There was a little trepidation ahead of the grand bash to celebrate the10th anniversary of the Dubai International Financial Centre, and it was not just about the weather.
Ahead of the event, held on Monday evening outdoors around the Gate arch in the heart of Dubai’s financial hub, veteran DIFC executives were looking skywards to see if there was any sign of the snow that had recently afflicted Oman, or the rain that had soaked Sharjah.
You could understand why. The elaborate preparations for the gala evening had been in train for weeks, with a small army of labourers erecting a huge auditorium around the Gate. Two rock-stadium columns housing all the technological kit for a “son et lumière” spectacle were particularly impressive.
But there was little leeway allowed for the weather. Even a high wind would have been enough to make the planned event uncomfortable; anything more would probably have spelt profound disappointment for the 2,000 or so guests.
It would have been very difficult to move all that inside the DIFC complex at the last minute.
But the weather-watchers were relieved around midday when the short-term forecast came in, and the evening was forecast to be pleasant and mild. A perfect autumn evening in the Arabian Gulf. That was not their main worry however. The event coincided with the summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF), being held down the road in Madinat Jumeirah, and naturally all the “Weffers” were invited along.
But how many would turn up? In theory, the 850 or so invited from WEF would ensure the venue was packed, as appropriate for such an august occasion in royal presence. But as the gala got under way, there seemed no sign of the Weffers, and there were quite a few empty seats in the semi-circular bowl around the Gate.
Then, about 8.15pm, just as the speeches has started, the coaches bringing them the comparatively short hop from Jumeirah all arrived at once, and instantly the place was filled. Maybe some of the Weffers didn’t get the instructions that the event required “formal” attire, because I noticed a few in T-shirts and shorts.
But, hey, this is the forward looking, multi-generational WEF, after all. If you can’t accommodate a few teenagers destined to be tech billionaires, what’s it coming to?
In the end, we all enjoyed a thoroughly agreeable evening. Once the formalities of speeches were over, it was time for the fun to begin. In the past, especially before the global financial crisis, DIFC events were renowned for their glitz and grandeur, with global orchestras and world-famous opera singers as star attractions.
As if to show again that Dubai has learnt from the tough years, this gala was more understated: a dazzling light show projected on to the Gate, an excellent Emirati duo providing the local atmosphere, and then the 2 Cellos got going, along with drums.
Cellos and drums? Yes, that’s right. The cellists – who looked like young internet entrepreneurs in the making – played a selection of music that even I recognised: Coldplay, U2, Iron Maiden and Rihanna were all on the menu. (OK, somebody had to identify the last one for me.)
Then a sumptuous buffet was served, and the chance to chat to some of the big shots in attendance, before drifting off into a balmy Dubai evening.
One VIP – this was an off-the-record occasion so I cannot possibly identify who – summed it all up. “I’ve been to lots of these over the past 10 years, and this has been the best. It doesn’t always have to be the biggest or the grandest. This is tasteful and elegant – just about right.”
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