Join us in Dubai February 4 – 7, 2016 for 4 nights and 3 days of speaker talks, behind the scenes activities, and fabulous parties.  

Our event program will kick off on Thursday, February 4th at 3:30pm for a welcome cocktail reception, and conclude with a farewell party on the night of Sunday, February 7th. (Note: when making travel arrangements, plan to arrive in Dubai during the day on the 4th, and plan to depart the morning of Feb. 8th).

* Specific programming details still to be announced. All details subject to change.


3:30pm – 5pm

Opening Speaker Session, Eau Zone at One & Only Royal Mirage

We’ll raise the curtain on Dubai with a fascinating talk from renowned geo-strategist Parag Khanna on this city’s astounding rise to prominence in the Middle East.


5:30pm – 8pm

Welcome Reception, 101 Lounge, One & Only The Palm

Knowing you’ve had a long journey to Dubai, we’ll enjoy a casual reception at the Royal Mirage’s sister property, The Palm, a short boat ride away. Meet the AFAR team and other attendees over cocktails and a light dinner, with welcome remarks by Philippe Zuber, President and COO of One & Only.




8:45 am

Depart Royal Mirage (Arabian Court) hotel lobby


9:30am – 11:30am

Speaker Session: Open Doors, Open Minds

Gain insight into Emirati culture and history from Nasif Kayed, managing director of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, set amidst the heritage village of Bur Dubai. Engage in a refreshingly open dialogue about Middle Eastern issues, from politics to religion to social values, and visit the Centre’s mosque in advance of the Friday morning call to prayer.


11:30am – 12:30pm

Heritage Tour of Bastakiya/Old Dubai

After a stroll through the historical Bastakiya neighborhood, an abra will transport you across the waters of Dubai Creek to the Old Souks of Deira. Lunch at a nearby creekside restaurant will follow.


3pm – 8:30pm

Desert Safari Under the Stars

Less than an hour’s drive away, a traditional desert experience awaits you. Enjoy a falconry demonstration, visit a wildlife conservation area and watch the sun set before retreating to a Bedouin-style camp for dinner, shisha, stargazing and evening entertainment by local Emirati musicians.



Free Time (or sleep?)

Back at the hotel, the rest of the night is free to enjoy drinks at one of the hotel’s many lounges if jet lag hasn’t got the better of you!





Depart Royal Mirage (Arabian Court) hotel lobby


9:30am – 12pm

Speaker Session and Burj Khalifa

Dubai has set the bar high for itself as it rockets towards 2020 with a vision to become the world’s smartest, and happiest, city. From within the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, we’ll hear from Issam Kazim, head of Dubai Tourism, and Dr. Aisha bin Bishr, who leads the city’s Smart City initiative, about Dubai’s trajectory from a small desert outpost to a sprawling, cosmopolitan metropolis. A custom visit to the top of the tower will follow the session.


12:30pm – 2:30pm

Celebration of Middle Eastern Art

Lunch is served with a generous helping of art, music and more at Art Sawa, a contemporary gallery space in Al Quoz (Dubai’s artsy warehouse district) owned by the vivacious Amel Makkawi, a long time Dubai resident.


2:30pm – 6:30pm

Free time

Take a few hours on your own to shop the malls, hit the beach, or just rest up for the night ahead.



Depart Royal Mirage (Arabian Court) hotel lobby


7pm – 10pm

We can’t resist an opportunity to get out on the water to see the city lights, and doing so in Dubai is a most popular activity. Aboard a luxurious catamaran, we’ll eat, drink and celebrate amongst the boats of other Dubai revelers.





Depart Royal Mirage (Arabian Court) hotel lobby


9:30am – 10:30am

Speaker Session: The Aviation Story

Dubai may currently already have the world’s biggest international airport, but expansion plans are already in the works. Hubert Frach, a senior VP of operations at Emirates, will share stories of the airline’s incredible growth within the industry, and of how Dubai continues to cement its position as the aviation capital of the world.


10:30am – 12:30pm

Breakout Sessions: The Aviation Story

In small groups, we’ll go behind the scenes with the team at Emirates and get insider access to the inner workings of this staggeringly ambitious company.


1pm – 2pm

Lunch, hosted by Emirates


2:30pm – 4:30pm

Breakout Sessions, various locations

Small group breakouts allow us to have more intimate, behind the scenes encounters with interesting locals. All Breakout details to be announced one week prior to event date.


5pm – 7:15pm

Free time



Depart Royal Mirage (Arabian Court) hotel lobby


7:30pm – 11pm

Final Night Party at Atlantis

This is Dubai after all, so we’ll finish the trip with a glitzy evening celebration in the iconic Bridge Suite with breathtaking cityscape views. We’ll also enjoy a humorous presentation on comedy in the Arab world by Jamil Abu-Wardeh, followed by drinks, food, and dancing the night away as we bid farewell. Until next time…

Featured Locals

  • Original parag khanna1.jpg?1503012248?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Parag Khanna

    CNamed one of Esquire’s “75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” and featured on WIRED’s “Smart List,” Parag Khanna is undoubtedly “influential” and “smart.” This best-selling author (four books and counting) and world traveler (100 countries and counting) is also a leading global strategist and offers government and corporate leaders alike insight into global trends, foreign policy, technological advances, market strategies, and so much more. Parag’s resume includes CNN Global Contributor, Senior Research Fellow, Managing Partner of geostrategic advisory firm Hybrid Reality, and Co-Founder & CEO of content branding agency Factotum.

  • Original nasif smccu 9668.jpg?1503012332?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Nasif Kayed

    A former entrepreneur, Nasif Kayed left the gulf for North America, where he established 40 companies and ventures in the U.S. and Canada. But it was his decades-long experience as a lecturer and advisor for cultural awareness programs in communities, schools, religious institutions, and law enforcement establishments that allowed him to realize his life’s mission. Now, Nasif promotes peaceful coexistence among those living and working in a multi-cultural, global environment as the Managing Director of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU). 

  • Original credit camille zakharia manal al dowayan.jpg?1503012289?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Manal AlDowayan

    While her art revolves around themes of active forgetting and collective memory, Manal AlDowayan is one artist that is impossible to forget. Using black and white photography, sculpture, video, sound, neon and large-scale participatory installations, Manal draws attention to the state of Saudi women and their representation. Her projects have attracted hundreds of women to use art as a platform to address social injustice, and she’s shown her work all over the world, including Venice, South Korea, Denmark, the U.K., and Qatar.

  • Original issam abdulrahim kazim  ceo of dubai corporation fortourism marketing and commerce 14041.jpg?1503012300?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Issam Kazim

    Dubai Tourism has vowed to attract 20 million visitors per year by 2020—no easy feat—but Issam AbdulRahim Kazim is up for the challenge. As Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Issam is tasked with branding, promoting, and marketing the Emirate of Dubai as a world leader in business and leisure. Utilizing his previous experience creating and developing live events such as Dubai Sports World, Dubai Music Week, and Dubai Classics, Issam is taking the tourism board’s ambitious plans head-on.

  • Original 3.jpg?1503012314?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr

    Dubai has set its sights on becoming the smartest city in the world—with a very smart woman leading the charge. Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai office, is drawing from 20 years of experience in information, communication, and technology development in the public and government sectors to get the job done. She has been recognized as an effective leader with several awards, including the Middle East Woman Leader in Corporate Management Excellence.

  • Original znfiqd fklicvchng6boritno8myvf97kn0opgoodsmh3nkmo03pz9glgc4xghwj5ysck fx0jlqaz6k4 n5nw.jpeg?1503012449?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Jamil Abu-Wardeh

    Considered the “Godfather of Middle East Stand Up,” Jamil Abu-Wardeh kick-started the stand-up scene in the Arab world when he founded the Axis of Evil Middle East Comedy Tour. Now, he puts his ability to create engaging content and simplify complex concepts to good use for his company, JAW Media, which produces stories for print, screen and stage, empowering start-ups and corporations alike to envision and achieve their goals.

  • Original img 554341.jpeg?1503012429?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Amel Makkawi

    “Sawa” translates to “together,” and that was precisely what owner and director Amel Bouderba Makkawi had in mind when she created Art Sawa, a state-of-the-art gallery offering contemporary art from the Middle East, North Africa, and neighboring countries. An artist who has studied and worked around the globe, Amel has put her experience and passion for discovering new art and emerging talent to good use at Art Sawa, creating innovative exhibitions and educational programs which have made a lasting impression in the Dubai landscape.

  • Original philippe zuber 81781.jpeg?1503012418?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Philippe Zuber

    The memories you’ll create in Dubai begin and end each day at the One&Only Royal Mirage, and we can thank President and Chief Operating Officer Philippe Zuber for the exceptional experience. A 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Philippe knows this city—and its must-see attractions, resorts, and restaurants—better than anyone and has been a key player in developing Downtown Dubai into the “Center of Now,” a global community and unique experience for every resident and visitor.

  • Original stylist shoot 131 4248039.jpeg?1503012406?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Sara Hamdan

    Sara Hamdan has been the main writer for The International New York Times based in Dubai since 2010. She is also currently editor of Dubai Magazine, the official title of the Dubai Department of Tourism. Sara speaks four languages and is a Berkeley and Columbia graduate.


  • Original visit dubai.png?1503009678?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Visit Dubai

    Dubai is one of the world’s most exhilarating destinations: a glittering city that offers swathes of golden beaches; world-class shopping, dining and nightlife; hosts electrifying events and sporting championships; and, for all the family, is one big adventurous playground. Where tradition meets ambition and renowned for its futuristic architecture, this visionary city is also proud to display its rich heritage and culture. Welcome to Arabia and welcome to the destination that has made it its mission to become “the world’s most visited city.”

    For more information, visit

  • Original emirates logo.png?1503009661?ixlib=rails 0.3

    Emirates Airline

    Emirates Airline, a global connector of people and places, has received more than 500 international awards and accolades for excellence. Emirates flies from 10 US cities, including four daily flights from JFK, to over 140 destinations across six continents and is the world’s largest airline in available seat miles.  For more information, please visit

  • Original royal mirage dubai.png?1503009636?ixlib=rails 0.3

    One&Only Royal Mirage

    One&Only Royal Mirage, a Leading Hotels of the World property, pays tribute pays tribute to Arabian architecture and hospitality on a truly regal scale. Considered Dubai’s most stylish beach resort, it rests on a kilometer of private coastline nestled in 65 acres of landscaped gardens. The resort is composed of 3 distinctive environments – each flowing into the next to ignite the senses: The Palace, Arabian Court and Residence & Spa.