Diary of a Trade Mission – Dubai and Oman January 2015

Ministerial visits and trade missions are always busy – with meetings and activities from early morning to late at night. Minister Foster is currently leading a trade mission to the Middle East. Here’s a quick insight into what’s been happening the past few days.

Day One
Meeting the Northern Irish Community

Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest shopping centre and a pretty sizeable Northern Irish community.

Bringing together this network of people from Northern Ireland provides a great opportunity to create new opportunities for companies and people in the region and at home. This network of Diaspora can help build connections that can result in new business opportunities and trade links.

Minister Foster’s visit to Dubai in support of the Northern Irish companies at Arab Health gave a great opportunity to meet with some of the Diaspora in Dubai working for Northern Ireland companies and those in senior positions in global companies.

During an informal dinner, the Minister and Alastair Hamilton, CEO of Invest NI, had a chance to discuss the latest news and developments from Northern Ireland and talk more with this small group about their thoughts and ideas for working together.

The event was a great success and there was much enthusiasm to work with the Invest NI local team in areas from construction and air route development to PR.

Day Two
What is a majlis?

A majlis is a traditional meeting room where guests and VIPs are received by their host. Almost every Arab home has one, as do government buildings and hotels. The most important people sit closest to the host.

On Tuesday, we ended up in a majlis with key members of the business and academic community in Dubai. So how come?

Having met with Minister Foster and been bowled over by Belfast and the Northern Irish welcome and hospitality last May, Raja Al Gurg, President of the Dubai Business Women’s Council and Vice Chairperson of Dubai Health Care City (DHCC), returned to Dubai with a desire to find out more about Northern Ireland to do some research on Queen’s University Belfast (QUB).

At the time Dubai Health Care City was looking for a partner to deliver their vision for a medical school – Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Within 10 days of her return Raja and her team were back in Belfast meeting with the Minister and beginning discussions with Queen’s.

Things have moved fast since then, and on Tuesday the deal between QUB and Dubai Healthcare City was signed announcing the beginning of a partnership. QUB will assist in the development of the Curriculum, recruitment and selection of staff, as well as student selection and admissions.

And so we ended up in a majlis at Dubai Health Care City as the Minister, Alastair and QUB Vice Chancellor, Paddy Johnston, along with the local Invest NI and Queen’s teams were invited to meet with the DHCC team for an informal discussion before joining together for the official signing ceremony.

Minister Foster, Alastair Hamilton and QUB Vice Chancellor, Paddy Johnston, along with the local Invest NI and Queen’s teams were invited to meet with the DHCC team in a majlis.

Raja Al Gurg commented that they knew as soon as they met with QUB that they were the right partner – there was just good synergy. It just reinforces, that relationships are key to succeeding in the UAE.


Arab Health


One of the largest medical exhibitions in the world, Arab Health grows bigger every year. This year is no exception with a packed exhibition centre and people cramming in to see what’s new and exciting in the medical word. Even visiting the show is good for your health and fitness levels – you can walk miles just covering the various halls of the exhibition centre! The show runs for four days and this year Northern Ireland companies are seeing visitors from all over the world coming to the stand. 15 NI companies are visiting and exhibiting.


A picture of the Northern Ireland stand at Arab Health 2015.

Minister Foster joined the companies yesterday to hear their latest developments and find out how being at Arab Health is helping open new doors and strengthening existing customer relationships. Buyers and healthcare experts from around the world met our companies and the Minister met representatives from Chinese, Saudi and Kuwaiti companies.


Armstrong Medical is already well connected in the market but being here brings them new opportunities to follow up on.


Day Three
Tourism Ireland launches new Northern Ireland tourist destinations

Simon Gregory, Tourism Ireland, Minister Foster, Mohamed Jassim Al Rais, Al Rais Tours & Holidays

Minister Foster spoke at a Tourism Ireland event to launch new destinations including the recently revamped Mount Stewart, Gobbins Path and Causeway Coast.

The event was attended by tour and travel operators who were given an insight into all Northern Ireland has to offer, including Tayto crisps! Everyone also received a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe in a nod to CS Lewis.


Day Four
Muscat, Oman

Last day of the trade mission and a one day visit to Oman. Minister Foster and Alastair spent the morning meeting with some key government officials, supporting the business objectives of two clients.

Then it was lunch with Omani business women, hosted by the British ambassador, a fluent Arabic speaker, sharing ways of working together and understanding the cultural challenges they face.

The trade mission ended with a great dinner reception again hosted by the British Ambassador. Invited guests were members of the Omani British Friendship Association, some of whom have visited Northern Ireland in the past. All are keen to work together with the Minister and the Invest Northern Ireland team to strengthen our relationships and encourage opportunities for trade between the two countries.