Tim Cook’s face-to-face with United Arab Emirates Prime Minister about Apple flagship store

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc. (AAPL), was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday, combining visits to retail locations in Dubai that sell Apple products with a one-to-one meeting with Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Rumors are rife of a possible Apple flagship store opening in the Islamic nations which make up the Emirates, with Abu Dhabi’s Galleria in Sowwah Square as the favored location among those engaged in such speculation. There is no official confirmation of these notions.

What is certain about Mr. Cook’s visit to the Middle Eastern countries is that he visited a number of retail locations which already stock Apple Inc. (AAPL) products. His presence was confirmed at a minimum of three major electronics stores in Abu Dhabi, including Jumbo, Jacky’s Electronics, and Virgin Megastore. Employees at Virgin Megastore photographed themselves alongside the famous visitor, using their own iPhones.

AppleThough visits to retailers selling Apple items were only to be expected as part of Mr. Cook’s stopover in the Emirates, a foray to the Burj Khalifa caught reporters by surprise. The towering edifice is the world’s tallest building and would make a spectacular venue for an Apple outlet. Rumor mills around the world immediately began pondering the question of whether Mr. Cook was scouting possible locations, or simply taking a brief excursion to see the famous landmark.

Mr. Cook also met with His Highness Shaikh Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Prime Minister, and spent some time speaking with him. The American CEO was accorded a warm welcome by the Emirates potentate, and reciprocated by complimenting the UAE’s e-government program. Some market watchers believe this meeting was actually Mr. Cook’s main objective, due to the Emirates’ plan to replace printed textbooks entirely with tablets within the next few years. If true, this could potentially be as large a business deal as the contract for 15 million iPads that Apple Inc. is attempting to negotiate with the Turkish government.

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