The annual Dubai diaspora has begun. With the summer hotting up, schools finished, the holy month of Ramadan around the corner, and global financial markets looking decidedly worrying, many expatriates have decided to make an early escape.
The evidence in Dubai International Financial Centre confirms that. You can get a parking place at any time of the day or night, and get a table as a walk-in at even the swankiest Gate Village restaurant.
In the Dome Cafe, my regular DIFC hang-out, I've found myself the only customer, with four or five waiters in attendance, on a couple of recent afternoons. One place still doing brisk business late last week, however, was the Ivy restaurant in the Boulevard at Jumeirah Emirates Towers. I was having lunch there with an old pal when all of a sudden there was a big influx of customers, heading to big tables for 12 that I had noticed had been reserved when we came in.
Another big crowd headed to gather around the bar, before being ushered into the private dining room at the back. It was all unexpectedly hectic.
I was uncertain about the Ivy when it opened in Dubai two years ago. I had been many times to the London restaurant, which I loved, but wondered whether the quintessentially English formula would translate to the UAE.
But I've slowly been won over, as it seems has the rest of Dubai. The restaurant now has a definite buzz it lacked before, even on a Thursday lunchtime.
Nicola Robinson, the extremely capable manager, explained that it had invested heavily in advertising on radio and elsewhere, and was reaping the benefit of that. Long may it continue.
One person joining the exodus, but who will sadly not be returning after the holiday, is Heather Astbury, the in-house communications executive for Dubai Mercantile Exchange.
Heather, a glamorous Scot, has been a fixture on the UAE public relations scene for several years. I first met her when she was the PR for flydubai in its post-launch phase.
She was one of the most professional and efficient public relations executives I had ever met. Unlike some journalists, I've always regarded a smart and well-connected PR as among the best sources possible. Heather was certainly that, but endlessly helpful as well.
Once she got me on a plane to Azerbaijan with about 10 minutes to go to take-off when I was resigned to missing the flight. She made the crucial call (to the pilot?) all the way from a business trip in Hong Kong.
After that, she faced fresh challenges at DME, but always remained her helpful and efficient self.
She is going back to Scotland with her nine-year old son Theo, and will be working from Edinburgh for a big Middle East client with interests in five-star hotels around Europe. Very best of luck to them both
I hope to be joining the great escape myself at some stage, but for the moment I am on tenterhooks, awaiting a Schengen visa for my wife to enable us to travel to France to visit my sister, who has retired to the beautiful Haute-Vienne region.
The process of applying for this document has been byzantine, requiring a mind-boggling level of documentation.
One piece of paper I hadn't thought of was a letter of invitation from the mayor of the little village where my sister lives. "Maybe I can get one from the president François Hollande instead," I joked with the chap at the visa office.
I'm not sure he appreciated the joke. I'll know if and when we get the visa.