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  1. Tar-Ching Aw, Deputy Editor, OEM

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    It’s a long way from Canterbury to Dubai (as a variant of the popular ditty goes). But David Snashall (OEM Editorial Board member) and I made the trip there last month to run a two day course on occupational health. We had hoped that the location of the meeting would be the renowned 7-star Burj-al-Arab hotel, but the all-suite, sailing boat shaped, heliport equipped, luxury venue was some distance away from our more modest conference facilities. Still, the event was a success. We had participants from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, and several other Gulf states. The disciplines represented included occupational health nursing, hygiene, medicine, and management. There was good interaction between the course tutors and the audience, with information provided that showed the range of skills, experience, and expertise within the group. What did we achieve? Course participants said they benefited from the opportunity to ask, debate, and respond. We managed to exchange views, establish a network of occupational health professionals in that region, and tested the system for future occupational courses according to the format used.


    The Burj-al-Arab hotel, Dubai (photograph courtesy of W S Atkins Property Design).

    But of course it was not all just work. David and I took the opportunity to visit the Gold Souk—a bustling bazaar of shops selling items of gold. But as I did not have the competence to distinguish gold from other non-precious metals, I inspected, assessed, and did not purchase. Although we did wonder about the occupational hazards of making gold ornaments—right from getting the ore out from the ground, to the craftsmen completing the intricate patterns on the gold chains and lockets. The Spice Souk was a similar marketplace stocked with spices from countries in the Middle East and afar. There was saffron at a tenth of the UK price, and gold, frankincense, and myrrh—all in one place. Dubai is a shoppers’ paradise, and a popular place to visit for residents from the Gulf states. Hence, our course participants unanimously voted it as the region’s venue of choice for future occupational health courses or conferences.


    The Burj-al-Arab hotel, Dubai (photograph courtesy of David Snashall).

    I could not leave Dubai without having seen the Burj-al-Arab, so when there was an opportunity for a guided tour of this fabulous hotel, we booked a place. It was truly a magnificent building—with a huge atrium, a floor to ceiling glass aquarium with colourful fish, a “dancing” fountain that spouted water several storeys high, and several restaurants. The seafood restaurant was chosen for a modest meal after the tour. Getting to the restaurant was by means of a simulated submarine ride. And of course we focused our minds on the occupational health aspects of underwater exploration, and the hazards involved in the task of constructing the world’s top hotel.

    So, it’s back to reality to occupational health in Canterbury, and wishful thinking of possible occupational health projects in exotic far flung places.

    Supplementary materials

      Letter from Dubai
      Tar-Ching Aw

      Additional Photographs
      The Burj-al-Arab hotel, Dubai. Exterior view.
      [View photograph]

      The Burj-al-Arab hotel, Dubai. Interior view.
      [View photograph]

      The Burj-al-Arab hotel, Dubai. Simulated submarine ride to the seafood restaurant.
      [View photograph]

      The Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai. View across the marina.
      [View photograph]

      All photographs are courtesy of David Snashall


    • February 2002