Even with severe competition in the form of President Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh, there were enough ideas, and people, floating around the Dead Sea to make the trip to Jordan worthwhile for the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Excuse the pun, but in fact “floating” is all a person can do in the lowest stretch of water on the surface of the planet, as the Dead Sea is far too saline and buoyant for diving or snorkeling. Not that I did any of those things. I was far too engaged in the cerebral hothouse that is the WEF. While there was a notable exodus of delegates after the opening speeches on Saturday, as Gulf dignitaries hot-footed it to Amman military airport to get their special flights to Riyadh, the rest of the event was more relaxed and informal than I remember it in recent years. It was good to have it back, after a one-year hiatus when the event — due to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt — was canceled because of security concerns. Jordan deserves a pat on the back for sticking to the plans, even after senior dignitaries must have been made aware of the US president’s plans. It made for a more relaxed and contemplative WEF, I thought, and certainly a more manageable time in the hotels and bars around the event, which is where the serious networking is done. So here, in no especial order, are a few of the things I learned from this year’s Jordan WEF meeting. 1. If ever you needed physical proof of the benefits of the public-private partnership (PPP) model, look no further than Queen Alia International Airport near the capital Amman. Built almost exclusively with private money in a public tender, it is efficient, clean and pleasant. One of the panelists compared it favorably with the new Cairo airport, built with public funds, which, he said, was nowhere near as good. The Middle East, and Saudi Arabia in particular can expect to see a lot more PPP in coming years, and Queen Alia airport is a good place to see that it works. 2. Jordan is feeling more comfortable about the security situation than before. A couple of years ago, when Daesh was expanding deep into southern Syria, there was a palpable feel of threat in the air. Heavily armed escorts from the airport to the Dead Sea were obligatory and the day trip to Petra was not selling well. This year, there was still tight security around the resort hotels and conference halls but very little on the airport road. The cultural distractions were sold out and I met some people in the banking world who had even brought their children with them. 3. The MENA needs more trade within its member countries if it is to thrive. Several speakers mentioned the fact that the big blocs within the region — the Gulf, the Levant and North Africa — barely spoke to each other in business terms. In the MENA region as a whole, only 15 percent of trade was intra-region, compared to about 60 percent in the EU, despite the advantages of a common language and more homogeneous culture. 4. Almost as much as in the big annual jamboree in Davos, the real work of the WEF gets done in bilateral meetings, private dinners and the hotels. I calculated, on the basis of a simple headcount, that if you moved between the lobbies of just three hotels — the Movenpick, the Marriott and the Kempinski — and watched the WEF live-stream from those hotels, you’d have better networking than at the main conference hall. Maybe I will put it to the test one year. 5. In a similar vein, the Jordanians certainly know how to put on a show. The “cultural soiree” to which delegates were invited — under the patronage of King Abdullah II and in the presence of Prime Minister Dr. Hani Al-Mulki — was a glittering occasion, with great local food and entertainment served up in a very passable modern imitation of an old Arab township, on the grounds of the Movenpick. We danced until… well, about 10 p.m. But there was a very early start the next day. 6. I found another fantastic place in the Middle East to watch football. After the Locker Room in the Golden Tulip hotel in Dubai’s Al-Barsha district, surely the Champions in the Marriott is up there as a top sports venue, and with an absolutely fantastic staff. Last Thursday night, just off the plane, I was desperate to find a venue to see my team Tottenham Hotspur play the penultimate game of the season. Champions was closed, but, seeing the disappointment on my little face, the hotel took the decision to open specially. What a thrill to see my team win 6-1, and my namesake Harry Kane score four, in my own dedicated venue. Thank you, Ibrahim, the hotel manager, and Ahmad, the venue manager. I will be back — and so will my team.