What are the top five cities for business travel?

Some cities are better for doing business than others, it seems. Of course, business travelers (well, professionals in general) all have their preferences. Having done my time in Omaha, Winnipeg and London (Ontario), I can tell you that some places are better than others. So, I was pretty excited to see think tank Z/Yen put out its Global Financial Centres Index (PDF), which shows the top five cities in the world in which to do business.

There aren’t many suprises at the top end of the list, which comes out twice a year. The rankings are determined using “five key areas of competitiveness,” according to Inside Investor Relations: people, business, environment, market access, infrastructure and general competitiveness.”

So, what are the top five?

1. London
2. New York
3. Hong Kong
4. Singapore
5. Shanghai

As you can see, 60 percent of the top of the heap are in Asia, which signifies a spike in recent years. Inside Investor Relations reports that there were only three Asian cities in the top 20 when the index was first published in March 2007. Now, there are not only three in the top five but eight in the top 20, while North America has only six and Europe five.

Interestingly, the study notes that the top three are effectively tied. Inside Investor Relations notes:

According to the study, however: ‘there remains no significant difference between London, New York and Hong Kong… respondents continue to believe that these centers work together for mutual benefit.’

The top financial center in the Middle East is Dubai, which comes in at 28th overall. It is two places above Qatar. Next are Bahrain at 49th and Riyadh at 70th, still way back in the distance.

[Photo by TJ Morris via Flickr]

Terrible seat assignment kills airline passenger

When Nas Air flight XY 720 from Beirut landed in Riyadh, airport workers found just how severe having the worst seat on the flight can be. The passenger wasn’t alive any more, of course … oh, and he was found on the landing gear. The corpse, ostensibly cold, has been shipped off to forensic medical experts for tests, according to local authorities.

So, how did he get there? According to AFP:

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) said passengers on the plane reported seeing a man in a baseball cap with a backpack make a dash for plane as it prepared to taxi. He stumbled once and then continued towards the plane.

The passengers and flight attendants let the pilot know about this, but he reportedly didn’t do anything about it. Nas Air is staying tight-lipped on the affair.

[photo by dynamosquito via Flickr]

Huge dust storm plunges Saudi capital into total darkness

Riyadh was hit by a massive dust storm this afternoon, shutting down all air traffic and forcing residents inside. With visibility under 200 meters, most traffic came to a standstill.

The video you see above was actually taken right before the capital of Saudi Arabia was plunged into darkness for most of the afternoon.

Scary stuff.

Men are not allowed to walk dogs (or cats) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia due to newly passed law

The reason why men aren’t allowed to walk dogs or take cats out on a stroll in Riyadh as of Wednesday is because they aren’t allowed to buy pets there any more. A hamster, maybe. A goldfish, probably, but not a dog or a cat. If a person has a pet already, the person can keep the pet, just not take it outside. As of Wednesday, the ban went into effect.

According to this AP article, some men, it seems, were using their furry friends as a way to get up close and personal with women and bother families–a big no no in Saudi Arabia. The sexes are to be separate from each other. Dogs and cats are ice breakers for bridging the divide.

As bans go, this one sounds a bit loosey goosey since as of the writing of the article, people didn’t know about the ban, including a pet shop owner. The other detail the article pointed out is that it’s not often that people walk dogs in Riyadh anyway and when do people really walk cats?

From what the people who were interviewed said, it doesn’t sound as if people are planning to follow the ban, just like what happened when there was a ban on cell phones with cameras back in 2004. The fear there was that people of the opposite sex would use the cameras to take pictures of each other. People didn’t go along with that ban so it was dropped.

If you are planning on heading to Saudi Arabia, I’d leave the pooch or kitty at home unless you don’t mind them having a stay under the care of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the name for the religious police who are doing the pet confiscating.

One thought about this ban is that it’s really to control pet ownership which is seen as a Western influence. Dog ownership has not been part of Saudi culture until more recently. Cats, though, have, so it is unclear why they are being picked on.

Dispatches from around the world

Saudi Arabia’s new mind-boggling cultural center

The Middle East is proving to be the mad-architect’s dream come true. Saudi Arabia has announced the launch of a new cultural center, and this is what it’s going to look like:

Just out of this world. It will have a library, museum, theater and cinema. When a country has an unimaginable amount of money to spend, anything is possible. This project is being sponsored by Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company.

In the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait — the money is ample, the vision is extraordinary, but the reality is hollow. I suppose, as an increasingly higher caliber of people get recruited from all over the world to execute the Middle East’s vision, the reality will soon be seen.