safety regulations are certainly getting a lot stricter of late,” Clews notes, “which is great news.”)
Clews says that the city offers a tax-free environment for workers — a major incentive — but sourcing labor is not entirely straightforward. “Dubai is such a new city and is growing at such a pace that it still has some teething problems,” Clews says. “One of those is sourcing accommodation for the labor force. There are plenty of people who would like to work here in Dubai and enjoy tax-free living, but we are currently restricted with where to put them.”
Areas like Dubai are perhaps best-known for their legendary Ramadan feasting, which is often celebrated in tents throughout the night. “Now that Dubai has become the all-singing, all-dancing glitz and glamorous city that it is, everyone wants the next best thing in Ramadan-style tents,” Clews says. “This gives us the opportunity to create stunning, themed marquees.”