Why is the UAE so influential when it comes to global luxury retail trends

Why is the UAE so influential when it comes to global luxury retail trends?

Ask anyone in the world what they know about the UAE and, more often than not, the word ‘luxury’ will be mentioned sooner rather than later. Dubai in particular is globally perceived as a city replete with customised sports cars, haute couture and multimillion-dollar penthouses.

On one level, I find this attitude a little frustrating because the UAE is about so much more than surface-level ‘bling’. The Emirates is home to a rich cultural heritage, a vibrant arts scene and an ever-growing knowledge-based economy with a proven track record of attracting top talent from around the world. These attributes have contributed to our nation’s wealth; not resulted from it.

Nevertheless, there is certainly a kernel of truth in the international community’s perception of our nation. For decades, the UAE has helped to shape luxury retail trends on the world stage.

The business of luxury

The size of the UAE’s luxury market hit $3.5 billion in 2021, according to data released by ResearchandMarkets.com, whereas Statista reports that global revenue within the sector amounted to $294.18 billion in the same year.

By comparing these figures, we find that the UAE accounted for more than 1% of overall spending within the luxury space in 2021, despite making up only 0.1% of the global population. What’s more, the Emirates’ luxury market is expected to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.82% from 2022-27, significantly outpacing the anticipated international CAGR of 5.4% for the same period.

You may be wondering whether this is simply a matter of spending power. After all, the UAE ranks 20th in the world when it comes to GDP per capita, recording a figure of $47,790 according to the latest data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). With the Emirates positioned firmly towards the top of the international league tables, it’s not unreasonable to expect its inhabitants’ luxury spending to be higher than the global average.

But spending does not necessarily equate to influence, a factor that can be difficult to capture using figures alone. And, in my opinion, the UAE is punching significantly above its weight when it comes to luxury retail, whichever way you look at it.

Trendsetting

One reason I think the UAE has played such a disproportionate role in shaping the global luxury space is its long-standing appeal to world-famous figures from the fields of business, sports and entertainment. From David and Victoria Beckham to Abhishek and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, household names from every corner of the planet have homes in the Emirates – and where they go, the attention of the international media follows.

Of course, these properties are not your run-of-the-mill homes, wealthy owners have discerning tastes, and the UAE property market is uniquely placed to cater to those looking for something truly special. Indeed, recent years have witnessed high-end real estate and luxury brands become more closely entwined through innovative collaborations such as DAMAC’s partnerships with Cavalli and the luxury jeweller de GRISOGONO. Such prestigious collaborations result in stunning offerings and make Dubai a global hotspot for those who seek sumptuous spaces.

And even celebrities that don’t own property in the UAE love to spend time here, thanks in no small part to our nation’s world-leading calendar. From elite sports events such as Formula 1’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Dubai Desert Classic to Dubai Shopping Festival and our nation’s incredible New Year’s Eve extravaganzas, there’s no shortage of events to keep influential stars coming back for more.

Supplementing these annual fixtures are high-profile fashion and design events, such as Dubai Design District’s (d3) quarterly Arab Fashion Week. As the official fashion week of the Arab region, this platform is regarded as one of the five most important shows of its kind alongside New York, London, Milan and Paris. This event alone delivers four windows per year when the focus of the global fashion industry is set firmly on the UAE.

Local influence

Even so, the Emirates’ sway over the international luxury retail landscape extends beyond high-profile individuals and events. In fact, I would argue that UAE citizens and residents represent the biggest drivers behind our nation’s global influence within this arena.

From business and tourism to leisure and entertainment, and everything in between, the Emirates has been built on the premise that only the best will do. Our population live and breathe this mantra in both their professional and personal lives, and – understandably – expect the same standards when spending their hard-earned money.

This has resulted in a nation of ultra-discerning consumers, who are perfectly willing to invest in quality because they understand what quality means. It doesn’t matter whether you’re discussing fine dining and hospitality or hypercars and premium real estate, when it comes to luxury, people living in the UAE know what they’re talking about.

So, when a new luxury trend emerges in the Emirates, it’s not altogether surprising that the rest of the world takes notice.

What can we do as parents to ensure we’re raising our daughters to be future role models?

What can we do as parents to ensure we’re raising our daughters to be future role models?

I am blessed to be a woman living in the UAE. In fact, our country is ranked first in the region for gender equality thanks to the many programmes and initiatives in place to provide women with equal opportunities and the chance to flourish. Our nation remains committed to gender equality and works hard to ensure that this becomes a universal human right. And as parents, we can build on this by providing our children with the right tools to become empowered global citizens.

Being the mother of a young girl, I understand first-hand the responsibilities that come with having children. Not only do we provide them with the physical essentials: a roof over their head, clothes on their back and food in their belly, but we also model morality and ethics through our everyday behaviour and beliefs. In a world where women are still often subjected to prejudice, we need to empower girls to become the kind of women that others can look up to.

So, how can we ensure we are nurturing future role models? Here are my tips on raising strong and empowered young women.

Communicate with them

Women often face challenges that men never experience. Although our country is committed to the promotion of gender equality, young girls around the world will face stereotyping or discrimination in some form throughout their lives. Pretending that this will not happen or simply ignoring it when it does, can prove tempting in the pursuit of creating a ‘perfect little bubble’ for our daughters to live in, but it will ill-prepare them for the future.

That’s why I find it crucial to be honest with my young daughter about the behaviour she may have encountered or incidents of unfairness that either she or I have come across. Teaching her to recognise these challenges, so she can stand her ground and follow her own path, will help her define who she becomes in adulthood. So too, will the understanding that diversity is a beautiful thing, and although we are not all the same, we are all equal. I truly believe that having an honest forum with someone that she trusts is a vital first step in developing a young woman who feels her voice is valued and that she matters.

Empower them

Female empowerment is essential, particularly in the UAE, where women make up 66% of public sector roles, one of the highest proportions in the world. To continue to raise generations of strong female role models, we must empower them at every opportunity.

I find that the best starting point with this is simple. I make the effort to notice the things that my daughter does. Expressing pride when she does well in a task she has been working hard to achieve, thanking her when she shows altruism by helping another and listening to her when she expresses her emotions are all small ways that I show her she matters.

Often the pressure society can place on women to be the perfect embodiment of calm and happiness can be overwhelming and is certainly unhealthy for our mental wellbeing. Allowing our daughters to express their feelings, whether anger, sadness, joy or something altogether more complicated, will help them grow into emotionally mature and confident women who can act as role models to others.

Be their role model

It sounds obvious, but the most vital step in raising a role model is to be one yourself. All children, naturally look up to their parents and emulate the behaviours that they see modelled every day. Allow them to witness parents who demonstrate kindness, empathy and tolerance toward others; express their feelings in constructive ways and embrace their own unique quirks. In doing so, you will foster the same traits in your children.

I am so grateful to raise my daughter in a nation committed to providing her with equal opportunities and a bright future. Here, our daughters can become anyone they want to be, which is the first step to ensuring they become respectable, intelligent, strong role models.

It’s incredible to see what the UAE has achieved in terms of women’s empowerment during its first half-century, I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years will bring.

Outlook on international real estate for 2023

Outlook on international real estate for 2023

The UAE has been fortunate enough to house to a wide range of healthy markets, from tourism and travel to retail. While all sectors flourished in 2022, the nation’s property markets performed exceptionally well, successfully gaining momentum after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our country has always attracted a high level of investment in the real estate sector, from mainstream residential to luxury properties. The UAE is home to some of the world’s most iconic architecture, beaches and scenery, making it the location of choice for many who wish to call it home. This is just one of the reasons why our real estate market is set to continue on an upward trend, but what can be said about global markets?

2022 Trends

During 2022, the global real estate market grew to $3,690.55 billion representing a phenomenal compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9%. It was also the year that most countries saw an end to Covid-19 disruptions which had blighted the previous two years.

With this came a sense of optimism and the growth of important markets, including real estate. Technology trends were also a factor in helping the global market to develop. Innovations such as PropTech, attracted a wide range of new investors and buyers. The market demonstrated worldwide growth over the last 12 months. Although demands and trends can vary from country to country, the post-pandemic recovery appeared to be a great driver for the year’s success.

But house prices began to decline towards the end of 2022, particularly in Australia, China, and the US. In countries affected by high inflation, such as the UK, much of 2022 meant the rise and fall of prices, as a response to increased borrowing rates. However, the general trend was still one of growth.

The UAE has been an outlier in global real estate trends, with the luxury market, doing exceptionally well throughout 2022. This is partly down to the nation’s relatively affordable luxury real estate market – one of the most reasonable in terms of the square footage investors can expect per-dollar in the world. The Qatar World Cup also helped our nation’s real estate market hit a 12-year record high. With Dubai already being one of the top tourist destinations, the event spurred further investment in our property market.

DAMAC

At DAMAC, we experienced our best year on record, with sales hitting an all-time high. Cheerfully, this also coincided with the 40th anniversary of the company. We have attributed this year’s success to Dubai’s booming property market. The introduction of our luxury brand collaborations also went down a storm, with the Cavalli and de GRISOGONO projects helping us develop our portfolio.

2023 Predictions

Property prices look set to slow globally in 2023 due to the rising cost of living and waning demand. This slowing of the market comes on the back of the rising cost of mortgages, due to increased inflation. The most significant impact of this will be felt in Europe, where it is likely that declines in house prices will be seen. This is especially sharp in Denmark, where property prices will drop by an estimated 10%. The US will also see a fall in median property prices of roughly 4% during the same period. Talk of a global recession during the year to come has shaken market confidence and it is largely expected that 2023 will be a period of low growth or even falls for the sector in many regions.

However, the UAE’s property market looks set to increase its 2023 prices to match its current level of demand, which is exceptionally high in Dubai. The luxury real estate sector is likely to witness a significant call for high-end villas. Moreover, the demand for luxury waterfront properties currently outweighs the supply, so this segment is expected to remain the most buoyant. In spite of global concerns regarding recessions and inflation, the UAE is set to be resilient, especially in its luxury property sector, which is predicted to have a record year in 2023.

What’s next?

The global property market has endured strange and uncertain times over the last few years, and it looks like there is yet more to come for many regions.

Yet, despite global issues concerning inflation and the rising cost of living, the UAE’s property sector looks like it will continue to grow. Property prices will rise in the Emirates, with demand outperforming current availability. Growth may occur more slowly than the exceptional rates witnessed in 2022, but the UAE’s property market will still generate good returns for its investors. Overall, it seems as though 2023 could be challenging for many, but nothing that our nation can’t handle.

Sustainable tourism - our vacations needn’t cost the Earth.

Sustainable tourism – our vacations needn’t cost the Earth

Ever since I was young, I have loved to see the world. The prospect of visiting foreign climes has always excited me, but in my younger days I never really considered the cost that these trips could incur on the planet. Fast-forward to the present day and it is heartening to know that like myself, many of us out there are increasingly concerned about travel’s impact on our environment and that companies are responding with greener initiatives. But what are some steps you can take to positively impact the environment?

Give staycation-ing a try

Why not try a staycation? One positive thing we all learnt from the pandemic-driven international travel restrictions was to appreciate what we have on our doorstep. Admittedly, ‘staying put’ can initially seem a little less glamorous than jetting off to another country, but you would be surprised how much of a holiday experience you can have without travelling too far. And if you live in the UAE, you are spoilt for choice.

As a hugely popular tourist destination, which earlier this year reported exceeding its pre-pandemic tourism revenue, the UAE is an incredibly popular destination. Our nation takes its climate responsibilities seriously. Dubai for example has a number of initiatives within the eco-tourism sector. From improvements to sustainable hotels and resorts, to conservation and nature initiatives, the city has a wealth of environmentally conscious attractions to visit.

What’s more, sustainable activities are available throughout the Emirates; try camel or horse riding, biking, camping or snorkelling. Perfect ways to take a short break and enjoy our nation’s unique landscape.

However, having just emerged from the pandemic, you, like me, may long to hop on a plane and see a bit more than the view outside your window. If this is the case, then a staycation won’t cut it.

Vacation, but thoughtfully

We all know that travel whilst good for the soul is not so good for our planet as unfortunately, it contributes heavily to our carbon emissions. But before you cancel your vacation plans, remember, all is not lost. Options are available to savvy travellers who wish to reduce the overall impact of their overseas adventures. All that’s needed is a little research.

The greatest contributor to the travel-related carbon footprint is transport, which accounts for nearly half of global tourism emissions. If you can choose a greener airline, you will help to reduce this percentage. I find that keeping up to date with airline initiatives is a great way to ensure that my trips are more sustainable. Etihad Airways for example currently has one of the most efficient fleets and has been testing eco-flights to help further reduce its emissions in the future. Taking the time to check the performance and initiatives of an airline can help you make seemingly small changes which have a big effect on our planet.

Another way to reduce your impact is to find an eco-hotel/resort. With a wealth of options out there, gone are the days of sleeping bags and canvas tents. There are some stunningly luxurious eco-conscious choices out there. For example, the sleek and modern Svart Hotel is situated on a beautiful Norwegian fjord, and the luscious green Mashpi Lodge in the Ecuadorian Chocó-Andean Cloud Forest is surrounded by nature and did not remove a single tree during its construction. Resorts like these can be found the world over and offer modern amenities, spectacular vistas and uncompromised levels of luxury while balancing their eco-credentials for a more sustainable future.

My final and perhaps favourite suggestion is to eat local. For me, one of the many pleasures of travelling is the opportunity to sample the national cuisine. Checking the credentials of your eatery not only ensures a delightful gastronomical adventure, but finding a venue which uses locally sourced produce also ensures your food only travelled a short distance from farm to plate. -An easy way to soak up some local culture and reduce your carbon footprint!

So, whether it’s choosing your airline, resort or even your dinner, it seems you can see the world and have a little less guilt for doing so. You just need to be aware of the issues and do your research.

Sustainability and travel can go hand in hand. And with the suggestions I’ve outlined here, we can all contribute toward net zero goals without compromising on doing the things we love.

Why and how women’s empowerment is helping to build a healthier business sector.

Why and how women’s empowerment is helping to build a healthier business sector.

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to see that I am writing about the benefits of women’s empowerment in the UAE’s business sector. I know from first-hand experience that being an empowered woman is extremely important for personal success and the benefit of surrounding communities.

In a business setting, empowerment is critical providing women with the confidence and emotional support to make a difference. It also allows those around us to recognise the importance of female representation. I believe that female empowerment is one of the greatest things we can instil in future generations, including my daughters.

What does empowerment look like?

As a woman in business, I appreciate all that this nation has done to ensure that women like me can thrive in the corporate world rather than fade into the background. Women’s empowerment features highly in our nation’s consciousness, with many initiatives to support our ambitions, and rightly so.

For instance, Emirati Women’s Day, celebrated annually on the 28th of August, was founded by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, also known as The Mother of the Nation. This day is observed to recognise the efforts of Emirati women in the UAE and how they have helped to shape the nation. Her Highness also coined the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati women in the UAE, which coincides with International Women’s Day, to provide a general framework for organisations to offer a decent living for women. As well as these, the Ministry of Economy has strengthened its collaboration with entities that support gender equality and empowerment to increase women’s economic participation.

Looking at these initiatives, it’s easy to understand why women occupy more than half (66%) of public sector jobs in the UAE, one of the highest proportions worldwide. It is amazing to see the measurable impact of the way that our nation provides women like me with the right environment in which to achieve their business dreams and flourish.

So, what impact does women’s empowerment have?

We all know that a thriving business benefits from a diverse workforce with a wide range of backgrounds and cultures as each brings a fresh perspective to the organisation. This means a company can improve its services to better suit a more comprehensive range of consumers as well as increase its productivity through a more expansive skillset. In a similar way involving women at all levels of company structure can bring new ideas and a variety of outlooks which help businesses to thrive.

Women in the UAE are also very well educated. Generally speaking, we surpass men in gaining tertiary education globally, and this trend is reflected in our region, where we make up 56.3% of total graduates. Of course, it means that women in the business sector can provide a great deal of educational value, helping to uplevel the prospects of our chosen industries.

Businesses also benefit from the inclusion of women thanks to our heightened communication skills. In fact, certain skills and qualities such as task management, communication, perseverance and empathy, which are crucial when it comes to succeeding in a work environment, are areas in which shine. We also excel in encouraging others to talk through issues, stay organized, remain patient and be understanding. These abilities can facilitate the development of more meaningful relationships with consumers and amongst staff members in the workplace, thereby increasing a business’ output both externally and internally.

With so many well-educated, intuitive and ambitious women to choose from, it’s no wonder the UAE is helping to lead the way when it comes to women’s entrepreneurship in the GCC. Moreover, our nation will reap the financial benefits of its investment with a potential $812 billion set to be added to the whole of the GCC’s GDP over the next three years through achieving gender parity within the region. Arguably, a woman’s touch is just what the workforce and the wider economy needs.

As for myself, I am proud to be a part of the UAE, especially knowing all it does to empower women. Female leaders and businesswomen in our nation bring so much to the business world and the economy, but I believe we still have a long way to go before we are accurately represented around the globe.

For now, though, strong and empowered women are undoubtedly having a positive impact upon our nation’s business sphere, and I can’t wait to see where the future will take us.

Dubai: Long-term residents buying more and more properties thanks to Golden Visa

Dubai: Long-term residents buying more and more properties thanks to Golden Visa

Residents living in Dubai for decades are buying more and more properties as new visa regime initiatives, such as the Golden Visa, has given them strong confidence to buy a property and make the emirate their base.

In addition, the successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the emirate is also encouraging a large number of genuine property buyers and families to settle in Dubai on a long-term basis, thus making the largest private developer of Dubai bullish on the outlook of the local real estate market.

“[The] Golden Visa and other new visas are encouraging residents in Dubai who’re living here for 20 years but have not bought homes to actually buy a home to give their family the security. We have a lot of employees who have been with us for 10-15 years, and who never bought a property.

After the new visa regime, they want to buy a property to give their family that security, and they’re happy to invest in a property. With a Golden Visa in hand, God forbid, even if they lose, they don’t have to move out,” said Amira Sajwani, Managing Director of Damac Properties.

Dubai’s property market has strongly recovered after Covid-19, driven by the inflow of foreign funds and high-net-worth individuals and billionaires into the local market, resulting in a substantial recovery in property prices and rentals across affordable, mid and high-end segments.

“The type of investment that came into the buying property over the last 18 months actually has been very different than in the past. The way the government handled the Covid-19 situation shone a big light on buyers on a global scale, and a lot of genuinely wealthy people have moved here with their families and their businesses which created job opportunities.

Due to the unfortunate situation between Russia and Ukraine, people came here and bought a lot of properties in Dubai in order to have a second safe home for them and their families,” she added.

This year, it delivered about 7,000 units and around 8,000 units are planned to be handed over next year. It’s launched more than 10,000 units this year that will be under construction, and there will be some more launches in the next few months. Since its inception, Damac has already delivered 40,000 units.

Russians in the top 5

She added that a lot of the big startups have also moved their offices and headquarters here which is benefiting the local property market.

“With every office that comes into Dubai, 50 to 100 people move here. This has resulted in a shift from a speculative to a very end-user market. The luxury segment has really taken off in terms of wealthy people needing residences in Dubai. People who are buying $100 million or $20 million penthouses are genuine people with genuine money, who are looking to buy a first or second home.

The way Covid-19 was handled by the government gave the buyers [a lot of] confidence,” said the managing director of Dubai’s largest private developer.

For Damac, Indian and Pakistani investors have been two stable investors that remain among the top five.

“In the last year and a half, we’ve had an inflow of Russian buyers that have entered into our top five. We’re now seeing a lot of European as well as English and French buyers that weren’t there before. We’re also seeing a lot of inflow of investments from Australia, and recently from Lebanon. China has been shut down for three years, but in the last couple of weeks, we’re seeing that interest pick up again,” she added.

She stressed that there is no concern about the oversupply of units in the markets, as new buyers are genuinely end-users rather than speculators.

Will prop-tech put an end to traditional real estate?

Will prop-tech put an end to traditional real estate?

As someone who’s passionate about real estate and excited by new technology, I’ve been closely following the emerging prop-tech market. For those unfamiliar with the term, you can probably guess it is a portmanteau, created from ‘property’ and ‘technology’. In an increasingly digitised world, it seems only natural to me that future real estate agents should streamline customer experiences this way. But will it replace the traditional buying experience?

What do market trends tell us?

Our nation has witnessed a marked increase in its number of prop-tech ventures recently. There are already 58 prop-tech companies in the UAE and this number is only going to increase in the years to come. Globally, the prop-tech market is projected to see a sizeable CAGR of 16.8% between this year and 2032. This will lead to a market value of US $86.5 billion, up from the current 2022 value of US$18.2 billion. Such growth will potentially have a phenomenal impact on our already burgeoning property market which attracted AED 160 billion (more than US $ 43 billion) in investment during the first eight months of 2022. Whatever your personal preference for real estate purchasing, it’s clear that this sector can no longer be ignored.

Why turn to prop-tech?

Along with its market value, both business and consumer demand for prop-tech innovation is on the rise. But why the sudden popularity?

Well, for one thing, the technology offers convenience for both parties. Brokers benefit from the way that prop-tech analyses data, enabling them to reflect on successful trends and become more tactical and innovative in their marketing strategies and customer communication. The ability to share documents at the click of a button also streamlines processes for realtors, freeing up their time to focus on what really matters; the customer experience.

On the other side of this, those wishing to purchase a property this way can take virtual tours, look over pictures of floorplans and have access to vital information from the comfort of their own home or even while they are travelling. This means that the need to physically visit an agent is reduced, which is ideal for fitting the sometimes-lengthy purchase processes in around a hectic lifestyle. It seems like a win-win situation.

So, what about the future?

The benefits and the potential of this emerging trend have resonated with me personally, inspiring my most recent prop-tech venture, Prypto. This prop-tech ecosystem allows me to marry my years of experience in the traditional property sector with the advantages that this technology offers both for myself and my clients.

In launching Prypto, I wanted to empower the ecosystem of real estate. That’s why the platform simplifies the property ownership journey for buyers and investors. Although the startup is still growing, I have been able to use my years of experience in the sector and partnerships within the industry to bring together leading property agents, sales and global financial institutions to offer bespoke services and ensure that we really do get the best deal for Prypto’s customers.

While it’s clear to see that demand for prop-tech is increasing as both our lifestyles and the available technology change, I don’t see this sector replacing the traditional real estate model. Anyone who works in the industry will know that some customers like to complete their property transactions online while others prefer the human interaction of face-to-face traditional processes. What’s more, there is a growing third group, whose preferences fall somewhere in between, these customers may choose to compare property credentials or take initial viewings online before visiting their broker in person.

Whatever the customer trends and inclinations are, it is up to the real estate sector to meet their expectations.

In my experience, successful businesses listen to their customers and while the current climate of change within the market sparks excitement for many, myself included, interpersonal property transactions are never going to go out of style.

My hacks for improving your work-life balance

My hacks for improving your work-life balance (using the time you have available)

Taking care of yourself should always be a priority, whether in terms of your physical, mental or emotional health. Not only does personal wellbeing underpin our happiness, but it can affect everything else around us.

We all understand this at some level, but prioritising wellbeing in our everyday lives can be a real challenge. Whether you’re juggling your personal life with a packed work schedule, full-time education or childcare, it’s all too easy to forget that we have needs too.

But enough about the challenges; let’s talk solutions. How can we improve our wellbeing without compromising our careers, education or families? Here are my favourite (and, most importantly, simple) ways to incorporate wellbeing into even the most hectic of lifestyles.

Healthy body, healthy mind

I know, I know… You’re probably thinking: ‘Given the problem is my busy schedule, how am I supposed to find the time to go to the gym?’ Well, while these facilities are admittedly an excellent way to improve your state of mind as well as your physical health, they’re not the only option available to you.

For example, walking is a great way to increase your activity levels without eating into your personal time. In addition to providing a range of significant and long-lasting health benefits, such as weight loss, mood improvement, a strengthened immune system and increased energy levels, this gentle exercise can also help prevent diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Personally, I find that walking can be incorporated into any part of my day, whether attending a meeting in person rather than remotely or taking a stroll to my favourite café instead of driving. Even the smallest effort to make walking a part of your daily routine can lead to major improvements in your work-life balance (even while at work). Win-win!

And if you’re ready to really kick-start your wellbeing journey, why not join in with the Dubai 30X30 Fitness Challenge? This initiative encourages us to engage in 30 minutes of activity per day for 30 days. It’s already started, but there’s no harm in jumping on board halfway.

Keep your brain active

As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. Rather than slumping in front of your television after a hard day at work (we’ve all been guilty of this), why not use the same time to learn a skill or hobby?

For me, the primary benefit of taking up a new pastime is the mental stimulation involved, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be challenging. Whether you develop an interest in reiki or rocket science, the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself.

Finding a new hobby can be a brilliant way to revitalise your life and introduce some much-needed enjoyment to your schedule. Again, you may be thinking: ‘I don’t have the time to take up a new hobby!’ I hear you but, in my experience, if you find an activity you love, you’ll make time – thus automatically improving your work-life balance.

Dedicate time to yourself and others

One of the most rewarding ways to take back control of your work-life balance is by volunteering for a worthy cause. In fact, studies have shown that giving back to others can improve your mental health while making you feel more connected to your community.

From a personal perspective, I am a passionate supporter of the Hussain Sajwani-DAMAC Foundation (HSDF), which aids marginalised sectors of society, helps deliver valuable educational programmes, and facilitates forward-thinking programmes such as the Fresh Slate initiative.

Even so, it doesn’t matter which cause you choose to support because offering your time and skills to others not only helps your intended beneficiaries but also has a beneficial impact on your own wellbeing.

And as is the case with hobbies and interests, once you find a charitable endeavour that is aligned with your values, you will make time for it.

A different approach

As you’ve probably gathered, my opinion is that improving your work-life balance is not only about finding more time for yourself; it’s about making the most of the time you have. Exercise, hobbies and volunteerism all place demands on your time but, providing you are passionate about the activities you pursue, they will have an immensely positive impact on your wellbeing.

Whatever you choose to do, I guarantee it will be better than spending hours in front of the TV.

Three industries with huge potential for women looking to start their own businesses

Three industries with huge potential for women looking to start their own businesses

As a female business leader, I feel honoured to have lived in a nation that has always encouraged entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to flourish. This pro-business approach probably accounts for why the UAE was named the best place to start a new business in the 2022 Global Entrepreneurial Index. With a world-class environment and infrastructure designed to support and uplift entrepreneurs in the emirate, there really is no better place to consider starting a venture.

I’ve also witnessed first-hand the impact of female representation in the business sphere, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as real estate and finance. For me, the importance of female entrepreneurship lies in its ability to provide different insights across multiple aspects of a business. The contributions of female business leaders have already played an essential role in our nation’s success and will continue to be crucial to our future economic prosperity. And it is hardly surprising, given that the UAE is leading the broader region in female empowerment, that women-led entrepreneurship within the UAE continues to grow.

I know from my own experience that starting or joining a new enterprise brings with it a mix of excitement and trepidation, but knowing you’re working in a thriving industry can provide reassurance when taking those tentative first steps. So, here are the best sectors in which female entrepreneurs in the UAE can begin their entrepreneurial journeys.

Real Estate

The UAE is full of incredible business opportunities for women, and in my personal experience, the real estate sector is one of the best. This segment has grown significantly in the UAE within the past year, witnessing investments of over Dh170 billion since the start of 2022. The nation’s business environment also allows aspiring real estate entrepreneurs, such as Tamara Getigezheva, one of Dubai’s top real estate agents, to prosper. Real estate is one of the most female-inclusive sectors in the UAE, with 60% of realtors being women. And, speaking from experience, I can highly recommend getting involved in real estate if you are a budding female entrepreneur! Remember that first you must complete category training and obtain an agent’s license. Here is some more information if it’s something you feel is suited to you.

Fitness and wellness

If, like me, you have a passion for fitness and wellbeing, then starting a business within the wellness sector could be the right choice for you. You would be in good company, too, as 2022 saw women’s entrepreneurship in wellness and fitness rise by 50%. In my opinion, the sheer scope of this multi-faceted sector makes it perfect for would-be entrepreneurs, who can carve out their business niche.

With the wellness and fitness segment in the UAE set to reach over $600 million by 2025, there is undoubtedly potential profit for budding female entrepreneurs here. Diana Osu, for example, founded Reset, a gym that focuses on having fun and taking the work out of working out. The business, now one of the most successful gyms in the UAE, epitomises the way that female entrepreneurs can thrive within this industry. What’s more, if venturing into the wellness sector boosts both your finances and your happiness, what’s not to love?

Finance

The UAE is a well-established financial haven, which makes working in the financial sphere even more attractive. The sector is yet another thriving market in the Emirates, with a total value of Dh 9.9 billion in 2021. It’s encouraging to see that the industry is no longer the male-dominated sector that it once was, with women now making up 70% of nationals employed. It’s, therefore, no surprise that female innovators have been making their mark in the world of finance. For example, Hana Al Rostamani made headlines in 2021 when she became the first-ever female CEO of First Abu Dhabi Bank.

To me, it appears that traditional notions of selecting the “best man for the job” are giving way to the “best person for the job”, which can only help more driven and business-minded women realise their full potential. Time to get involved?

I’ve listed just three of the many segments in which female entrepreneurs in the UAE are making waves and flourishing. But, in truth, your successful business venture could spring from any sector. Before I embark on a new project, I always do my market research, evaluate how it matches my strengths, and give real consideration to whether it truly aligns with my interests and passions, because, without passion, the hard-won battles of business can easily take their toll. And remember, if you’re a woman considering launching your own business in the UAE, there is no better place to take the plunge!

Amira Sajwani talks PRYPTO on Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast

Amira Sajwani talks PRYPTO on Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast

Amira Sajwani, DAMAC Managing Director and founder and CEO of the recently launched proptech Company PRYPTO, discusses her start up on Dubai Eye’s Business Breakfast.

Amira talks about how PRYPTO will revolutionise the proptech sector and simplify the process of buying and renting homes for all stakeholders.

Watch the interview here.

To what extent is property development becoming more sustainable in the GCC?

To what extent is property development becoming more sustainable in the GCC?

The GCC has successfully established itself as a global hub for sustainable development and practices. Our region is home to several initiatives and projects focused on aiding the fight against climate change, such as the UAE Net Zero strategic initiative, which is currently on track to achieve its goals by the year 2050.

The Saudi Green Initiative, also linked to the Middle East Green Initiative, sets out several engineering and innovative solutions to help combat global warming and aims to cement the kingdom’s position as an international leader in sustainability. Furthermore, Qatar’s National Vision 2030 seeks to address challenges facing the country, including environmental management. I’m proud to be able to list the ways that our region is making these significant steps toward supporting a more sustainable future.

It’s easy to see that we are well-prepared for a green future and are increasingly in touch with our environmental responsibility. The use of clean energy and sustainable practices is thankfully becoming more commonplace across multiple sectors, but there are certain markets which, in my opinion, require a more significant push.

For example, our real estate market, is very healthy, improving its green credentials and will never lack investment or interest, but the construction industry is responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions – far too high by anyone’s standards. I’m sure I’m not alone in recognising that building more sustainably is an absolute necessity, not only in the Gulf but also in other regions as well.

To this end, property developers in the GCC are currently working to achieve more environmentally friendly practices. But what exactly are they doing?

There are currently 30 real estate mega projects in the GCC, and thankfully, all of them are in place to find new sources of growth, become more innovative, improve environmental sustainability, and showcase the region’s culture, heritage, and history. These projects have a US$1 trillion investment from countries in the GCC, which, of course, highlights our region’s commitment to sustainability in the property development sector and beyond.

Another project that I think holds great promise for the sustainable future of our nation is the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, developed to help maximise the country’s resources. The plan focuses on sustainable development while enhancing the quality of life for citizens, residents, and visitors. It integrates all urban development plans in the emirate and aligns them with Dubai’s strategic economic priorities, such as increasing green areas, providing ecological mobility, and enhancing environmental sustainability.

What’s more, the future looks set to introduce several more green financing initiatives, which will aid the road to sustainable enhancements from developers, allowing them to assess their operations and consider what can be done to help further our region’s green credentials.

These initiatives also coincide with current sustainable development practices that are helping to accelerate progress within the sector. The use of solar roof technologies, for example, is a simple but effective adaptation which can help to save property developments up to 28% of energy output. The Middle East is already utilising this technology effectively and, as home to the world’s largest solar park, I predict that the UAE could easily become a world leader in the application of this technology.

At DAMAC, we are also working on several sustainable practices within our property developments, as we understand how important it is to help drive the sector’s green targets. We are committed to educating our employees on our sustainability efforts. For example, we have installed free-of-charge green charger stations at DAMAC Hills 2, and are planning to install more. We also use LED solar lighting for the streets, a water recycling system, and low-flow fixtures, which help reduce water consumption.

So, is property development becoming more sustainable in our region? The number of initiatives currently in place certainly suggests yes. Our nation is making rapid progress with an array of solutions aimed at reducing energy and water consumption. But, as with any period of positive change, more can always be done to meet the end goal. It is one thing to implement sustainable practices at a development level, but without the adoption of behavioural change on an individual basis, I feel we will be merely paying lip service to the green agenda.

I believe that, alongside the changes already implemented, we need to look more closely at our behaviours. Making more sustainable and eco-friendly choices in our daily lives will play a vital role in how quickly our nation achieves its decarbonisation aims.

Why does the UAE have so many inspirational women leaders?

Why does the UAE have so many inspirational women leaders?

The UAE’s leaders have always championed inclusivity and equality, and these values are still held dear by the majority of the people who call our nation home. Nowhere is this mindset more evident than within the field of women’s empowerment.

The UAE is a global leader in gender equality. According to the global Women, Peace and Security Index (WPS Index) 2021/22 , our country ranked first in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and 24th internationally in terms of women’s inclusion, justice, and security, outranking Italy, South Korea, and Japan, among many others.

While such achievements would not have been possible without the guidance of our wise and forward-thinking male leaders, both past and present, they are primarily the result of trailblazing females who have broken boundaries and stereotypes, and who continue to contribute to the success, of the UAE and the empowerment of their sisters around the world.

The UAE’s approach to education has also played a key role in women’s empowerment, not only normalising the ideals of inclusion and equality but positively reinforcing and encouraging these values throughout our nation’s societal structure. This approach has served to create a virtuous cycle whereby young girls – inspired by their Emirati role models – are growing up to be equally powerful role models for future generations. For instance, not only do women reportedly feel safer in the UAE than in any other country on the planet, but our gender representation in our parliament achieved parity in 2021.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of women’s representation in senior roles, both within the public and private sectors. This shows aspiring leaders that gender is no barrier to their success while empowering young girls and boys alike to reinforce and perpetuate the values of equality and inclusion, as well as their myriad associated benefits.

Of course, discussing women’s empowerment in the UAE would be impossible without providing a few specific examples. I’ve chosen to focus on three pioneers currently active within the political sphere since these are some of the women driving our nation’s progress through policymaking and diplomacy.

Firstly, I’d like to mention Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, the UAE’s Minister of Culture and Youth. Having gained a wealth of political experience in her previous roles as Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs, where she acted as the key link between the UAE’s Cabinet and Federal National Government, HE Al Kaabi is also Chairwoman of the Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi (MZA) and twofour54.

Secondly, I’d like to draw your attention to Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, the UAE’s Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, Chair of the UAE Space Agency and Science Lead of the Emirates Mars Mission. Despite the integral role she continues to play in spearheading our nation’s cutting-edge scientific and technological development on the political stage, HE Al Amiri still finds time to chair the Emirates Scientists Council, the Fourth Industrial Revolution Council, and the Dubai Future Academy Board of Trustees.

Last but not least, I’d like to celebrate the many achievements of Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation in the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In addition to working tirelessly to maintain and strengthen our nation’s role and influence among the international community, HE Al Hashimy led the UAE’s bid to host Expo 2020 Dubai, overseeing the development, operations, and legacy of the six-month-long global megaevent.

The fact that it proved so difficult to select just three role models is a testament to the wealth of inspirational women that populate our nation. There are currently nine female ministers in the UAE Cabinet, shaping national policy across the fields of community development, climate change and environment, youth, early education, government development and the future, and more.

Encouraging though this may be, we must continue to see women fulfil influential roles because this simultaneously demonstrates how far the UAE has come and where it is heading. Sustained representation at this level will enable our nation to harness the potential of future generations of women while turning our young men into equally vociferous advocates for inclusion and equality.

But based on the UAE’s track record, I have absolutely no concerns in this regard. Our leaders–both female and male–will continue to empower young women by showing them that they can achieve anything in life, providing they have the passion, talent, and dedication to succeed.

DAMAC's Amira Sajwani Launches Prop-Tech Startup PRYPTO To Simplify Ownership Journey

DAMAC’s Amira Sajwani Launches Prop-Tech Startup PRYPTO To Simplify Ownership Journey

DAMAC’s Managing Director and entrepreneur Amira Sajwani Tuesday launched PRYPTO, a prop-tech and property investment startup aimed at creating an ecosystem for buyers, investors, homeowners, and agents, while simplifying the property ownership journey by offering personalized advice from business development, sales, and mortgage executives.

New startup

The early-stage startup’s team has a collective experience that includes deliverables of more than $540 million (AED 2 billion) in mortgages, 1,000+ buyers, and 500+ pre-approvals, according to the startup’s statement.

The fully-digital portal features a dashboard and instant approvals, the startup said. Commissions will be paid out through the portal to make it transparent for customers and agents. Additionally, the startup will provide services for mortgage, equity release, buyouts, Rent Now Pay Later (RNPL), and fractional ownership for now.

Amira elaborated on the startup’s approach, saying that the team would “adopt a customer-friendly and holistic approach covering the gamut of processes related to buying property.”

“We do all the heavy lifting, from getting our customers the best mortgage rates, getting pre-approvals within 48 hours, and ensuring customers maximize their return on their investments,” she said.

Key background

Amira is the daughter of Hussein Sajwani, billionaire and founder of Dubai-based real estate DAMAC, ranked 79th on Forbes Middle East’s Top 100 Companies in the Middle East 2021. Hussein, the 69-year-old tycoon, ranked 6th on Forbes Middle East’s World’s Richest Arabs 2022 list with a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Amira graduated from University College London, where she majored in Project Management for Construction. She also holds a master’s degree in finance from the London School of Economics.

Source: Forbes Middle East

Why luxury brands and premium real estate represent the perfect match

Why luxury brands and premium real estate represent the perfect match

The UAE represents an immensely lucrative market for luxury brands. According to one estimate, on average, the local population allocates an eye-watering 30% of their monthly salaries to the acquisition of high-end goods. It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that hundreds of household names–from designers and automakers to jewellers and horologists–have achieved significant traction in the Emirates.

But increasingly, when we think of luxury in the UAE, we don’t just think of Swiss timepieces and hypercars. More and more people are investing in premium properties that boast designer labels.

From stunning beachfront villas to exquisite apartments with panoramic views of glittering city skylines, Dubai and the wider Emirates boast some of the most breathtaking homes on the planet. And while this was true long before the advent of branded real estate, these partnerships are serving to escalate our real estate sector to the next level.

As a pioneer in this space, DAMAC Properties has witnessed a rapidly increasing appetite among its customers for branded luxury real estate recently in the UAE and Dubai specifically. We have found that the combination of premium properties and world-renowned designers represents the perfect match.

DAMAC’s acquisition of Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli in 2019 and Swiss luxury jeweller de GRISOGONO in May this year have helped to accelerate our progress in this field, leading not only to diversification in our group’s commercial activities but also new and exciting crossovers within the real estate sector.

In Q3 of 2021, Roberto Cavalli joined us in Dubai for the launch of Cavalli Tower, a 70-storey skyscraper comprising 485 units, which features architectural and interior design overseen by the maestro and his team. The piling works for the Dubai Marina-based superstructure have already commenced, and we expect construction to be completed within four years. Upon completion, this luxurious development will offer occupants an unprecedented combination of exclusive interior design and unparalleled views of the Palm Jumeirah.

Building on this success, our team unveiled Gems Estates, a brand-new ultra-luxury collection of five-to-seven-bedroom mansions located in our DAMAC Hills Community. With exteriors styled by de GRISOGONO, these stunning villas will also feature interiors branded by the team at Roberto Cavalli, making this the first co-branded real estate development in the world.

These are just two of several branded developments that DAMAC Properties is spearheading, and we will continue to explore further collaborative opportunities within this space to cater to ever-increasing consumer demand.

But why are these collaborations proving so popular? Well, firstly, they cover a sizeable yet lucrative market demographic, appealing to fans of luxury real estate, fashion, and design alike.

As you might imagine, there is a significant crossover between these segments. Luxury property buyers, for instance, tend to invest in luxury brands. But brand partnerships also have the potential to introduce new audiences to the world of luxury real estate, especially when it comes to younger consumers. By joining forces with household names such as Roberto Cavalli and de GRISOGONO, leading developers can supplement the premium quality of their offerings with unique and exclusive interior and exterior designs.

In the long term, I expect this combination of quality and exclusivity to continue to attract homeowners and property investors, and not only in the UAE. While Dubai and the wider Emirates represent fertile ground for these high-end affiliations, today’s UAE-based projects will also offer blueprints for similar developments in other markets.

In my opinion, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to developer-brand partnerships in the property sector. As companies such as DAMAC Properties, Roberto Cavalli and de GRISOGONO continue to form new and exciting partnerships, and greater numbers of investors come to realise the value these projects offer, it will become clear that the future of luxury real estate lies in brand collaboration.

The rise and rise of women’s sports in the UAE

The rise and rise of women’s sports in the UAE

It emerged recently that nearly half (45%) of adult sports fans in the UAE prefer watching women’s sports to men’s. Why? Well, in part because 71% of those surveyed expressed a desire for sports to be more inclusive, compared to a global average of 68%.

It seems that UAE residents’ consideration of diversity and inclusion regarding sporting events has contributed to the cultivation of a landscape of gender inclusivity in the UAE. This is reflected by the string of successes our female sports stars have achieved at national, regional, and global levels.

From Alia Saeed Mohammed, who represented the UAE as a long-distance runner at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, to five-time national figure skating champion Zahra Lari, who was the first person within her discipline to compete internationally wearing a hijab, the Emirates is home to a wealth of inspirational sportswomen.

These individual success stories now look set to be replicated within the realm of team games as more and more women and girls across the Emirates continue to discover new talents within an array of sporting pursuits.

For example, building on the success of the FIFA Women’s Club World Cup 2009, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, increasing numbers of women in the UAE are taking to the soccer pitch, resulting in the UAE Football Association’s decision to launch a FIFA-registered women’s 11-a-side league this season as part of Vision 2038.

But increased participation has not occurred by accident. On the contrary, women’s sports within the UAE have flourished thanks to movements and groups dedicated to providing opportunities for those interested in participating in these activities.

The Women’s Sports Committee (WSC), for instance, which forms part of the Dubai Sports Council, was formed in 2006 to promote participation in physical activity and professional sports, empowering females to reach the performance levels necessary to compete in local, regional, and global competitions.

In line with its vision to cultivate a promising future for women’s sports in Dubai, the committee works together with multiple stakeholders to promote a culture of women’s sports in the emirate, providing opportunities for participants to pursue and secure significant sporting achievements.

The Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA) is another example of a UAE-based organisation that has made a significant contribution to the advancement of women’s sports. With a focus on events and tournaments, community engagement, education and research, local talent management, and the International Conference of Sports for Women (ICSW), the FBMA has helped to put Abu Dhabi on the global map of female sports, attracting participation and support from world-class athletes.

The Arab Women’s Sports Tournament (AWST), meanwhile, was launched in 2012 to promote equal opportunities for women in sports. The Olympic-themed biennial event, which is hosted in Sharjah, provides a valuable platform for sportswomen from across the region, enabling female athletes to excel on the international stage.

These are just three of the UAE-based organisations and events that are empowering women from across the Emirates and beyond, not only to participate in sports but also to hone their skills and achieve their full potential. What’s more, increased uptake brings with it a series of long-term benefits. As role models for people of all ages, the example set by UAE sportswomen of today will encourage other women to try new activities, uncover fresh passions and develop their skills as they meet like-minded teammates and opponents on the field.

As a lifelong sports enthusiast, the sustained upward trajectory of women’s sports in the UAE is a matter very close to my heart. In addition to enjoying live sports (the Knicks rule!), I adore participating in various sports and fitness activities, from paddleboarding and kayaking to boxing and basketball.

I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to sports clubs and facilities, regardless of their age, ability or socioeconomic background. We may not all enjoy the same activities but, whatever your gender, there is at least one sport out there for everyone.

As such, I find it immensely encouraging to see so many women enjoying sports in the UAE today, and I look forward to witnessing even greater participation and success in the future.

If our nation can continue on its current path, the future of women’s sports in the UAE will look very bright indeed. This is excellent news because, when it comes to gender equality and inclusivity, everyone’s a winner.

Dubai developer Damac's Amira Sajwani wants future Lagoons' residents think 'vacation destination'

Dubai developer Damac’s Amira Sajwani wants future Lagoons’ residents think ‘vacation destination’

Dubai: Dubai’s property market has its fair share of waterside mega-developments. Dubai also its inland situated communities where ‘lagoons’ and ‘beaches’ are quite the attraction by themselves.

But a project is now getting built on a landscape – which was nothing but desert – that would see 1 million square feet of it coursing with water when the project gets completed in the next four to five years. And of which 75 per cent will be swimmable, according to the developer Damac Properties.

Welcome then to the Damac Lagoons, which gets its broad design and architectural themes from the most popular Mediterranean holiday hotspots. All by the waterside, of course.

If Amira Sajwani, General Manager for Sales and Development at Damac, has her way, future residents at Damac Lagoons can have their holiday breaks and quality ‘me-time’ right outside their homes. And no need to spend on expensive tickets to any sun-dappled holiday destinations anywhere.

But for now, Amira’s focus is on the build-up. All that water elements do make it quite intricate.

‘Vacation destination’ too

“First, we ensure we have the infrastructure in place below ground before transporting the water through the main water supply sources,” she says. “The water will be a mixture of swimmable and lake water – and we will ensure that the usage of water is optimized.

“Water can offer thrills and adventure, as well as relaxation and calmness. It gives the feeling of being on vacation and this is our aim to make people feel like they live in a vacation destination. Water is something that people of all ages can enjoy and that is one of the main reasons why this community is in such high demand.

 

“We are close to awarding the infrastructure packages to begin this process. Additionally, the water will have to be treated so we will have water treatment facilities on site for this purpose.”

Quick to cash in on offplan surge

It was November last that Damac came to market with the project forming part of the expansive Dubailand and near Sheikh Zayed Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan Street. The launch was timed to make full use of the rapid demand upturn Dubai had been witnessing since early 2021, and, in particular, the need for villas and townhouses. Damac Lagoons was serving that up in spades.

“We are building homes in the first launched clusters,” said Amira. “We are targeting to complete the ‘Santorini’ clusters by Q2-2024, while ‘Nice’, ‘Costa Brava’ and ‘Portofino’ are expected to be completed by Q4-24.

“As water is the core theme, we divided the project — comprising 43 million square feet — into eight clusters, named after sought-after vacation destinations in Europe and surrounded by the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

“Each cluster adopts the unique features of the specific region. For instance, ‘Venice’ will feature romantic gondola rides and coastal cafes.”

Ziplines and kayaks

If romantic gondola rides are not the choice, then more adventurous options will be there, including skate parks, kayaking, ziplines, bicycle and nature trails, mazes and rock climbing and such. Even an outdoor floating–cinema.

The intention – have future residents live and holiday right there. Amira is confidence personified that these wider goals can be met.

43 million in 4 years

“What we have taken on — turning 43 million square feet of desert into a residential community with a lot of water and greenery over a period of 4 years — is no easy feat. We know exactly how to achieve it, having delivered two communities of similar scale.

“We estimate the project will take approximately 100 million man-hours across more than 50 construction packages. We have a strong and experienced projects team to oversee the process, along with special consultants to ensure the quality of construction.

“We are progressing with our first clusters launched in Damac Lagoons, while simultaneously working on entertainment and leisure amenities. Our clusters have nearly sold out, and we will be announcing more cluster launches, which we anticipate will be snatched up quickly.”

Official data does suggest that, with Damac Lagoons featuring at the top in recent months as the top-selling spot for villas in Dubai.

“There is a general trend towards (offplan price) stabilisation as new products come to market,” said Amira. “With the demand surge and increases in rent, many people are looking to buy a home for the first time. We have noticed massive interest in our new offplan launches which are almost completely sold out.”

Sure does seem that Damac’s promise of ‘wake up to waterfalls’ is resonating…

Blockchain is the future of commercial real estate and here’s why.

Blockchain is the future of commercial real estate and here’s why.

Anyone who follows technology news is aware that blockchain is expanding its footprint in a variety of industries, including finance, digital media, and most interestingly, real estate.

A research from Deloitte suggests that blockchain technology could take over more than half of the entire leasing and sales process across commercial real estate. In short, it has the potential to revitalise and perhaps even revolutionise our industry.

But how and, more importantly, why?

Well, by operating in a decentralised environment, meaning that no single entity has authority, blockchain transactions negate the need for intermediaries. This allows for faster access to essential data, an improved customer experience, increased productivity, and lower overall costs. At the same time, it is incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to tamper with the blockchain, resulting in one of the most secure systems we have ever seen.

In many cases, blockchain-related innovations are outperforming traditional centralised financial mechanisms, driving new efficiencies through digitisation. In terms of commercial real estate, this paperless technology looks set to drive significant advancements in property and payment assessments, helping to make cash-flow management far more efficient than it is today. The fact that all transactions on the blockchain are traceable, means that it also offers an unparalleled level of transparency for real estate buyers, with the ability to track and authenticate ownership in real-time.

The upshot is that this technology has the potential to make real estate processes more straightforward and transparent for buyers and sellers alike.

Quality-of-life improvements

When we drill down into the details, it becomes apparent that blockchain offers countless potential benefits for the real estate industry, most of which can be – and, in some cases, are being – leveraged right now.

The fact that middlemen are not required for blockchain to operate means that associated fees could be cut dramatically–and who doesn’t like to pay less? As a result, these reduced, or in some cases, eliminated, fees, prospective homeowners and investors, may have greater access, ensuring that stakeholders get more for their money.

At the same time, tokenisation stands to accelerate the pace at which property can be traded, slashing the time it takes for sales to complete. With a blockchain-based system, we would enjoy more opportunities to join forces and pool our resources through fractional ownership. Again, this combination of simplicity and collaborative investment will serve to make our sector more accessible, attracting greater numbers of investors who may not otherwise have been able to participate due to a lack of capital.

And as this technology is completely decentralised, all information stored within the blockchain is both transparent and irreversible. This will make life much harder for would-be fraudsters and, consequently, help to further strengthen levels of confidence within the real estate sector.

The situation today

Given the many advantages offered by blockchain, it’s hardly surprising that this technology is already becoming a familiar fixture among forward-thinking real estate outfits. Some organisations have begun to use blockchain to trade property, leveraging online platforms and marketplaces to support transactions on a broad scale.

Examples also include the use of smart contracts, which feature lines of code that enable them to “self-execute” within the terms of the agreement between the buyer and the seller. Once signed, this code and its associated contract arrangements are distributed across the decentralised blockchain network. Because smart contracts require no enforcement mechanisms, the fees payable to third parties are minimal.

In addition, some property companies are allowing customers to pay for assets with cryptocurrencies. As real estate continues to establish itself as a part of the broader blockchain ecosystem, these developments will no doubt provide a gateway to other areas of the burgeoning Decentralised Finance (DeFi) sector.

Looking to the future

But what do such shifts tell us about our industry’s longer-term trajectory? What does the future hold for blockchain-powered real estate? Well, based on current trends, it seems inevitable that advanced decentralised technology will continue to simplify real estate transactions.

I fully expect that blockchain will progress to the point where it is possible to purchase a physical property using cryptocurrency and with only a few clicks of your smartphone – and I believe that these capabilities will arrive much sooner than many of us previously imagined.

In general, blockchain innovations will make the entire real estate trading process faster and more streamlined. Thanks to the information that can be retained and viewed using this technology, users will be able to access data relating to properties and land at a much quicker pace than is possible at present. Essentially, the real-time data and speedy trading mechanisms offered by blockchain will make instant validation a reality.

Finally, I am confident that blockchain will supplement rather than replace the human element in real estate. Although this technology negates the need for intermediaries, that’s not to say that those working within our industry will be at risk of losing their jobs. On the contrary, the effective implementation of this technology will require significant expertise, and those with a mind to do so will no doubt forge new careers focused on the decentralisation of our sector.

The upshot is that, if leveraged effectively, blockchain will change the face of commercial real estate as we know it, driving efficiencies, adding value, and making life easier for everyone involved in the process.

How the UAE has established itself as a global platform for cultural diversity

How the UAE has established itself as a global platform for cultural diversity

The UAE has firmly established itself as a global drawcard both for expats and tourists, thanks to its thriving economy, forward-thinking business community, and world-class infrastructure.

Whether relocating to the Emirates or just visiting, there is a plethora of venues and activities to fill your spare time, including beautiful beaches (both natural and man-made); glittering architecture and skyscrapers; and astonishing attractions such as desert safaris, water sports, skydiving, and more.

It is, therefore, no surprise that our nation is home to more than 200 nationalities, with expats accounting for approximately 80% of the overall population. Indeed, when it comes to inclusivity, the UAE is more than capable of walking the walk as well as talking the talk, which is why it now counts itself among the most multicultural nations on the planet.

This got me thinking: why has the UAE been so successful in persuading people from across the globe to make it their destination of choice, whether for a vacation or a more permanent relocation?

Why choose the UAE?

Firstly, the UAE has long since embraced the many benefits offered by cultural diversity; indeed, it prides itself on its traditional hospitality and welcoming nature. The roots of our nation’s attitude of tolerance can be traced back to the UAE’s Founding Father, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who welcomed all cultures and religions, providing them with a place in which they could peacefully coexist and thrive. This philosophy has remained a central tenet of our country ever since.

What’s more, people have found that working in the UAE can be a fantastic springboard for their careers. Job opportunities can be found across the Emirates within a dizzying range of sectors, not least in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which have succeeded in establishing thriving economies. And of course, there’s the bonus of tax-free personal income, which has and will continue to attract top talent from across the world.

Our country also offers some of the most beautiful homes in the world, and while the luxury real estate sector is certainly thriving, there are high-quality offerings to suit all budgets. Then there is the UAE’s willingness to invest in and embrace the latest design and technology, providing world-class public spaces and amenities for residents and visitors alike.

The UAE’s commitment to high-quality education is another important factor when it comes to attracting visitors, especially those looking to put down roots or relocate their families. For instance, our nation’s approach to learning emphasises the right to education as well as the importance of respecting those with different religions and cultural backgrounds – not only when it comes to students, but also their parents.

Thanks in no small part to its commitment to diversification, the UAE’s current educational curriculum features modules designed to accommodate students from various nationalities and backgrounds. What’s more, our country is home to a broad range of world-class international schools, with British, Indian, Pakistani, American, French, and other curricula on offer to young people.

Similar inclusivity-focused efforts exist on a societal level too, with the Community Development Authority in Dubai encouraging private organisations to provide cultural awareness programmes on social inclusion, language learning, tolerance, and communication between different cultures.

Why prioritise diversity?

Cultural diversity benefits any society by enabling people from different places and backgrounds to join, share ideas, and build a better future.

But it also offers an array of peripheral benefits. Just think of the array of delicious cuisines available to sample in the UAE at the click of a button, or the vast selection of fashions on offer at our local retail outlets. It is possible to embark on a world tour without even leaving the country.

But what does the future hold for the UAE? Is it reasonable to expect a similar emphasis on cultural diversity over the longer term?

An inclusive future

Personally, I cannot imagine our nation without cultural diversity; it’s part of the very fabric of our nation. That’s why the UAE has and is continuing to take significant steps to embed inclusivity within its society, with a range of plans to spearhead and boost the implementation of cultural initiatives. One ongoing example of such efforts includes the 2018 launch of the UAE’s Cultural Development Fund, which has placed culture as part of our central, ongoing national narrative.

Building on our nation’s willingness to embrace and leverage innovation, the integration of technologies today is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. Just imagine the benefits that future capabilities with language translation could offer, not only when it comes to using government platforms but also in terms of forging bonds between our existing local and expat communities.

In summary, the UAE has made incredible strides in terms of promoting cultural diversity and is already among the leading nations on earth when it comes to multiculturism. With continued investment in this sphere and an overarching national acknowledgement of the advantages brought about by inclusivity, I see no reason whatsoever why our nation cannot continue to lead the world in this respect for generations to come.

Health check: Is the Middle East’s tourism sector bouncing back after the pandemic?

Health check: Is the Middle East’s tourism sector bouncing back after the pandemic?

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries are among the most promising travel markets anywhere on the planet.

The region made up approximately 6% of the total worldwide tourist arrivals before the pandemic, according to data from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). However, COVID-19 had a significant impact on the MENA tourism sector – as was the case the world over – with a 74.3% year-on-year fall in visitor growth in 2020.

Encouragingly, we have already witnessed strong signs of recovery across the MENA region – particularly in markets such as Dubai, which welcomed 5.1 million visitors in Q1 2022, representing more-than-threefold year-on-year rise.

But what about tourism’s longer-term prospects in the Gulf? Has our region really bounced back? To find out, we’ll need to examine the latest trends and data.

The UAE is leading the way

One handy industry barometer is the Arabian Travel Market, which saw 23,000 visitors flock to Dubai World Trade Centre in May 2022. Here are some of the main takeaways:

ATM 2022 was 85% larger than last year’s edition, with the focus moving from recovery to future opportunities. During the event, ministers and industry leaders discussed the importance of investing in new ideas and technologies as a way to drive growth and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) across the sector.

Encouragingly, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP of Middle East countries is expected to more than double by 2028, passing $486 billion. This is really great news when it comes to the sector’s post-pandemic prospects.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the UAE. H1 2022 saw around 7.12 million international visitors journey to Dubai for overnight stays, putting the Emirate back on track to achieve its goal of becoming the world’s most visited destination. On a national level, our leaders are also working diligently to ensure this growth is maintained and accelerated.

I believe much of this comes down to mindset. Our willingness to embrace innovation and diversify our thinking represents the foundation upon which our country was built, so it’s no surprise that the multifaceted nature of the UAE’s tourism offering is proving so attractive to the global market. Where else in the world could you take a desert safari, skydive over a man-made palm-shaped archipelago, see the world’s tallest building, experience Bedouin culture, and dine out in Michelin-star dining establishments during a single vacation?

Our nation’s capacity to host large-scale events, both local and international, is also a major advantage. With visa-free entry for visitors from GCC nations and visas on arrival for citizens of 70 global destinations, it’s never been easier for a worldwide audience to come to the UAE. Expo 2020 Dubai has set a tremendous precedent in this respect, attracting more than 24 million visits during its six-month duration. With these fundamentals, the UAE’s tourism sector is only heading in one direction: UP!

Developments in the wider region

Tourism statistics from the UAE’s Gulf neighbours paint a similarly bright picture. Saudi Arabia, for example, aims to attract more than 70 million tourism-related visits this year after registering 62 million in 2021. The Kingdom’s dual-pronged strategy is to continue to build on its religious tourism sector while increasing its focus on leisure tourists. Indeed, visits increased by 130% in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the final quarter of 2019, which – don’t forget – was just before the global pandemic struck. With $1 trillion worth of investment earmarked for travel and tourism from now to 2030 and a raft of megadevelopments underway in line with Vision 2030, these numbers only look set to rise.

Qatar, meanwhile, is embracing the global megaevent as a way to future-proof its travel economy. The country has invested heavily in its infrastructure ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022, building stadia, hotels and luxurious parks to accommodate guests. Having attracted more than 729,000 visitors in H1 2022 – a rise of 19% on the total number of visitors for the whole of 2021–these efforts already appear to be paying dividends.

Harnessing the latest tech

At the same time, the Middle East’s tourism sector is working hard to further strengthen its position as an international hub for travel and hospitality technology. In my opinion, the effective incorporation of the latest innovations into everyday travel experiences will continue to bolster industry growth and success across our region.

Indeed, there has already been much speculation regarding the metaverse’s place in this sector. Hotel chains, travel agencies, and experiential providers can leverage Web3.0 to showcase their products and services to prospective customers, allowing tourists to ‘try before they buy’ through virtual experiences before they even set foot on a plane.

Recognition technology also boasts the significant potential to simplify elements such as hotel check-in and touch-free airport security. Carbon offsetting technology, meanwhile, also promises to provide solutions for the eco-conscious traveller who wishes to minimise the impact of their business trips and holidays. Given that Millennials and members of Generation Z are the two primary age groups targeted by metaverse developers (43% of Gen Z and 41% of Millennials are significantly influenced by how digitally advanced a product or service is), it seems the future of hospitality is most definitely digital.

Long-term impact

Colliers International predicts that $4.5 billion worth of hotel construction contracts will be awarded in the GCC during 2022, representing a 16% year-on-year rise. The wider MENA region also appears to be in the throes of recovery, achieving a 120.1% year-on-year uptick in 2021 and further growth of 33.4% anticipated this year. All the metrics indicate that market confidence has well and truly returned following the global pandemic.

But how are the region’s current tourism-related efforts likely to play out during the coming years? Well, by leveraging on their already solid fundamentals while investing in cutting-edge innovations that will deliver unique experiences – both physical and virtual – for visitors, Gulf nations are well placed to cement their position as global leaders in the travel, tourism and hospitality space.

Providing we continue to invest and seize opportunities as they arise, it seems inevitable that present and future generations of travellers will continue to flock to the Middle East.

Perhaps the question is not how many visitors will want to come. Instead, we should be focusing on how many we can realistically welcome.

The sky really is the limit for the Gulf’s tourism industry.

Will the UAE benefit from the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar?

By any metric, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will be a global mega-event.

More than one million visitors are expected to attend the global tournament, which will take place later this year from 21 November to 18 December. Of course, arrivals on this scale will translate into significant income, adding as much as $17 billion to Qatar’s economy according to Nasser Al Khater, the competition’s Chief Executive.

In fact, research published by Emirates NBD in January forecast that the event would drive growth throughout the year, with the country’s non-hydrocarbon sectors predicted to expand at a rate of 6%.

Whatever the ultimate figures, it’s clear that the upcoming World Cup will result in significant revenues for Qatar.

Who else will benefit?

At the same time, I’m confident that the tournament will also prove lucrative for the wider region, and – owing to its status as an international hub for travel, tourism, and hospitality – the UAE seems ideally positioned to achieve the greatest economic impact outside of the host nation.

Indeed, entrepreneurial travel outfits across the UAE already seem to be enjoying significant success in cultivating a lucrative niche within the segment of World Cup-related tourism.

Attracting the fans

For instance, Dubai-based project management company Yasa, recently unveiled an exclusive package for those who wish to attend the tournament while using the UAE as a base. In collaboration with private aviation brand Jetex, visitors will stay at five-star hotels in Dubai and travel to Qatar for matches. This bespoke package includes limousine transportation, a private jet and chartered flights between Dubai and Doha. In addition to luxury accommodation.

Encouragingly, travel from the UAE is also within the budget of those who may not stretch to limousines and private jets.

In May of this year, Arabian Business reported on a trend towards increasingly competitive travel fares between Dubai and Doha, as airlines scheduled additional flights to cater to World Cup-related demand. In the same month, Qatar Airways, flydubai, Saudia, Kuwait Airways, and Oman Air announced plans to offer ticket holders special shuttle flights to Doha. Air Arabia has since added its name to this list with the launch of 14 daily shuttle flights between Sharjah and Doha during the tournament. Of course, this will all come as welcome news for anyone who assumed flight prices and scarcity would increase ahead of the mega-event.

Similarly, tour operator Expat Sport – the exclusive UAE sales agent of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Hospitality Programme – has developed options to suit a range of budgets, enabling football fans who wish to fly from Dubai to arrange their match tickets, travel, transport and accommodation as part of a single travel package.

Expat Sport’s Football Fans Experience will no doubt be boosted by last month’s announcement that Dubai’s first football-themed hotel will open its doors in November. With daily shuttles in and out of Doha as well as the ability to purchase match tickets as part of the package, NH Dubai The Palm will offer a luxury haven for supporters from around the world throughout the tournament.

Onto a winner

Ultimately, although many fans will, of course, be happy to stay in Qatar for the duration of the competition, I believe that the prospect of combining the World Cup with a UAE vacation will attract a significant number of attendees to the UAE during Q4 2022.

While it may be hard to gauge the exact economic impact of the World Cup, one thing’s for sure: the event will provide a welcome boost for a broad range of travel, tourism, and hospitality brands, not only within the host nation but also across the wider region.

To what extent have the arts helped shape Emirati culture

To what extent have the arts helped shape Emirati culture?

The UAE enjoys a long and rich cultural heritage, which stretches back farther than many people think.

Many ancient artefacts have been uncovered in our country dates back approximately 100,000 years, leading archaeologists and researchers to conclude that humans may have arrived in the Arabian Gulf as early as 125,000 years ago.

Today’s Emiratis can trace their heritage back to the Trucial of the medieval era, who self-identified according to their tribal affiliations and inhabited the coastal region where the UAE now stands. And while modern-day metropolises such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi may seem a far cry from the quaint pearling villages of old, signs of our people’s ancient culture are still visible throughout contemporary life.

A vibrant canvas

Nowhere is this trend more evident than within the Emirati art scene, many facets of which descend directly from our cultural heritage. For instance, Crafts such as pottery, weaving, and embroidery have represented common parts of traditional Emirati life for thousands of years, with roots stretching back to our Bedouin ancestors.

Today, the UAE is home to a thriving art scene, as reflected by its plethora of galleries, museums, and creative districts. In addition, the country also hosts international art and literature festivals.

From Dubai Museum – which is located in the city’s oldest building, Al Fahidi Fort, and allows guests to experience traditional Emirati trades and pastimes – to the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization – which showcases a diverse selection of artistic and cultural artefacts – art lovers interested in exploring historical treasures are spoilt for choice. The UAE has also succeeded in cultivating an active contemporary arts community, thanks to developments such as Dubai Design District (d3), Alserkal Avenue, and the Saadiyat Cultural District.

But while many of my compatriots and I hold the traditional arts and crafts of our ancestors in the highest regard, to what extent has Emirati creativity helped to shape the nation we see today?

When tradition meets modernity

In my opinion, the contemporary landscape of the UAE is intrinsically linked with our heritage, but our true success lies in our creative sector’s ability to transform and reimagine time-honoured wisdom and techniques through modern-day masterpieces.

For example, UAE-based artist Julia Ibbini combines elements of Islamic geometry, embroidery, and enamel work to create beautiful pieces that were once familiar and unique. Tajrid also takes significant inspiration from Islamic culture. For one of its most popular creations, the design outfit mixes heritage and modernity by using the soundwaves of Quranic verses to create striking and meaningful metal sculptures.

Another of my favourite local artists is Zeinab Alhashemi, whose primary focus is to capture the transformation of the UAE from a desert outpost to a sprawling urban metropolis. Her stunning designs combine cityscape geometry with the softer, flowing shapes typically associated with our natural surroundings.

At first glance, the output of such creatives may seem far removed from the traditions of Bedouin artists. However, scratch beneath the surface to uncover the inspirations behind their works, and the links to our nation’s cultural heritage will soon become apparent.

 

That’s not to say that artists such as Ibbini and Alhashemi are simply aping the activities of their forebears. On the contrary, using Emirati heritage as their raw material, they have succeeded in creating works of art that hark back to a traditional way of life while maintaining a distinctly modern feel–much like the UAE itself.

This juxtaposition can also be seen in our nation’s architecture, where heritage and modernity meet to shape city skylines that are recognised the world over. Structures such as the Museum of the Future in Dubai and the Louvre Abu Dhabi perfectly encapsulate this philosophy, sporting designs that seamlessly blend the ultra-modern with the unmistakable styling and traditions of Arabia.

Intrinsically linked

So, is the UAE’s contemporary art scene purely a product of our nation’s history, or has art played a more significant role than we may imagine in shaping our country?

Like many questions of this nature, I feel both perspectives are valid. While today’s UAE creatives benefit greatly from forward-thinking leaders who recognise the importance of investing in the arts, it’s also difficult to imagine our country in its current form without the influences of formerly well-known artists.

Ultimately, I feel it’s impossible to separate the two – neither the UAE as a nation nor its artistic community exist in a vacuum. This of course, spells good news for the future; the symbiotic relationship between Emirati society and creativity should help to maintain a dynamic and constantly evolving art scene for generations to come.

UAE’s property rules target money laundering via virtual assets

The UAE has introduced new real estate reporting requirements as part of its fight against money laundering.

The clampdown is primarily aimed at transactions involving virtual assets, and is a partnership between the Ministry of Economy (MoE), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

The new rules will cover the sale of freehold real estate properties in the UAE, whether for a portion or the entirety of the property value.

The reporting requirement is for single or multiple cash payments equal to or above AED 55,000 ($14,976).

All payments that include the use of a virtual asset must be reported to the FIU, as well as payments where the funds used in the transaction were derived from a virtual asset, state news agency WAM reported.

The UAE is one of the first countries to implement such requirements for payments related to virtual assets and real estate agents, brokers and law firms are obliged to record the identification documents of all parties involved in any transaction, including both individuals and corporate entities.

Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, minister of economy, said real estate was one of the UAE’s key sectors so the new rules were introduced so there is “little or no room for manipulation or illegal practices that could negatively impact the work environment and the economy and investment within these sectors.”

Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi, head of the UAE FIU, added that the new reporting requirements “will be used to trace the suspicious movement of funds or investments as part of our fight against money laundering and terrorism financing”.

The real estate sector has seen strong growth recently. In the second quarter of 2022 Dubai Land Department recorded a total of 22,504 sales transactions worth AED59.15 billion ($16.11 billion). This was a 61.56 percent year-on-year increase in volume, and the highest for a decade.

Private real estate developer Damac Properties announced in April it had begun acting as a facilitator in the conversion to fiat, and the sale of property to holders of crypto such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, via a regulated digital asset trading platform.

“The reporting requirements for real estate transactions involving virtual assets is welcoming news as we believe they will assist in assuring the safety and security against fraudulent transactions to our customers,” Amira Sajwani, general manager of sales and development at DAMAC, told AGBI.

Alaa Aljarousha, research manager at real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank, also welcomed the new regulations.

“In order to assess the existence of a money-laundering risk, concrete assessments of transactions and a customer’s situation provide indications that help raise red flags and trigger reporting obligations,” she said.

“Hence, the new law of reporting certain transactions is implemented to help protect the economy from such risks. It aims to bring stability to the financial system and aids in the drive against money laundering.”

Danny Whitlock, conveyance and compliance manager at Powerhouse Real Estate in Dubai said the new requirement would “ensure that untraceable funds cannot be used to purchase property in the country” and help the UAE to maintain its reputation as a “safe haven for those who want to invest in property here”.

While the government did not elaborate why the new rules had been implemented, industry figures published last month found that the number of Russian buyers of Dubai real estate surged 164 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year.

Brokers in Dubai said that Russian buyers deal only in cash or cryptocurrencies.

One broker, who declined to be named, said: “It is actually harder for Americans to get their dollars out of the USA to Dubai than the Russian to get their money from Moscow to Dubai.”

The US in June warned UAE banks that they faced sanctions if they were found to be processing financial payments for those close to the Russian government.

Addressing a roundtable of the UAE Banks Federation during a two-day visit to the country, Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the US Treasury, warned the country’s lenders that “failing to do the sufficient due diligence needed to know your customers is not a defence”.

He also pointed out that non-US entities may be subject to sanctions themselves by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) if they provide any assistance or support to Russian clients attempting to circumvent the sanctions in place since the start of the Ukraine war.

Are cybersecurity threats on the rise? If so, how can we protect ourselves?

Society has been moving online for some time. This shift may not always be noticeable from day to day due to its incremental nature, but when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the change has been immense. Very few elements of our modern lives have escaped digitisation.

 

From details about our employers to our personal affairs (think everything from shopping and banking to medical records tracked by apps), most of us now enter and store a wealth of sensitive and potentially valuable information across multiple devices.

 

While this is not necessarily a problem, it’s clear that the need to educate ourselves about how our data is stored and managed – and the measures we can take to protect ourselves and our businesses from cybersecurity breaches – has never been more important.

 

But are cybersecurity threats becoming more common? And if they are, what can we do to mitigate the risks they pose?

 

The downside of remote working

The short answer to the first question is “yes”. Cybersecurity threats are on the rise globally, in part due to a shift in attitudes towards remote working expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. With more people than ever adopting a “Work from Home (WFH)” culture, corporate cyberattacks are at historically high levels.

 

This is predominantly because home networks tend not to be as secure as their corporate counterparts, which usually feature additional safety measures such as firewalls. Moreover, companies’ online activities are often monitored and supported by cybersecurity professionals, both in-house and external. Unsurprisingly, individuals seeking out such expertise remain the exception rather than the rule.

 

The use of employee-owned technology to complete work-related tasks also poses a potential hazard, with many workers taking a more casual approach to security on their devices than their employers would deem appropriate. Indeed, research suggests that one in 36 mobile devices has at least one high-risk app installed.

 

Ultimately, this leaves organisations in both the public and private sectors more exposed and vulnerable to online threats and attacks than they were before working from home became commonplace. The Middle East, for example, is currently experiencing unprecedented volumes of cybersecurity threats.

 

Statistics from Help AG show that the UAE saw a staggering 183% uptick in “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks in the period 2019-20. Unfortunately, the global fightback against COVID-19 has done nothing to alleviate this trend, with a further 37% increase recorded during the period 2021-22.

 

Worryingly, the sophistication of such attacks is also on the rise. In June of this year, web performance and security company Cloudflare detected and mitigated a 26-million-request-per-second DDoS attempt – the largest attack of its kind on record.

 

Ransomware is another online threat that has been growing in the UAE in recent years. Hackers are now able to steal and encrypt data to prevent its use through increasingly complex extortion attempts, many of which also involve DDoS attacks.

 

The prevalence of ransomware rose by a jaw-dropping 435% globally in 2020 compared to the previous year. Naturally, these malicious activities can prove extremely costly. The average recovery cost for businesses that fall victim to such schemes is nearly $2 million.

 

 

Global ramifications

Whichever way you look at it, cybersecurity is a big deal. In my opinion, the fact that the aforementioned spikes coincided with the global pandemic and the rise of remote working is far from coincidental. While I fully acknowledge that working from home can offer some advantages if employed effectively, we cannot afford to ignore the dangers that this trend poses to data security and, in turn, Gulf economies.

 

These dangers are placed in even sharper focus when we consider the primary industries of the Middle East. Our region is home to some of the largest oil-and-gas-producing nations in the world and, just like many others, these sectors are becoming increasingly digitised in the name of efficiency.

It’s needless to say that threats to smooth and continuous operations within the energy sector could prove catastrophic, not only for the nations that depend on the associated revenues but also for markets that import their fuel from the Middle East.

 

If we wish to gauge the potential ramifications of an attack on the GCC’s oil and gas infrastructure, we need to look no further than similar events that have taken place elsewhere in the world. For example, last year, Colonial Pipeline, one of the largest oil pipeline operators in the US, was shut down for several days by a ransomware attack on its digital systems.

 

When one considers cases such as this, it’s not exactly difficult to imagine the level of disruption that would result from a successful cyberattack on Middle East supply lines, not to mention the financial losses that would be incurred by global economies more generally.

 

How can we fight back?

Given that the stakes are so high, and the risks are seemingly everywhere, what can we do to mitigate cyber threats?

Here in the UAE, our government is keenly aware of the need to develop robust cybersecurity systems, especially as our nation’s digital infrastructure continues to transition to Web3 and investment in Industry 4.0 gathers pace. In consultation with experts from around the world, the UAE is determined to combine the latest research and innovations while developing homegrown talent capable of spearheading solutions within an ever-evolving digital landscape.

 

In 2020, the UAE Cybersecurity Council was established, with responsibility for the development and maintenance of a national cybersecurity framework. This followed the National Cybersecurity Strategy of 2019, which sought to develop more than 40,000 local cybersecurity professionals to keep the UAE’s digital borders safe and secure.

 

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that our nation has succeeded in climbing the ranks of the Global Cybersecurity Index during recent years, placing in the top five in 2020 compared to 33rd the previous year.

 

Essentially, UAE residents and organisations are already benefiting from one of the most secure cyber environments on the planet. Timely government investment and a willingness to collaborate with researchers and innovators have served to create a culture of cyber awareness across our nation.

 

The long-term challenge is that malevolent actors are doing everything in their power to keep pace with cybersecurity developments, meaning there is absolutely no room for complacency. The UAE may have achieved significant progress in this field, but it cannot afford to rest on its laurels. By the same token, we must all acknowledge our responsibility for maintaining security standards, both within our private and professional lives.

 

After all, corporate cybersecurity is only as strong as the individual links in the chain, meaning that a single weak spot can result in widespread losses.