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GulfInsider -The Arabian Review Bahrain

LMRA faces a struggle

Bahrain

Top 50 tourist destinations

Dubai

10 years for British businessmen

A Market for Bahrainis Hardworking, dedicated Bahrainis are already in the job market and employers are being encouraged to hire them Bahrain BD2

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Issue 77


Gulf Financial Insider

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Inside this issue...

12. LMRA

28. GCC

37. Saudi Arabia

18. Jobs4Bahrainis

32. Hospitality

38. London Property

22. Entrepreneurs

34. Dubai Prison

42. Travel

24. Tourism

36. Dubai

44. Cars

Is it time for a new solution?

Encouraging the market

Business owners in Bahrain

Bahrain ranks in top 50

The Gulf Roundup

Sofitel’s brand repositioning

British tourist beaten to death

British businessmen sentenced to 10 years

Women defy driving ban

How Osama upped prices

Taste la dolce vita in Italy

Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK


COMMENT

GulfInsider

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magazine winning Arabian

n Review -The Arabia Bahrain

“I only think about what I can do, not what I can’t do.” - Alain Robet aka the Human Spiderman

Issue 77

gle

LMRA faces a strug

Bahrain

nations

desti Top 50 tourist

Dubai

h businessmen

10 years for Britis

nis

A Market for Bahrai

ady in the job rainis are alre dedicated Bah to hire them Hardworking, g encouraged loyers are bein market and emp Bahrain BD2

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Front cover photograph credit: Arthur D’Souza

Social Isolation and Gender Bias Causes Depression A Qatari psychologist has said that most suicide cases within the GCC are reported during the long holidays and in particular during the stiflingly hot summer months. “Women in the GCC states, particularly, are victims of gender bias and suffer social isolation,” UK-educated Moza Al Maliki said. “Most of them are imprisoned in homes during the long summer break.” Most GCC women, whether they are educated or not, are forced to live under the authority of their brothers who are often younger, she said. “This applies even to those women who are divorced and choose to return to their parental homes. Their plight after divorce deepens rather than ends as they must live a life dictated by their brothers,” said Moza. During her time at Qatar University where she was a teacher, Moza said she got calls from some of her female

students during the summer complaining of loneliness and talking of ending their lives in desperation. “I used to counsel them and persuade them to think positively and look ahead,” she told Qatari daily The Peninsula. A study, conducted in Qatar in 1992 by the Ministry of Interior in coordination with the psychiatry departments of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), on suicide cases involving girls “failed to gather accurate figures and was abandoned,” she said. “There is no official recognition for suicide in Qatar and deaths due to suicide are referred to as ‘sudden death’ or ‘stroke’.” Suicide is viewed by Islam as one of the greatest sins. “Suicide among adolescents is also a problem and must be studied at length to get at the root of the malaise so combative efforts can be launched,” she said.

Gulf Financial Insider

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Gulf Financial Insider October 2008

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Issue 76

Bahrain

Travel banned and stuck

Bahrain

A battle for compensation

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Climbing the Burj Khalifa

Help for Bahrain’s Business Sector As SMEs struggle, the government generates solutions Bahrain BD2

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The multi-award winning Arabian magazine

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Bahrain

Asian workers attacked

Bahrain

Inaccurate media coverage

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Is it real?

Rebuilding Bahrain

Time to move forward and overcome sectarian and economic strife Bahrain BD2

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Issue 74

Hahahaha

Every Little Helps

You know GI, I look forward to your introduction every month the most. It is always a very random piece of news and sometimes I am not sure whether you are poking fun or serious! I’m leaning more towards the sarcasm side. Last month’s made me laugh though... Laughter Yoga being introduced as an official study at certain schools is fabulous! I only wish it was a class when I was at school. Easy extra credit, yes please!

It was good to see the initiatives that the government are taking to help SMEs in your article ‘Keeping Companies Afloat’ last month GI. Even if it isn’t much right now, I do hope that more and more of these spring up over the coming months (as I see they have been doing). I am a previous business owner (went bankrupt during the recession) and I know that if I’d had that little helping hand back then I wouldn’t have gone under. Just lifting a few of the burdens these poor employers have will work wonders.

Greg

Re: What Should the Travel Banned Do? I’m writing this in reply to a letter in last month’s readers’ comments. Hannah I feel the same way about the plight of travel banned people, knowing a few myself. It seems at every turn there is red tape cordoning their freedoms off. This was highlighted further in Gulf Insider’s article last month -‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent.’ I honestly can’t imagine what kind of stress these people are under. Every day there’s a new victim in the papers and it can so easily happen; it really makes you worry as an expat, whether or not you’ll get out next time you’re at the airport! The worst bit is that if something happens to your boss then his/her misfortune can so easily be passed on to you! Choose employers wisely is all I can say. Not Travel Banned... Yet

Upcoming hotels

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Guilty!...?

The real tyranny

Abu Dhabi

The truth about property

Bahrain Focus

The world is watching Bahrain... and not for the F1! Bahrain BD2

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I found your article ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent’ very interesting last month Gulf Insider. I had heard about the many travel banned people but was always under the impression that it was their fault they had gotten into such a dire situation through unpaid debts. While this may be true, your diagrams showed it is not always their fault and even if it is, it can so easily happen! There really has to be someone who can help out there?! Graham Harding

Susan Gray

Give It Up For Spidey! What a nutter than Alain Robert is! I’ve been following his progress since I first heard about the ‘Human Spiderman’ about five years ago and I was delighted to read your interview with him last month Gulf Insider. What guts it must take to do all that climbing WITH ropes, never mind without. And with vertigo! Mental, is all I can say. But seriously good on him. I really admire people who can overcome the fear of death and really live life. My new mantra is as he said: “I only think about what I can do, not what I can’t do.” Spiderman In The Making

Dear Munir Mamujee, I have gone through a very important and interesting article in Gulf Insider by you about the importance of International Customer Services in a multicultural environment. I personally feel that you have elaborated all the aspects very clearly. It is a must-read for the all the yuppies who are working in multicultural environments. I hope to have some more interesting articles to read from you in future. Javed Aslam


Business Roundup

Gulf Air Announces Summer Schedule

Mr Ibrahim Nonoo with staff members at the new branch

BFC Opens New Branch Bahrain Financing Company (BFC), the kingdom’s oldest money transfer and foreign exchange group, recently announced the opening of its new retail shop in Bahrain. Located on Budaiya Highway, the strategically positioned branch was inaugurated by Mr Ebrahim Nonoo, Managing Director and CEO of BFC Group Holdings in the presence of senior officials from the company and customers. With the opening of the new branch, residents of Budaiya and its surrounding areas will now enjoy all the services that exist at other BFC shops in Bahrain. The branch will remain open between 9am to 1pm in the morning and from 4pm to 8pm in the evening, seven days a week. In order to relocate to this new location on Budaiya Highway, BFC has closed its shop at the Country Mall in the same locality.

National carrier Gulf Air has added more flights, additional seats and more convenient flight options to several key destinations, in addition to opening up three new destinations this summer. Releasing the summer schedule, the airline highlighted that over 1,700 seats have been added per week to the existing flights to meet the increasing passenger demand, while commencing services to three new destinations - Kabul, Copenhagen and Nairobi. “Summer has always been a busy season with schools closed for vacation and people travelling abroad to spend their holidays in popular summer destinations visiting friends, family and relatives or simply to escape the heat, and we have always seen a tremendous rush for tickets,” commented Gulf Air Chief Commercial Officer Mr Karim Makhlouf. “Many of our destinations are very popular with our customers and come summer, the demand will be even higher. So we have made sure to meet the summer rush by increasing frequencies and operating bigger aircraft. In addition, we have also introduced split schedules on some routes giving flexible options for our customers to choose their arrival and departures.”

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Business Roundup

Batelco Introduces its First Retail Mobile Van Batelco has introduced its and Bahrain’s first retail Mobile Van which sports Batelco’s iconic red colour and brand logo. With a full range of Batelco’s products and services onboard, the new shop also offers a selection of mobile handsets. Additionally, customers can buy SimSim call credit, pay their bills and complete any Batelco transaction conveniently. The van boasts comfortable seating in elegant surroundings and additionally features built-in air conditioning and a DVD system to complete the relaxing experiencing. Batelco Group General Manager Media Relations Ahmed Al Janahi said that Batelco was truly delighted to be first in the region to introduce a Retail Shop on wheels. “This comes as part of Batelco’s continuous efforts to be innovative in its approach to serve our customers better and offer a superior customer experience. Our customers can now enjoy Batelco services onboard the van adding to their convenience.�

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Business Roundup

Meet For Free at Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain

All-new 2011 Dodge Charger Launched Ahmed Zayani & Sons, one of two Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram distributors in the Kingdom of Bahrain, has launched the all-new 2011 Dodge Charger. With its iconic character, contemporary fastback four-door coupé proportions, world-class performance, craftsmanship and refinement, and state-of-the-art connectivity features, the all-new 2011 Charger is the Dodge brand’s flagship that proudly delivers premium, world-class E-segment sedan precision at an incredible value. The efficient and aerodynamic exterior of the 2011 Dodge Charger is spiritually inspired by the iconic second-generation Charger from the late 1960s, featuring a design that is sure to strike an emotional chord with Dodge performance enthusiasts of all generations. It combines bold, aggressive Dodge styling with innovative interior features, high-levels of safety and reliability and excellent fuel efficiency. Jeffrey Barrett, General Manager of Ahmed Zayani & Sons, Automotive Division said: “Just as the all-new Dodge Durango has sparked huge interest in the Dodge brand, the all-new 2011 Dodge Charger brings that assertive attitude and bold styling to E-segment. There’s just nothing else like it on the road.”

28 Top-Notch Suites with Sea View The lavishly furnished 28 suites at Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa include 21 Prestige suites, six Opera suites and one Royal suite. The Prestige and Opera suites are equipped with a 43-inch LCD TV screen, double-wave ‘Bose’ radio system, DVD, Hermés amenities, complimentary mini bar, ‘Nespresso’ espresso machine and butler service. However, Opera suites have metrics of 120 square metres and Prestige suites are of 86 square metres. Moreover, the Opera Suites each have its own unique theme; Moroccan, Turkish, Arabian, Levantine, Indian and finally, Nubian. As for the one-of-a-kind Royal suite; it has the same facilities of other suites, but adding to it an infinity pool, Jacuzzi, Bose home theatre with a whopping 500 square metres space and a 52-inch LCD TV screen. With all the suites overlooking the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, a butler service to satisfy guests’ needs, and the aromas of Hermés fragrances filling the air, there’s no doubt you’ll feel like a true king or queen at Sofitel’s luxury suites.

For more information call Tel. +973 1763 6363.

If you are planning a meeting at the Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain, then you will pay for the rooms but they will take care of the rest. The hotel are offering a full meeting package including the venue as well as lunch and coffee breaks. To benefit from this offer, you must send your dates and room information via the hotel’s Meeting Planner tool, and they will offer you the complete meeting package, free of charge. At least a twonight stay must be included and a complimentary sight inspection for larger events may be arranged too.

For more information contact the conference department on Tel. +973 1746 0000.

Bahrain Airport Company Appoint New Chairman Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company confirmed the appointment of Khalid Al-Rumaihi as Chairman of Bahrain Airport Company (BAC). Welcoming the appointment, Mumtalakat CEO, Talal Al Zain said: “Bahrain Airport Company, supported by Mumtalakat, is central to Bahrain’s national strategy to grow the aviation sector in the kingdom. For this new appointment it is clear that Khalid Al-Rumaihi’s knowledge of investment banking and experience as a board member of Gulf Air provides a strong backdrop for the position of BAC chairman.” Khalid Al-Rumaihi, BAC’s new chairman, said: “The future success of the Bahrain Airport Company will have a significant positive economic impact for the kingdom. I look forward to working with the BAC team of motivated professionals, led by Gordon Dewar. This comes at a time when the BAC progresses its important plans for future development, enhancing both its strategic economic position as well as Bahrain’s air passenger experience. I am determined to put every effort to make it a journey of success for this company. The valuable support of Mumtalakat will be crucial in this effort.” Gordon Dewar, Khalid Al-Rumaihi and Talal Al Zain

Gulf Insider June 2011

9


LANGUAGE

SPEAKING YOUR LANGUAGE In today’s fast-paced business world, it can be very tough if you don’t speak enough English to cope well in your work environment. However, there are solutions to your dilemma. - By Sophie Man-Cheung

W

here the big commitment amongst corporations worldwide is to strengthen global partnerships with stakeholders in far-reaching places, then communication (both non-verbal and verbal) remains of utmost importance. And particularly on the business-tocustomer level this requires visibility; from meetings to project participation, magazine columns to full-blown reports and from social networking to conferences. Effective non-verbal communication does not of course require any impressive spoken skills. Standing tall with legs shoulder width apart, steady eye-contact with those you address and maintaining a good posture when seated, all have a respectful appeal. Likewise the avoidance of thumb-twiddling, table-drumming and lapses in concentration that could be mistaken for inertia (however brief), must lay the foundations for more successful business interactions. Such advice is all very useful in the global scheme of things, but how about avoiding the following initial shocks of cultural misinterpretation in the Gulf region? Take for instance a formal setting involving a fervent appeal for a deadline to be extended: A man reaches out to stroke the other’s cheek (signaling a heartfelt plea), upon which his counterpart panics, thinking his throat is about to be grabbed. Now to turn our attention to what happens when one goes to speak. I am convinced that a human resources director or anyone with the somewhat weighty task of ensuring that training needs are best met, must be aware of just how little a merry band

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Gulf Insider June 2011

of employees could benefit if language needs are not adequately taken care of, where in-house training is delivered in English by an instructor who is unable to cater to the needs of speakers of other languages. It is a fact, not a boasting point, that English continues to rule the linguistic skies as the one common language bridging the East and West, with over one-billion strong, numbering those who speak English as a primary language. This is where English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is the ideal answer to the needs

A man reaches out to stroke the other’s cheek (signaling a heartfelt plea), upon which his counterpart panics, thinking his throat is about to be grabbed. of any individual or group of dedicated professionals who aim to further themselves in the workplace. What is appealing about ESP, is that, if taught well, it is learner-centred on the language appropriate to their area of industry and exceptionally specific to the needs of the learners. In other words, ‘English at Work’ hones language skills which are polished for employees’ daily use. The solution? The right course, which can be found right here in Bahrain at

Lingo-Ease Language Centre, will ensure that receptive language equals productive language. The outcome? A tailored course which directly targets the requirements of English language communicators in the workplace, be it a call-centre cohort, cabin crew or a company CEO. This course incorporates a dose of nonverbal communications training in the present context, so that participants are more completely equipped for the Gulf working environment. Once in training, the instructor fosters an atmosphere which promotes confidence amongst participants, continuing to boost their language skills right through the course. People know their field of expertise, but need the building blocks containing the right vocabulary. These are superimposed on language structures which are presented and practiced in a relevant context, to effectively build on their existing English language skills. In such a fast-paced environment , which relies so heavily on the English language in business, it is certainly worth considering an experienced instructor hand-in-hand with a well-designed language course, to be a real return on investment. In the process, consider the potentially endless scope for personal enrichment and the way people are a visible asset to any organisation as confident, effective communicators. GFI

Sophie Man-Cheung is founder and director of Lingo-Ease Language Centre, Bahrain. For information and enquiries about ‘English at Work’ courses contact: Tel. +973 1759 0895.


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BAHRAIN

TIME FOR A NEW SOLUTION? Gulf Insider unfortunately had to cancel a meeting with the EDB to promote ‘Business-friendly Bahrain’ because they were stuck at the LMRA.

C

ountless bodies mill about the attractive Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) building at 10.30am on a Monday morning. Some waiting for solutions, others sifting through the mounting requests and paperwork. An incessant bing can be heard in the background as the automated calling machine makes its way through 5,178, 5,179, 5,180. Ours is 5,200 but we have already been here 45 minutes and gone through just about as many as we have left. Although we thought we were giving ourselves plenty of time - 45 minutes - this is when we realise we are going to have to cancel our interview with the Economic Development Board (EDB) in the neighbouring building, something we arranged in order to discuss promoting Bahrain as a business-friendly location for international businesses to establish. Irony? Perhaps you are thinking ‘that’s normal’. Let me start from the top ... The LMRA needed our company to pay a bill, a fine in fact. We like to consider ourselves an honest company that follows the law, we are certainly not what we consider criminals, but in running our business we fell afoul of the ‘Bahrainisation’ law - despite our most sincere and genuine efforts we were just unable to find suitably qualified Bahrainis

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Gulf Insider June 2011

prepared to work the hours required for the wages we were able to offer. It is a situation many companies find themselves in and a constant cause of frustration, but that is another story, back to this one... So, we attempted to pay our dues the usual way - by cheque - when we were told we could only pay for it in cash. Naturally, we refused; it did not seem right.

For some reason getting a translation was out of the question and so he was forced to sign something he did not understand. During a later interview with Mr Ali Radhi, the then Head of the LMRA, we were informed that cheque payment was of course acceptable, and the cheque was duly handed over and received without any real explanation as to why staff members had insisted they were only prepared to accept cash. Later we were informed that our initial signature was not enough and that we

needed to go back to the LMRA offices to sign a form relating to the particular case. The document was written in Arabic. The signee, who does not understand Arabic, asked if there was an English translation. There was not. For some reason getting a translation was out of the question and so our company representative was forced to sign something he did not understand. He asked for at least a photocopy for the company records, but was informed that no copies of this form were allowed, but the LMRA staff were unable to give a logical explanation as to why such a rule existed nor how it benefitted anyone. In the meantime we had a key employee we are attempting to bring to Bahrain but there was a hold-up as the signee was not prepared to sign a document he didn’t understand. When you have been fined by LMRA, they issue a CR violation which prevents you from renewing visas, but once it’s paid it’s supposed to disappear. And so it did. But before long, the same violation mysteriously appeared again... So our HR Manager visited the LMRA offices in an attempt to rectify matters because she is informed she cannot deal with the problem online. No answer was given as to why it could not be dealt with online. On arrival, she heads to Customer Service who directs her to e-support


BAHRAIN

where she is told she can submit an email and expect a reply in a day or two. Odd, as she was previously told she could only do this in person. A day or two later she is instructed that she needs to send a letter, which must be in Arabic (again she is a nonArabic speaker) and is referred to Inspection Management who tell her there is nothing they can do about her dilemma regarding the CR violation and she should speak to Customer Service. The LMRA keeps referring to us as their ‘customer’, which seems strange as we do not have a choice in whether or not we deal with them. And as for ‘service’? Prior events suggest the staff who are supposedly offering this ‘service’ may need to research the actual policies and procedures that the LMRA employs, rather than just having a guess. On another matter, our HR Manager had called the Customer Support desk numerous times with a question on mobility and visa transfer, receiving conflicting answers; initially she was told a No Objection Certificate (NOC) wasn’t necessary and the process would take several weeks to months, but when she

called back another employee told her to bring a NOC, passport and CPR copy and it would take up to ten days! Again, back to the story - our HR Manager visited the LMRA and spoke to Customer Support but they could not tell her anything as she is not the person in charge of the company. So she

We attempted to pay our dues the usual way - by cheque - when we were told we could only pay for it in cash. Naturally, we refused. asked them to email all of the necessary information to the owner - ‘no’ came the reply. She enquired as to why and again she was told to contact Customer Service. Finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, we got our paperwork in order and the form signed by the appropriate signatory

so our HR Manager headed back to the LMRA once again to hand it in and sort out what seemed to have needlessly and pointlessly grown into quite a dilemma. Not yet. She is then told that they need the signatory to actually be there in person. Now, we are all busy. Our HR Manager is busy but unfortunately for her this is part of her job. The owner of any business does not really have time to be sat in the LMRA for an hour and half, when it seems there is little point in doing so, but this is when we arrive back where we started. As all is apparently required by the LMRA is his signature, the owner of the company allows for what he thinks is plenty of time. To be sure, as we are unable to book an appointment and are told we must join a queue, our HR Manager leaves early to get an appointment ticket so her boss need not have to wait too long. Apparently not. She is told by a surly ‘customer service’ employee that she cannot collect the ticket herself and can only take it when the signatory arrives. A swift glance around tells us that most of

Gulf Insider June 2011

13


BAHRAIN these staff could be perceived as being unhappy in their jobs. Another scan of the building and it’s evident they are also understaffed - we count 20 desks of which only twelve are manned. We see why it then took so long for our number to be called. The whole party arrives and after the aforementioned epic wait, we are eventually called. The responsible person is not asked for ID, the woman processing the papers is actually very friendly and it takes all of one minute. It is finally over, khalas. After all that! We did have to wonder how on earth this side of the LMRA - a shining beacon of hope in Bahrain’s labour market promotes and encourages a ‘BusinessFriendly Bahrain.’ In an attempt to be fair minded, we sent this article to the LMRA’s Communications department who, at first, were very helpful. We asked specific questions relating to our situation, had a meeting, and discussed our issues to which we were given reasons as to why most of all this happened. To some of the stages in the dilemma however, even the Communications department were at a loss for an explanation (i.e. why LMRA repeatedly insisted they would only accept cash and would not accept cheque payments!). Alongside our ‘dilemma’ article, we were ready to publish a fair and concise article by the LMRA explaining why such problems would occur but just a day before print we received a very angry email accusing us of believing ourselves ‘higher than everybody else.’ Frustrated, but realising we had upset them, we held off. Then, last month, we read in Bahrain’s English-speaking newspaper, the Gulf Daily News, that no one has really had any idea who has been running the LMRA all this time! It said, and we quote: ‘Parliament has demanded a massive overhaul of Bahrain’s labour market watchdog, accusing senior officials of widespread nepotism and corruption.’ And aside from accusations of encouraging recent protests, MPs claim the top LMRA officials are guilty of allowing ‘accelerated promotions, cover-ups, financial mismanagement.’ Moreover, it was announced that the Board had not met for 18 months! After reading, we wondered if any of

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Gulf Insider June 2011

our situation demonstrated ‘financial mismanagement’ and ‘corruption.’ In an attempt to understand, we contacted the LMRA Corporate Communications department again. This is what they had to say:

LMRA has had a good share of media spotlight lately for the right or wrong reasons. We have even seen some rumours, claims or accusations that were either exaggerated or subjected to personal opinion, published in some papers and on social media. As you and the public may know, LMRA like other government organisations is subject to auditing by the relevant designated committees. We constantly work with those professional committees towards fixing any issues towards the betterment of the organization and the enhancement of its positive role in the

Aside from accusations of encouraging recent protests, MPs claim the top LMRA officials are guilty of allowing ‘accelerated promotions, cover-ups, financial mismanagement.’ kingdom as one of the pillars of reform in the labour market. In the light of the recent events we would like to state the following facts:

• LMRA respects the recommendations

report of the parliamentary investigations committee although it does not necessarily agree with all of its points and recommendations. We understand that recommendations were passed to the government for a decision. Whatever that decision may be, we will definitely implement it without delay or hesitation.

• LMRA cooperates fully and works closely with the Civil Services Bureau and the relevant authorities as it has always done.

• The freeze of the monthly fees does

not change our objectives and scope of

work with regards to the regulation and reform of the labour market in Bahrain. It is to be noted that LMRA does not get any percentage of those fees. LMRA has achieved the highest rank in Bahrain Centre for Excellence’s audit of government entities in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We assure the public and the media that LMRA continues to provide its professional services to hundreds of customers daily through our online and face-to-face channels , and that we will always strive to serve our customers and our kingdom to the best of our abilities. The organisation is indeed still open for business as usual. An anonymous source commented: “There is no reshuffling and the LMRA has not been turned upside down. Basically some employees have been protesting and now the LMRA, the Parliamentarian Committee and the Civil Service Bureau has entered into investigations. “The reason there has been no Board since 2009 is because the old Board had served its term and there was no decree issued to form a new one until very recently. I think most of it is media speculation but whatever may be happening, services to the public have not been affected and people are not being kicked out because of baseless accusations. No one is going to be excluded based on religious beliefs. That’s just silly.” Our source also suggested that the LMRA is being attacked “day in and day out” because of the BD10 monthly fee. “People need to see past the fees - the LMRA is not the IRS or Her Majesty’s Tax and Excise. It is mainly about correcting the irregularities in the labour market that had been there for the previous 40 years before the LMRA was set up. It is not easy to rectify 40 years of mistakes in just four years. The fees are just a tool and they are flexible so if the Prime Minister wants to suspend them for six months he can. This does not mean that the LMRA is going to close down.” So on the one hand you have ‘media speculation’ and on the other, staunch supporters of the LMRA. It is true that the LMRA has had to dodge attacks for the past four years because no matter where they turn, they seem to anger people, but whether this is baseless anger or not remains to be seen.


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THE LMRA’S RESPONSE In the name of fair-mindedness we have decided to publish the LMRA’s initial response to our dilemma as Mr Amr Selim, CRM Manager for LMRA, was helpful, attentive and dealt with the situation, once it had come to light, very quickly. Dear Gulf Insider ,

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e would like to take this opportunity to educate the public about some of our processes and the channels available to LMRA customers. LMRA values its customers and is one of few organisations commended for its friendly approach and its quest for excellence. We do realise - like any service organisation - that where humans are involved there is a possibility for mistakes , but it is what we do to rectify them that will matter the most to our customers. As you know, LMRA deals with all the employers from all the sectors and all walks of life, so in order for us to maintain the privacy of all our customers as well as the security of the information that we maintain, we ask all CR owners to nominate, register and periodically review, their authorised persons with LMRA whereby each registered active CR and branch can have up to five authorised persons. Naturally some people would complain that we could not serve them or did not give them enough information because they were not registered in our system as ‘Authorised’ even though they are proven partners in the company, managers or first degree family members to the owner etc . But, our rule is that if they want specific information or need to transact on behalf of that CR/CR owner, they must first be registered in our EMS system by that owner, a process which takes less than ten minutes to complete online using the owners’ login details. In your case we could have easily fixed your issues and provided proper explanation of the correct process to follow, if you had clearly sent them through any of our communication channels.

What we need people to do in general, if they feel they have any issue with any of our processes or services, is to get the authorised person (where possible) to communicate with us through the many available channels like: 1. The contact centre (+973 1750 6055 available from 7.30am to 3.30pm during weekdays) 2. The e-support system (available round the clock) on www.lmra.bh/esupport 3. The suggestion / complaint cards and box - available in the customer service areas of the building 4. E-mail us on lmra@lmra.gov.bh

“In your case we could have easily fixed your issues and provided proper explanation of the correct process to follow.” In addition to the above employer’s options, we also have a portal dedicated to the employees (LMRA’s expat portal: https://www.lmra.bh/expatportal/login. php) allowing employees to check the details and the validity of their permits online, and another one dedicated to the embassies in order to liaise together and assist us with common issue. For example the “easy exit” campaign and the cases of the employees who are “absconding from work without authorisation” etc. For those expats without internet connectivity we also have an SMS permit validity check service, and Asian language-speaking volunteers working in

the main customer service area. We effectively handle more than 1,000 applications through our EMS system, and more than 1,400 customer interactions through the different communication channels on a daily basis. Our statistics and surveys show that more than 90 per cent of our customers are indeed using these systems effectively on a daily basis and are generally satisfied with those services. The number of complaints that we receive accounts for less than 0.5 per cent of the total interactions and we do handle them as soon as they are received. Furthermore we have been providing other means to stay in touch with our customers such as: 1. Automated messages to employers and employees alerting them of application or work permit changes as they happen. 2. The LMRA friends mailing list that anyone can subscribe to, which keeps the list of subscribers informed of any general legislation or process changes at LMRA. 3. Our social media presence (LMRA’s media blog , FaceBook and Twitter pages as well as the YouTube channel). 4. Detailed Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ’s) and service guides that are published on our website and regularly updated. 5. Short video tutorials to employers on how to use some of our services. For those customers who are not adept at using the internet, they can still visit our customer service department, where inevitably they will have to get a queue ticket and wait for a while to be served or they can hire a professional clearing agency and authorise them through the system to represent them at LMRA. GFI

Gulf Insider June 2011

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BAHRAIN

TAMKEEN LAUNCHES SMEs RESCUE PACKAGE Tamkeen is all set to help struggling small and medium enterprises face current challenges head on.

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ith the recent challenges that the region has been witnessing, Tamkeen in coordination with various stakeholders such as the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have been in talks on structuring rescue packages that will help enterprises which have been worst hit by the crisis. With the aim of supporting these firms that have been in business for at least one year, which have less than 50 employees and an annual turnover of less than BD100,000, Tamkeen has announced a Support Fund Programme and set aside BD10 million to help these companies tide over their financial gaps and set the course for a new period of business sustainability and growth. The wide-ranging programme places no restriction on which enterprise can benefit – the targeted beneficiaries could already be a part of a current Tamkeen programme or new to Tamkeen’s support schemes. Initially, however, the programme is restricted to approximately 2,000 beneficiaries. “Our preliminary market study finds that the recent challenges in the region had an impact on the private sector and, as with all periods of uncertainty, the SMEs are the worst hit,” said Chairman and Acting Chief Executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa. “Bahrain’s leadership are keenly aware that the business community’s wellbeing is the backbone of future prosperity and we have been inspired by the many incentives and rescue packages that the government has initiated, to draw up this Support Fund Programme. It will provide much-needed relief for SMEs and strengthen them and the Bahrain economy for the brighter days ahead.

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It is in line with other measures initiated such as the suspension of the BD10 LMRA fees for every expat worker for the next six months and the suspension of the five per cent training levy for the hospitality industry, in addition to the directives from HRH the Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa to the Central Bank of Bahrain to make it possible for banks to support the recovery of the business sector by offering easier terms of loan repayment.

Tamkeen has set aside BD10 million to help these companies tide over their financial gaps and set the course for a new period of business sustainability and growth. The Programme:

Tamkeen, through an independent agency, will carry out an assessment of the applicants’ financial status and provide the support to settle the payment of overhead expenses in accordance with three categories. Category 1 targeting SMEs with minimum information with a support cap of BD3,500. Category 2 is targeting companies which provide evidence through in-house accounting and this carries a support cap of up to BD5,000.

Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa

Category 3 is targeting companies which can provide audited accounts and they can request a support cap of up to BD10,000. Through this approach Tamkeen would serve a wide range of SMEs with different needs. The financial support can be used for the following payments: • Office rental costs • Rental of vehicles: Which are used to execute the economic activity of the business • Insurance premium: For buildings, equipment and vehicles belonging to the economic activity of the business • Utility bills: inclusive of water and electricity, telecommunication, etc. • Salaries of the workforce • GOSI fees for Bahraini workers “At this stage we are providing this programme with a substantial budget of BD10 million to extend support to SMEs in need and would also reignite the economy as the money would be circulated back into the economy. This fund will be closely monitored and assessed to ensure that it does meet the private sector’s needs and challenges,” said Shaikh Mohammed. Applicants must provide the company CR and/or license, a copy of the owner’s CPR, bank statement and supporting documents proving inability to meet financial commitments. For Category 2 and 3 additional information would be required in the form of in-house accounts and audited accounts respectively. GFI

Applications can be submitted as of 19th June 2011. Look out for further details which will be announced closer to the date.


BAHRAIN

MORE BAHRAINIS JOIN GULF AIR AS CABIN CREW Gulf Air, the national carrier of Bahrain, welcomed the third group of six all-Bahraini female cabin crew to its family last month.

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n a graduation ceremony held at Elite Resort and Spa, attended by family members of the graduates and Gulf Air Senior Management, the latest batch of Bahraini female cabin crew received their honours and are ready to serve onboard Gulf Air’s fleet. This is the third group of cabin crew to graduate from a joint-initiative run by the airline and Tamkeen to encourage more Bahrainis, particularly females, to join the national carrier in key customer-facing positions such as flight crew by offering flexible scheduling benefits. Congratulating the new graduates, Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer Samer Majali commented: “I am pleased to see the graduation of yet another group of female Bahraini nationals joining our cabin crew division. I am proud to say we now have 20 Bahraini female cabin at Gulf Air and more will be joining in the coming months. Since we launched this programme last year, the feedback has been positive and exceeded our expectations. I look forward to the graduation of many other groups in the near future.” Mr Majali added: “The induction of Bahraini cabin crew underpins one of the key components of our new strategy of providing passengers with warm and friendly traditional Arabian hospitality on which Gulf Air’s reputation is built. And who could be better at this, than our national workforce, who intrinsically understands our core values and ethos. By beginning their career with the

national carrier, these Bahraini girls will be setting an example for other Bahraini women looking forward to an exciting and rewarding career. “Finally, cabin crew are not only the face of Gulf Air as they hold one of the most important customer-facing positions in the company but also they are the ‘flying ambassadors’ of Bahrain promoting the country across our network. I wish them a bright future with Gulf Air.”

By beginning their career with the national carrier, these Bahraini girls will be setting an example for other Bahraini women looking forward to an exciting and rewarding career. Tamkeen’s Vice President for Enterprise and Human Capital Development Dr Ahmed Abdul Ghani Al Shaikh congratulated the graduating cabin crew as well as Gulf Air, calling the project to induct Bahraini women into Gulf Air’s roster a pioneering move to open new careers up for Bahrainis. “Tamkeen is proud of its association with Gulf Air in this project because it represents an

excellent synergy of Tamkeen’s vision of change management and new career creation for Bahrainis with Gulf Air’s ability to imaginatively fulfill the emotional expectations of young Bahraini women stepping out of traditional work zones into a new and exciting arena.” He added: “Tamkeen has a rich trackrecord of supporting Bahraini women in their search for new and non-traditional careers in areas such as accounting and finance and aeronautical engineering – this new career as cabin crew with the national carrier is yet another feather in our collective caps for Tamkeen, for Gulf Air and most of all for our young female cabin crew graduates!” Recognising Bahrain’s traditional family values and the importance placed on home life, Gulf Air has developed new flexible scheduling benefits for Bahraini females joining as flight attendants. The new recruits can opt to fly only turn-around flights, that do not require overnight stay outside Bahrain. However, they have the option to fly the airline’s entire network if they wish to explore the world with Gulf Air. Gulf Air is the first airline in the GCC to offer such a scheme. It reinforces the airline’s commitment to the local community. GFI

Gulf Air is still accepting applications for prospective Bahraini cabin crew. Those interested can log onto www. gulfaircareers.com to apply and for more information.

Gulf Insider June 2011

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BAHRAIN

ENCOURAGING A MARKET FOR BAHRAINIS

Ali Al Daylami

As countless Bahrainis call for more jobs, recruitment portal Jobs4Bahrainis searches for solutions. Gulf Insider spoke with Ali Al Daylami, Business Development Manager for the company.

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eginning just last year, Jobs4Bahrainis is a recruitment website that is geared up for, you guessed it, organising jobs for Bahrainis. While many Bahrainis are currently airing their dissatisfaction with the job market and speaking out about discrimination, Jobs4Bahrainis is looking to close that gap by bringing opportunities to hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis’ fingertips. “The main reason we started Jobs4Bahrainis is to place locals back into the workforce,” said Ali Al Daylami on a recent visit to Gulf Insider headquarters. “Since new laws were enforced within the private sector, companies have had a higher demand for Bahrainis where before they would have relied on expatriates. This has opened up a huge market for Bahrainis and we have come along on the back of that.” The portal is easy to use and split into different sections. Firstly there is the recruitment section which lists job availabilities and potential employers. Then there is an educational section

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which gives candidates tips in terms of writing CVs, how to have the perfect interview, along with lessons on business communication and presentation skills - to name a few. In this vein, seminars take place once a month at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Narrowing down your options is one of the biggest mistakes people make. Moreover, there is a section for careers advice. If you have a degree, or not, and you’re not sure where to head, then Jobs4Bahrainis will offer you guidance. “You must look at every option. Just because you have a finance degree does not mean you have to work in the banking sector. For example, there are jobs in hospitality and construction

that are to do with finance. Narrowing down your options is one of the biggest mistakes people make.” The other mistake people continuously make Ali explained, is writing off jobs when they don’t seem appealing enough. “If you go to a job you may not like it or you might be shocked and really like it. It’s an experience. You have to go to a new job with an open mind and definitely don’t think you’ll stay for a few months and see what else comes up.” Being a trustworthy employee is one of the top tips that Jobs4Bahrainis highlights: “Why should an employer invest their time in a person if they’re going to leave soon? They can see the pattern on your CV so you must try and stay at jobs for a respectable amount of time.” Ali explained how jobs seem to come in waves. The finance sector, as an example, tends to hire throughout August, September and October when they know there are fresh graduates in the market to train up. A five-star hotel opening up in Bahrain just joined the site, and they’re looking for around 100


BAHRAIN

Bahrainis to hire. “Some days there is an abundance and some days jobs are limited but you cannot give up looking.” Sometimes expectations, particularly from university graduates, can be unrealistically high, said Ali. “However the new generation of Bahrainis coming out of university understand that you have to work hard to earn what you deserve.” He emphasised that the main reasons why employers previously relied on expats was because of cheap labour and expertise. “Bahrain is young and old at the same time. We have culture and heritage but is still young in terms of moving forward - we have a long way to go. “Now Bahrainis are choosing to study abroad, in matured markets, remain working there for a few years and then returning to Bahrain with a wealth of experience and professionalism. This is raising the bar here. I’m not saying that we don’t need expats - every country does. A country cannot rely solely on their own citizens because different viewpoints come into it, along with

experience and expertise which all help to develop a country.” With such political turmoil and uncertainty in the country right now, we had to ask what this means for the job market. Ali remains positive, predicting that the job market will be at “full swing” in just a few months. “Companies have internal matters to take care of but once that is over they will look into recruitment.

People are obviously not allowing the current climate to affect their ambitions Any professional organisation will not discriminate because of a candidate’s race or religion, however decisions may take a bit longer than expected right now. It would be unfair for a new recruit to join a company while they are making internal changes and not giving him or

her the correct training and preparation to do their job.” Ali admits that Jobs4Bahrainis has been affected, like any business, during recent events, however traffic towards the website is still high and registrations are pouring in. “This is a good sign as people are obviously not allowing the current climate to affect their ambitions.” Jobs4Bahrainis is new however, and the company is nowhere near reaching the vision they have set out for themselves. “We have great targets we’d like to achieve and we are open for any organisations to come on board. We believe in everyone’s ideas and tend to implement their ways of working with ours because at times like these any input into society - an inch or a metre will cause something positive. We need positivity in the market right now and we would like to join everyone together to reach our goal. The Bahrain goal.” GFI

For more information visit www.jobs4bahrainis.com

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BAHRAIN JOBS

A tale of two cities Gulf Insider speaks to two female Bahraini lawyers about their motivations, experiences and why being a lawyer is a great choice for women.

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eem Al Mahroos and Basma Al Alawi, two young Bahraini women, joined a UK International law firm, Charles Russell LLP, to pursue their career in law. Reem grew up in Bahrain and read law at Queen Mary University in London while Basma, a colleague and friend, graduated from Newcastle University with a law degree in 2008. In order to qualify as UK solicitors, they both went on to complete the Legal Practice Course at The College of Law, which is the first step towards qualification before undertaking a twoyear training contract. Upon their return to Bahrain, Reem immediately joined Charles Russell LLP as a paralegal before being offered a training contract in March last year. Basma, on the other hand, gained experience with a reputable local law firm for three months. “I learnt a lot about the structure of the Bahraini legal system and the Bahraini law in general,” Basma tells Gulf Insider. “It was very challenging and interesting at the same time.” This experience boded extremely well for Basma as Charles Russell LLP is very committed to Bahrain and part of this commitment is to involve Bahrainis where possible at all levels in the firm. Now, Reem is halfway through her training contract and Basma is due to start hers this September. Charles Russell has structured their training contracts so that over the two years, they

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split their time between the Bahrain and London offices, joining a different service area every six months. This provides them with the opportunity to make the most of their learning experience and integrate them within the various teams across the firm. While both very fond of London, Reem and Basma would like to return to the Bahrain office once they are full-fledged solicitors. “Reem and I plan to do a course in Sharia Law once we

While both very fond of London, Reem and Basma would like to return to the Bahrain office once they are fullfledged solicitors. have completed our training contracts,” explains Basma. As Bahrainis working in an international firm, Reem and Basma consider themselves to be in a really unique position. “I think we bridge the gap between the international nature of our firm and the local presence that we value in the Middle East,” says Reem. Basma also acknowledges that being bilingual is certainly an asset as they are able to

work in both languages depending on the client’s needs or official requirements. “It is also a challenge and a great learning experience having to translate on the spot. Working in the Bahrain office also allows us more responsibility and enables us to be at the cutting edge of law, as the law books do not necessarily cover the intricacies of practice that cross the two jurisdictions of the Middle East and United Kingdom.” As a UK law firm, Charles Russell LLP work very closely with local law firms on cases pertaining to local law in order to ensure clients get the complete package, which Basma tells us is always an element. So what’s it like being a woman in this industry we ask. “You see a lot of female lawyers in Bahrain,” Reem commented. “In fact, the majority of lawyers we work with personally, especially local lawyers, are women which we find very inspiring. We’ve always thought of it as a very supportive environment to work in.” At the moment, Basma is part of a team working on a high profile bank case, as well as employment and corporate matters. Reem however, is currently in London working with the commercial litigation team and continues her work on commercial contracts and telecoms law. She has also been working closely with Nicola Green in building the firm’s Family Law Service which is the only such practice offered by an international


BAHRAIN JOBS law firm in Bahrain, making it a unique opportunity for Reem. “I’ve always been interested in law,” Reem tells us. “I find law to be very rewarding. It’s great to be able to experience a variety of fields, whether it’s property, businesses or banking, and be involved in all of them.” Agreeing, Basma tells us how she would read reports in newspapers and be fascinated by the legalities behind contracts. Both completely content with their choices, the two women recommend the job to other Bahraini women: “It’s important to work in an environment that motivates you; we’re regularly faced with new challenges as every client and case is a unique experience. We need to be innovative, imaginative and forward thinking in our approach as we need to not only understand what a client requires today but also evaluate how our actions and advice will affect them later. Being a solicitor involves a

Seeing your efforts shape into reality and knowing you were an essential part in making that happen is really rewarding. lot of hard work and often dedicating long hours. However, seeing your efforts shape into reality and knowing you were an essential part in making that happen is really rewarding and gives you a great sense of self achievement.” GFI

Charles Russell LLP is a leading law firm based in the UK and with international offices in Geneva and Bahrain. As a full service law firm they work with a range of clients: International, stock exchange listed businesses; private companies of all sizes, governments, not-for-profit organisations, private individuals and intermediaries. Their expertise spans various sectors including banking, communications, media and entertainment, employment and private client. For more information contact Charles Russell LLP on +973 1713 3200.

Gulf Insider June 2011

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FEATURE

BUDDING BUSINESSES

Khalid Al Muharraqi

The people that shape tomorrow’s future come together and share their successes with Gulf Insider. NAME: Khalid Al Muharraqi COMPANY: Muharraqi Studios LOCATION: Kingdom of Bahrain While the field may be at its emerging stage in Bahrain, the talent is definitely available and growing. Meet Khalid Al Muharraqi, the 38-year old animator who left behind a career in advertising and graphic design to immerse himself in 3D art. It was while working for advertising agencies in the Middle East that he grew disappointed by the level of quality, ideas and design that has been accepted in the market. Recognising an opportunity in 3D as the fine art of the future, Khalid made the

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switch as the best path for him. Khalid is the Founder/Director/Chief Creative at M Muharraqi Studios; whose aim is to create animations that can reach out and touch the world, alongside his business partner Rashad Faraj. The two partners have known each other since childhood and have always been interested in the creative field. While Khalid’s background is in advertising and Rashad’s in finance, they both left their day-to-day careers behind to pursue their ambition to set up Muharraqi Studios. The company now in its sixth year, has built an impressive reputation as the premier CG art studio as well as one of the leading architectural visualisers

in the region. During this period, ‘M-Studios’ have worked on some of the largest projects in the region and with some of the leading architects both locally and internationally. The studio is also engaged in a number of other projects related to gaming, software development and a full-length animated feature film. “Every day, we want to learn more and continue to improve and develop our capabilities. We will not take on an assignment unless we are truly inspired by it,” says Khalid Al Muharraqi.

For more information please visit www.muharraqi-studios.com


FEATURE NAME: Bader Yousif Murad COMPANY: Bader Models LOCATION: Kingdom of Bahrain You might have heard of Bader Models at some point if you are at all interested in aviation. You might have heard of them if you are a property developer and wanted to commission a company to produce a top-of-the-line physical scaled model of your development. Bader Models specialises in quality scale models of exceptional craftsmanship and detail. “We produce architectural, industrial and urban models, built to precise specifications, giving our clients a realistic model down to the smallest detail.” The guy that heads Bader Models is the man Bader Yousif Murad who is considered the leader in the business of miniature models production and respected for converting his childhood hobby into a multi-million-dollar venture. Bader and his team recently came out with a bunch of USB flash drives that are modelled after real commercial airlines’ tail wings! They even have classic airlines that aren’t around anymore. It’s just the tail wing but, you can get any airline and any colour tail wing USB flash drive you want – this service was recently commended on MTV for its innovation

Bader Yousif Murad and creativity. “Fine quality models are more than replicas ... they are objects that reveal something of one’s status and lifestyle, says Bader Murad. He adds “it is ironic that I am known worldwide since I started way back in 1997. But in Bahrain I have been known only during the last three years.” During the last two years, and as part of its global presence strategy, Bader Models officially opened three new branch offices in Chicago, Jeddah and Doha, marking the

beginning of a series of branch openings worldwide. This year, three new offices will be inaugurated in Los Angeles, London and Abu Dhabi. Bader believes that having offices all around the world will help it face the competition better, provide a larger market share and give the company direct contact with its major clients for any quick advice or enquiry.

For more information please visit www.badermodels.com

NAME: Farah Faraj COMPANY: MyGym LOCATION: Kingdom of Bahrain

Farah Faraj

The sound of screaming children is usually the turning point for most people to get out of the house and plunge in to starting up their own business or climbing the corporate ladder. The more successful you are, the more time you spend out of the family home … Well not for Farah Faraj. Five years ago Faraj decided that she wanted to make a career change but still carry on with her passion of working with children. After weeks and months of research, Faraj founded MyGym; a program and facility devised to help children aged from six weeks through to 13 years of age develop physically, cognitively and emotionally. The rest as they say is history ... but this isn’t something that Farah always wanted to do. Typically, and almost like every person out there, we often think we know what we want to do, rather than actually known what we want to do. “This was never something I thought about doing when I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor but ended up working in an investment bank before I moved to Bahrain.” Now a household name, MyGym is a vital tool for the majority of parents in Bahrain; they heard about us through friends, Facebook, Google. “I have strived to create a family feel to our facility and I believe that with the help and support of my fantastic staff I have managed to do so.” Now in its fourth year , the MyGym experience has taught Farah a great deal about entrepreneurship and still she has a lot more to learn. “I now strongly believe ‘once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur’; it becomes addictive and you are always looking out for the next opportunity.”

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TRAVEL AND TOURISM

BAHRAIN RANKS IN TOP 50 TOURIST DESTINATIONS Switzerland still tops the list of leading tourist destinations, and three MENA countries, including Bahrain, make the top 50 list. Gulf Insider presents the latest survey by the World Economic Forum, in cooperation with Booz & Company.

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he top echelons of the global tourism industry are now only partly German-speaking: as a holiday destination, Austria has slipped two places compared with 2008 in the ‘Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011,’ and now ranks fourth. By contrast, Germany has made further progress amongst the leading trio, and is now positioned behind global tourism champion Switzerland in second spot. France is likewise one of the winners in this long-term study. While this Western European destination ranked only tenth in 2008, it has now risen to third spot in the international ranking. The global tourism survey has been put together for the fourth time by the World Economic Forum, working jointly in a strategic partnership with the international strategy consultants Booz & Company. The resulting ranking of the 139 states surveyed was presented in March immediately ahead of ITB Berlin travel trade show. The analysis focuses on the framework conditions for the respective travel industries in areas such as health and safety, infrastructure, price levels, the cultural offer, environmental protection and legislative regulation. Germany came out strongly in the evaluation of long-term and continuous investments in sustainable tourism concepts and environmental protection initiatives. Cultural and landscape-

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related resources in particular, such as the ‘Wattenmeer’ (the Wadden Sea mudflats, which have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009), are a key asset for Germany as a travel destination. France, a star performer in the fresh rankings, has put its faith since 2008 in a newly-formulated national tourism strategy aimed at attracting new visitor segments, for

The overall average score on the framework conditions for tourism in the travel destinations studied remains largely stable compared with 2008. instance from the Middle East and Asia. To that end, investments have been made in modernising hotels, in revising hotel classifications and in international marketing activities. To cushion the consequences of the economic crisis, the French state is further supporting the travel industry via a drastic reduction in VAT for tourism services. Generally, the overall average score on

Nabih Maroun

the framework conditions for tourism in the travel destinations studied remains largely stable compared with 2008. “For the established travel destinations, preserving the status quo is definitely not a sustainable strategy for the future in order to win out over new, aspirational travel regions from Eastern Europe, the Middle East or Asia,” says Jürgen Ringbeck, Senior Partner and tourism expert with Booz & Company. “For these dynamic regions, we identified significantly above-average structural improvements during the study.”

Asia as a Growth Market

Overall, the dynamic in the tourism sector is moving away from the established regions such as Europe and North America, and towards the East. In the Asia-Pacific Region, international tourist arrivals from 2000 to 2010 increased nearly twice as fast (85 per cent) as the global average (39 per cent). China (which UNWTO identified in 2010 as being the third-most visited country, measured by international tourist arrivals) is a key growth driver in this trend. The results of the latest survey, the ‘Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011,’ reflect this above-average dynamism: over the past four years, the People’s Republic of China has made up 23 places, and now ranks 39. The country


TRAVEL AND TOURISM

benefits considerably from strategic investments in infrastructure and the tourism industry – not least for Expo 2010 in Shanghai and for the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. However, rapid economic growth in the most populated country in the world, and of course the consequences of the boom in tourism, are also bringing ecological problems in their wake. “Growth, pure and simple, is often to be found at the forefront of structural policy. Environmental protection and soft tourism concepts generally still don’t get much of a lookin. When it comes to sustainability, many regions reveal a marked need to up their game,” says Ringbeck.

Gulf States Overtaking North African Tourism Strongholds

Three MENA countries are included in the top 50 rankings of leading tourism destinations – Bahrain (2011 ranking: 40), Qatar (2011 ranking: 42), and Tunisia (2011 ranking: 47). Nevertheless, the trends in the index clearly show that traditional North African destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt are falling back in the rankings, as Arab countries in the Gulf continue to drive deeper into the global travel and tourism stage with supporting investments in developing regulatory, business environment and infrastructure and particularly human, cultural and natural resources to overtake the

North African countries. For instance Egypt is currently ranked 75, but has already lost seven places over the past four years. By contrast, the Kingdom of Bahrain has made up eight places since 2008. And Oman has made up even more, moving up 15 places (2011 ranking: 61). The current political unrest in many North African and Arab countries may have a negative impact on the overall situation, at least in the short term. For example, a major tourism event scheduled for March in Bahrain, the Formula 1 Championship race, has been postponed. “But if the political situation stabilises, then the states concerned could rapidly recover lost ground and open up their markets for further tourism investments, while focusing on improving the overall business environment, which would have a positive and lasting impact on tourism competitiveness,” says Nabih Maroun, Partner at Booz & Company.

the economic and debt crisis, which hit both destinations particularly hard. In Greece, for example, the effects of general strikes on air traffic, and thus on the tourist trade, are apparent. Portugal is suffering above all due to a lack of funds for urgently-needed infrastructure investments, dropping three places compared with 2008 and now only ranking 18. Greece is now only ranked 29 in the current list, down from 22 in 2008. One real winner in this year’s survey is Montenegro. The Balkan state is even writing environmental protection into its constitution, and is relying on sustainable hotel development as it establishes its mountain regions as popular walking and skiing destinations. The deliberate decision not to embrace mass tourism, as for instance Spain elected to do in the 1980s, has allowed the destination to leap from a ranking of 59 in 2008 to 36 in the latest survey. GFI

European Winners and Losers

The full report, and the individual assessments, can be downloaded from: www.weforum.org/ttcr

Notwithstanding all this, Europe is still heavily represented in the top ten rankings. A total of seven European destinations hold places in this leading group. When it comes to the losers in the survey, amongst the European tourism destinations it is Greece and Portugal which stand out. The results for these popular holiday destinations reflect to a large extent the consequences of

Booz & Company is a leading global management consulting firm, helping the world’s top businesses, government ministries and organisations. For the Ideation Centre, Booz & Company’s leading think tank in the Middle East, visit www.ideationcenter.com.

Gulf Insider June 2011

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ONLINE REMITTANCE

INTRODUCING SMART MONEY Gulf Insider spoke to Mr Ibrahim Nonoo, Managing Director and CEO of BFC Group Holdings, about the launch of their online remittance service, Smart Money.

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hat is different about Bahrain Financing Company (BFC)? BFC is the oldest and largest exchange company in Bahrain with 25 strategically located branches across the kingdom. Smart Money is our virtual 26th branch. We are committed to evolving and strive to be the most competitive money transfer and foreign exchange company in the markets we operate in. Our rates are consistently among the best in Bahrain. We value our customers and are committed to delivering high standard of services through our branches and via our online BFC Smart Money service. We understand that sending money through secure and reliable sources is always one of life’s worries - it’s what you work for and at the end of the day money is not easy to come by. So we want to make sure everyone who comes through our doors gets the best deal possible. What is Smart Money? The kingdom’s first dedicated online money transfer service, BFC Smart Money guarantees the best exchange rates, and allows customers to securely remit money online to anywhere in the world. It’s something we were working on throughout 2010 and it’s still in the soft launch phase. It is working very well and we’ve had 100 per cent growth in registration month on month. The service has been well received in the market and has generated immense interest from remitters in Bahrain. Further boosting BFC Smart Money,

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we have recently introduced EzRemit Online cash transfer service allowing customers to send cash online within minutes to family and friends at over 30,000 EzRemit locations worldwide. Why have you launched Smart Money? The world is moving into the digital era and more people want convenience and ease of use. One of our aims is to have a BFC branch in every location in Bahrain. With Smart Money I now feel that we have a branch in everyone’s home.

We want to make sure everyone who comes through our doors gets the best deal possible. Online services have changed the financial services industry in the sense of ease of use. People are living hectic lives, there’s a lot of road traffic and it can sometimes be difficult to leave the office. BFC’s Smart Money service enables customers to send money safely and securely from their home or workplace while benefiting from the best exchange rates in Bahrain. Moreover, if someone needs to transfer money while on vacation or a business trip, they just need to log onto Smart Money from anywhere in the world and the money will be there the next day. What would you say to apprehensive

Mr Ibrahim Nonoo

users concerned about internet safety and/or hidden charges? Try it. It is fully secure as security was a major part of this initiative. All the firewalls and internet security that are necessary are in place to ensure that BFC Smart Money is a secure service. Secured by VeriSign the service ensures that financial transactions processed through the system are highly secure and customer information is kept confidential at every stage. As for hidden charges; come to us. We are totally transparent with our rates. What you pay on the internet is the same as what you pay in any one of our branches. How do you use Smart Money? Initially it’s a four step process: you register, log on, pick the bank you want to send the money to and then make the payment. After registering it is even simpler, taking all of about two minutes to complete the process. Whoever uses the site that I have spoken to since the soft launch confirms that it is very easy to use. However there are always improvements that can be made and we always value our customer feedback. We are also on Facebook and Twitter as they are great social media tools to get your messages across to the public. The BFC Bahrain Facebook page for instance is very informative; rate sheets are uploaded daily, there is a currency calculator, live exchange rates, etc. GFI

For more information visit www.bfc.com.bh


BANKING CHARGES

THE GREAT GCC FOREIGN EXCHANGE RIP-OFF, AND HOW TO AVOID IT Knowing your exchange rates should be key when transferring funds overseas says Paul Hayward.

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oreign exchange is a very lucrative activity in the GCC - for the banks and exchange houses - but not so lucrative for your bottom line. The typical pricing model for international payments can be expensive, opaque and fraught with hidden charges. If you are like other expats living in the Gulf, you convert and send hard-earned dinars or dirhams back home from time to time. The online currency converters may tell you there are 3.67 dirhams to the US dollar (or some equivalent in your home currency), but that’s not the amount posted by financial institutions, and certainly not the amount that will reach your final destination. Do you know the difference between a competitive exchange rate, and an artificially inflated one? Here are a few tips to keep a few of your dinars and dirhams from draining away: • What you see is not always what you get. The posted rate may be a nontradable (that is, imaginary) rate. And extra fees and commissions may make it irrelevant anyway. It pays to ask questions of your financial institution, and not take

their posted rate at its face value.

• Convenience costs. It may be tempting

to just convert and send funds from your GCC bank account, and for small bank drafts or payments, that’s the easiest and probably best strategy. But if you are planning on converting large amounts, an inflated rate will add up quickly. It pays to shop around! If you are paying a commission or exchange fee, make sure it pays you back-with lower rates. It may be to your advantage to pay a flat fee up front if you can access better rates. Over a certain threshold, it may pay you handsomely! With the world so interconnected, you do have access to online alternatives. Various foreign exchange (“forex”) brokers offer professional forex trader rates, even to the casual user. You will need to do some paperwork to open and fund a forex account, because there are international money laundering laws they must follow. And you will need to watch those pesky banking wire fees you will be charged to get the account funded. But if you have the time and patience, the extra effort will be well

worth it-in the many additional dollars or pounds or euros that will end up in your home account. One recent forex innovation is the option to park funds in sub-accounts, each denominated in a different major currency. Holding your funds in US dollars or euros will help you lock in funds for a rainy day, or for a future planned transaction. If you think the US dollar will go down against your home euro or Aussie dollar (and by extension your dirham account, pegged as it is to the dollar), then this is also an excellent way for you to hedge against currency volatility. You will never escape foreign exchange fees completely, but with some knowledge and foresight you can try to keep more dinars and dirhams for yourself the next time you need to make an international transfer. Figure out those service charges and inflated rates before you pay them, and then make sure there are no better alternatives. Good luck with your next transfer! GFI

Paul Hayward is Dubai Managing Director of OANDA, a foreign currency exchange company.

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Gulf Roundup

By Annabel Kantaria

The illusion of cheap flights

There was a flurry of excitementi last month as news spread that Emirates Airline had removed its fuel surcharge in the face of falling oil prices, taking up to Dhs 300 off the cost of an economy class ticket and Dhs 1,040 off a business class fare, in a move it hoped would boost passenger traffic. It was timely news: Those who hadn’t yet booked their summer holidays were spurred into taking action before prices rose again, and Emirates garnered much praise for making such an honourable move. Concurrently, although not in any way connected, Etihad Airways, which flies out of Abu Dhabi, launched a promotion that offered up to 40 per cent off fares in economy class during May. Gulf residents, resigned to paying extra-high prices for tickets to leave the region, felt a ripple of interest. The UAE is a small country to be home two leading airlines; a little rivalry between the two would only be natural. Etihad was, after all, crowned as the Middle East’s Leading Airline at last week’s World Travel Awards, while Emirates has declared itself the “world’s largest airline by scheduled international passenger kilometres flown”. Were the two about to engage in a price war that would ultimately mean cheaper flights home? We expats kicked our heels. For about two minutes. Because those who went online to check fares on the handful of carriers that fly direct between the UK and UAE soon discovered that, even without the fuel surcharge on Emirates, flying out of Dubai is still an expensive undertaking. The cheapest economy class tickets to London in August cost from Dhs 3,745 on British Airways to Dhs 3,905 on Etihad, with Virgin Atlantic and Emirates falling inside that narrow band. Furthermore, travel agents warned that ticket prices across all destinations were

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set to increase by up to 25 per cent from that month, and may rise even further as summer began. Speaking to Emirates 24/7, travel agent Ismail Juha said that “several airlines” – which he didn’t name – had already increased their fares by 35 per cent this month. It’s a view shared by customers who left comments on the Gulf News website claiming that fares had actually gone up, not down. “Emirates has not reduced fares – it has merely assimilated the fuel surcharge into its pricing strategy,” wrote a reader who wished to remain anonymous. “A few days back the fares were much lower than what’s available online now,” wrote Ranjit Menon from Dubai. So, if the removal of the fuel surcharge didn’t exactly spark the price war that customers hoped for, what did it achieve? A surge of good feeling towards Emirates plus a rush of new bookings as people blindly finalised their summer holidays. Job done, I’d say.

Here come the big spenders

It’s fun to shop overseas – everyone loves to bring something a little different or “exotic” back from their travels – but, when it comes to shopping abroad, noone, it seems, beats the Arab nations when they’re holidaying in London. Last month, the annual Globe Shopper Calendar revealed that it expects Middle Eastern shoppers, in particular those from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to spend hundreds of millions this summer in London’s West End alone. The research, conducted by New West End Company, which represents retailers in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, found that, while the average Brit parts with £120 per shopping trip in London, the average Arab blows £1,877 per trip to the West End shops. Taken at face value, the Middle Easterner’s love of London’s shops is a surprising thing: Dubai is second only to London when it comes to the number of global retail brands present in the city


GCC and, when it comes to shopping experience, there’s just no comparison between the UAE’s swanky, all-singing, all-dancing retail palaces and the UK’s often dirty and rainsodden streets, guarded by angry traffic wardens. So what is it about London that’s so appealing to Middle Eastern shoppers? First, for the discerning shopper, there’s the matter of stock. While we may have the big brands in the Gulf, our branches don’t always carry the full collections, meaning fashionistas flashing the cash in London can pick up something as yet unseen in the GCC. In terms of electronics, sexy, new products are often launched in the UK months before they arrive (legitimately) in the Gulf. Add to that the practicalities of lower prices, a weak pound and better customer service, and marinade with the novelty and authenticity of shopping in a little boutique in a “real”, open-air street, rather than simply drifting into the next air-conditioned, luxury shop in a mall packed with air-conditioned, luxury shops, and you have some of the appeal of shopping in London. But finally – and possibly most importantly – there’s the unquantifiable and heady aura of having “shopped in Europe”: The invaluable kudos of having picked up a much coveted, limited edition item “in London, sweetie” (cue simpering smile and implication that you’re far too cosmopolitan to consider shopping locally). Retailers in the West End, meanwhile, are bending over backwards to welcome the clientele who could ultimately save their bottom line this year. A “London High Life” package, launched last week, offers Middle Eastern shoppers an array of bespoke privileges and offers that money can’t buy. A suite in one of Park Lane’s finest hotels; personal fittings with top designers ; tea in a private room at Asprey; a VIP day out at the Formula 1; or a chance to view Grace Kelly’s diary are just some of the experiences on offer via the London Luxury website, which is available in Arabic as well as English. Myself, I won’t be looking for any of those luxuries in London this summer – but then I won’t be spending £1,877 each time I pop to the shops, either.

Spooky goings-on

I once employed a Filipina housekeeper who saw it as her duty not just to keep my house clean, but also to save me from evil spirits. Despite being educated enough to know better, she was, like many Filipinos, very superstitious. For example, if we went grocery shopping together, she would leap into my path at opportune moments to save me from receiving bad luck from fellow shoppers whom she “could tell” were cursed, or from evil spirits hiding in the produce section. I found it mildly amusing for a while but it started to grate when she became convinced that my house was haunted. There’s nothing funny about getting home from a ten-hour day at the office to be greeted by the spooked face of a housekeeper who believes a poltergeist’s been tampering with the air-conditioning. Her most frequent complaint, though, was the mysterious footsteps she would hear walking upstairs when she was home alone. “And sometimes the bedroom door bangs, too,” she’d say in that eerie voice that teenagers use when planning a séance. “The last house I worked in was haunted, too. Two ghosts.” (This last piece of information delivered with a knowing nod and a raised eyebrow). I tried to explain to her that my house was built in 2005. We were the first people ever to live in it. The chances of it truly being haunted were minimal – maybe I should just get the electrician out to check the air-con? She argued that someone may have died while it was being built, or perhaps it was built on a burial site. Not knowing the history of the piece of desert upon which my house is built, I couldn’t really argue. It’s also difficult not to be moved when you live with someone whose belief is so strong. A Pakistani gardener refuses to walk past one particular house in the area, claiming there’s a cold chill surrounding it and strange noises coming from it at night, even though it’s uninhabited. While three others backed up his story, none were willing to tell the reporter which house it is that’s known as “bhoot house” (ghost house). But, back to my own house. I asked my current housekeeper, also Filipina, if she believes in spirits and if she feels our house is haunted. “I believe in it,” she said. “But there’s nothing in this house. If there’s a spirit in the house I know because my hairs stand on end.” I didn’t tell her about the unmistakable footsteps I hear upstairs when everyone else is out.

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GCC

Will the UAE’s expats be seduced by Qatar?

I see two types of expat in Dubai: On the one hand there are those who are here to make money and advance their career for a couple of years before galloping off on the expat trail, moneybags clinking, to Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai or Russia. They’re the expats who ride the world like a merry-goround, jumping on and off the fastest horses before completing the circle, enriched, exhausted and content to be back in their home countries, mortgage paid off and kids’ university fees secured. Then, on the other hand, there are those who came to Dubai intending to do the same, but who fell in love with the UAE. With the gentle grace of its proud people; with the exotic quaver of the adhan (call to prayer) floating on an evening breeze; with the golden sand of the rolling dunes and the shifting mass of the Arabian Sea. These are the expats who are here for more than money or career – and they’re also the ones who’ll probably never return home. The UAE, though, while offering stability, diversity and peace, is a difficult lover for an expat to take on long-term. While it’s happy to entertain expats for a while – to amuse them with a fling – it offers no long-term commitment. No citizenship, no rights. Lose your job, break the law, turn 60 – any of these and the UAE will spit you out before you’ve time to say “one-way ticket to Heathrow”. Even those who’ve committed to life here by investing in property aren’t protected – every home owner here has probably woken in the early hours of the morning in a cold sweat over what’ll happen to their property if they lose their job and have 30 days to leave the country. Sure, there’s a property

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investor’s visa available but, valid for just six months, it doesn’t allow you to put your children in school, get a driving license or live like a resident. But lovers of Dubai have an alternative; a suitor offering an engagement if not a marriage. It may not be Dubai but it’s in the Gulf – a cousin, with some familial resemblance, if you like. Ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Qatar. Qatar was ranked in April by the Monster Employment Index as the number-one place in the Middle East offering job growth in the last six months. While the UAE’s population rose by 65 per cent in the last five years and job growth shrunk to just two per cent, Qatar has more opportunities than you could shake an Emirati stick at. It’s not just hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, it’s showing employment growth of 34 per cent; it’s building the world’s tallest tower (and we know how important these things are in this region); and – crucially – it’s the Middle Eastern country judged by The Economist to show the most political stability in these turbulent times. But there’s one more thing, and this may swing it for those who fell in love with the feel of the Middle East: Qatar has just granted its first long-term residency permits based on real estate ownership rather than employer. According to ExpatForum. com, the new ruling allows expatriates to substitute a sponsor for property ownership, meaning that those out of a job could remain in the country for five years at a time, on the basis that they owned a house there. It’s the stuff about which the UAE’s expats can currently only dream. Could this be the beginning of a Dubai-Qatar braindrain – or will the UAE start offering expats more in the way of commitment?


business

Qataris’ USD700m Foray into Biggest ‘Downtown Development’ in America The Qatari government has made its first foray into the US property market by financing the USD700m construction of CityCentreDC in Washington. - By Louise Armitstead

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atari Diar Real Estate, the property arm that has so far focused on investments in London, has emerged as the backer of the ten-acre project which is said to be the biggest ‘downtown development’ in America at the moment. The Qataris are backing Hines, the US developer, and Archstone, the residential investor and operator, which will run the mixeduse project. According to Fadi Moussalli, a regional director of Jones Lang Lasalle, the Qataris are in talks over a string of deals in America. He told the UAE-based paper The National that Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund was “in the process of looking to gain more exposure to US real estate”. He added: “They are relatively overexposed to the UK. It doesn’t mean they won’t do more in the UK, but they need to balance the portfolio.” Money from the gas-rich state has helped fund some of the London’s best-known developments. Qatari Diar is currently financing the construction of the Shard, set to be Europe’s tallest building when it is finished. The Qataris are also behind One Hyde Park, the Knightsbridge development designed by the Candy brothers. Foreign investment in US commercial property more than doubled in 2010 to USD9.7bn, according to Real Capital Analytics. GFI

The Qataris are backing Hines, the US developer, and Archstone, the residential investor and operator, which will run the mixed-use project.

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HOSPITALITY

REPOSITIONING LUXURY The rebranding of Sofitel has been courageous and extreme; Gulf Insider speaks to Vice President Sofitel Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean and General Manager, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, Sami Nasser about the brand’s repositioning.

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ife is Magnifique. This is the slogan of the campaign in which Sofitel repositioned itself from high end hospitality into the luxury segment. The company’s ambition? To be the leading French and European ambassador in the international hotel sector. Sami Nasser has over 20 years of hospitality operational experience and his past achievements include boosting the Polish Sofitel property profits. Now, as Vice President Sofitel Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean and General Manager, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, he looks to aid in the current growth of Sofitel in the Middle East region. He plans to do this through perseverance and taking a hard-line stance; “I’m very tough on quality and detail with staff,” he said in an interview with Gulf Insider. “In fact, I personally interview every potential ambassador who are going to be in direct contact with the customer. I look for passionate people.” What sets Sofitel apart is that the brand creates non-standard luxury hotels, each one different, by judiciously combining its origins - French elegance, savoir-faire and the art of hospitality with the best of each country’s culture. Nasser worked with Sofitel owners on repositioning the brand and reviewing and reducing the netwrok. “Before the rebranding we had many properties that did not meet the new standards so they were closed down. The hotels had to fit in with our new luxury branding as well as the French savoir faire. Sofitel must be the only luxury

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hotel company that actually boasts of having less properties; more than 110 establishments that did not comply with the new standards have lost their branding since 2007. Yet under the new banner of pure luxury, Sofitel looks to expand, intending to pursue strong selective development, specifically in target cities, to reach the ultimate goal of a network of 150 hotels. Each new hotel and indeed previous upgraded properties will now fall under one of new two labels - ‘Sofitel Legend’ and ‘Sofitel So.’

I personally interview every potential ambassador who are going to be in direct contact with the customer. I look for passionate people. The Legend is “a label, a seal, a private club of timeless establishments, often housed in registered buildings with a long and established history, legendary locations that have witnessed the march of history and major destinations in the city or country that serves as their backdrop,” as it outlines in their official profile. The first Legend was the Métropole d’Hanoï in Vietnam, which became the Sofitel Legend Metropole

Hanoi in July 2009. Upcoming hotels include the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam (Netherlands), opening this month; the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan (Egypt), reopening in September; and the Sofitel Legend Cartagena Santa Clara (Columbia), opening in November. ‘Sofitel So’ is described as “the designer, ‘boutique hotel’ vision of Sofitel, featuring trendy, resolutely contemporary locations. Each Sofitel So blends design with pleasure and style with personality to express the very essence of the designation. This concept combines the Sofitel art de vivre and a style that contributes to an international signature derived from fashion, art or design.” The first location was the Sofitel So Mauritius, which opened in December 2010. Sofitel So Bangkok is also set to open in December of this year. As part of the Middle Eastern expansion, Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa opened in February. Situated on the west coast of Bahrain, prestigiously positioned on Zallaq beach, this hotel offers its guests a haven of tranquillity. At first glance the new hotel seems like quite an imposing structure, with its back to the rest of Bahrain. This is because every window faces out towards the ocean. The most interesting aspect of Sofitel Bahrain however, is the Thalassa sea & spa; the hotel boasts the first thalassotherapy spa in the GCC, a type of therapy that employs the use of sea water in its treatments. Covering 2,000 square metres on two levels and


HOSPITALITY with 14 treatment rooms, this dedicated spa aims to attract visitors from all around the world. Sports organisations in the region are keen to utilise the benefits offered and patients can even be signed off by doctors for specific treatments! Sami Nasser is based at the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach hotel which is located in the heart of New Dubai in Jumeirah Beach Residence on the Walk, one of the most sought after locations in the city. The Walk is a lively, mile-long promenade with 200 shops, cafes and restaurants, so you can be sure to enjoy your leisure time with breathtaking views of the sea and Dubai Marina in a luxurious hotel which boasts contemporary design, superb fitness facilities and excellent food and beverage outlets. All this expansion and growth is impressive, but we know nothing is perfect, and so we had to ask about the challenges. “Within this region our biggest challenges are the economy and political instability,” Nasser admits. “What is most exciting about the hotel industry however, is that no two days are the same and the challenge is great.” With so many years of experience in the industry, Nasser admits much has changed since he began his career. “Social trends and ideas have changed and in particular new and social media have changed the face of this and many other industries.” Part of the Sofitel development has also included updating their Facebook and Twitter accounts frequently, as well as utilising sites such as Trip Advisor. “We have nothing to hide and social networking has become a great marketing tool.” The rebranding has gone extremely well so far, however there is still a long way to go. But that has not stopped the international recognition pouring in. In comparison to 30 international awards in 2007, Sofitel received a whopping 100 in 2010! Also in 2010, Sofitel was recognised by J.D. Power and Associates as a luxury brand that had made the best progress in terms of customer satisfaction. Moreover, Smith Travel Research classified Sofitel in the luxury hotel segment in 2010, rather than in the highend hotel segment, a testimony to all the hard work put in by the Sofitel team to accomplish their ultimate goals. GFI

Sami Nasser

For more information visit www.sofitel.com

Gulf Insider June 2011

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dubai

British tourist ‘beaten to death in Dubai prison’ A diplomatic investigation is under way after a tourist was allegedly beaten to death by guards in a Dubai prison cell. By Andrew Hough, Caroline Gammell and Damien McElroy

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ritish embassy staff interviewed prisoners in the notorious Bur Dubai police station following Lee Bradley Brown’s death. Guy Warrington, the British Consul General, spoke to Lt General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the Dubai police chief, several times to “stress the importance” of a full and open investigation into the death. Officials raised concerns for the safety of a four unnamed Britons being housed in the jail amid fears they are in danger because they blew the whistle on the beating. The incident risked turning into a diplomatic crisis for Dubai after consular officials from Australia and Canada also demanded access to their nationals currently held at the centre. Dubai police claimed Mr Brown, 39, had shown no signs of bruising or signs of assault when he died. They claim he suffocated on his vomit in his cell. Mr Brown, from east London, was on a last-minute holiday in Dubai when he was arrested and thrown in jail after a row at the Burj al Arab hotel. The hotel, which claims to be

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“world’s most luxurious”, is popular with celebrities and room prices start at more than $1,600 a night. Following his arrest on April 6 for assault, intimidating behaviour and use

Following his arrest on April 6 for assault, intimidating behaviour and use of abusive language, it was alleged he was then beaten up by up to six police officers and then dragged from his cell. of abusive language, it was alleged he was then beaten up by up to six police officers and then dragged from his cell. Mr Brown was not allowed access to a lawyer or given enough food and water

for six days, it was claimed. Hotel staff said it had made a report to police that Mr Brown was arrested on Saturday following a complaint by the management that he had attacked a Nepalese housekeeper. A hotel source said the housekeeper was sent to his room after he requested assistance. While he appeared to be agitated, it is understood he had not been drinking. He is said to have attacked the woman and threw her out of the room. “She suffered injuries and bruises on her body for which she had to seek treatment,” the hotel source said. The first his family heard about the incident was when his sister received a call from a fellow inmate who contacted her in the UK. The prisoner had apparently found her number as the next of kin contact in his passport which was left in his cell. Mr Brown’s family were formally told about his death by Foreign Office (FCO) officials. Speaking of her shock at her eldest son’s death, Mr Brown’s mother Doris, 67, said: “First thing I knew he was on


dubai

Lee Bradley Brown flew alone to Dubai for a holiday holiday in Dubai - next thing I know he’s dead - part of me has died with him”. Human Rights groups called for “full inquiry”. Amnesty International claimed Dubai police confirmed its criminal investigation department had launched an investigation. “We are told that if a police officer is found to have broken the law, he will face justice,” said Tim Hancock, its UK campaigns director. A FCO spokesman confirmed Mr Brown died “while in police custody”. The family was being offered consular assistance. “The Consul General has spoken directly to the Dubai Police at the highest level on a number of times to stress the importance of a full investigation,” he said. “The police have assured us that they are investigating and we are remaining in close touch with them. “We have spoken to the Dubai Police about the safety of the four other British Nationals detained at the same police station and made a number of requests on their behalf.” He said officials interviewed at the

police complex and were contacting their families. A Dubai police official, who did not want to be named, said Mr Brown was vomiting the day before his death but did not complain, or ask for, medical help. “The torture story is a total fabrication and distortion of facts,” he said. “We never beat suspects in police

The death... was caused by suffocation as result of outflow of vomiting liquids into his respiratory track. custody. (His) case was very simple and he was cooperating with the interrogators.” His case was referred to public prosecutors who met with him on last week but he was denied bail because of the severity of the charges. Essam Al Humaidan, the Dubai Public

Prosecutor, confirmed authorities were investigating the death. “All necessary measures have been taken immediately where the duty prosecutor swiftly moved to the scene of the incident and conducted a firsthand examination of the body and its whereabouts,” he said. A post mortem report, a copy of which was received by prosecutors, “had shown the death... was caused by suffocation as result of outflow of vomiting liquids into his respiratory track”. Blood and urine tests “revealed traces of hashish in the blood of the deceased”. Referring to the hotel incident with the maid, he added: “(Mr Brown) pulled her from her hair and tried to push her from the balcony of the sixth floor in the hotel before a group of hotel employees contained him after a violent resistance.” A spokesman for the Jumeirah Group, which manages the hotel, said: “We are aware of this issue and understand it is being handled by the relevant authorities. “We therefore have no further comment.” GFI

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British businessmen in Dubai sentenced to 10 years for fraud Two of the Gulf’s most prominent British expatriates have been jailed for ten years in Dubai and fined USD500 million for defrauding a bank over projects including a giant polo hotel project. - By Richard Spencer Charles Ridley and Ryan Cornelius were arrested in mid-2008

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he downfall of Bahrain-based Charles Ridley, a private banker, and Ryan Cornelius, a hotelier, property developer and investor, has sent shock waves through the expatriate community and cast a harsh light on the way Dubai handles financial crime. The two men, along with a Dubaibased British property developer, Arthur Fitzwilliam, who was acquitted, and two Pakistani officials of the Dubai Islamic Bank were arrested in mid-2008. Their first trial collapsed last year when the judge refused to give a verdict. Mr Ridley was accused of conspiring with the two bank officials to obtain a USD501 million loan under false pretences. The money was to be lent to Mr Cornelius to invest in a variety of projects, including buying a Canadian oil refinery to rebuild it in Pakistan, and Mr Fitzwilliam’s ambitious plans for a polo, equestrian, hotel and luxury villa complex in the desert outside Dubai. The two men were told to restructure the loan in 2007. Admissions made in the restructuring process were used in the

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case against them, though they claimed they were given a waiver covering legal liabilities. They also claimed that the polo

The two men were told to restructure the loan in 2007. Admissions made in the restructuring process were used in the case against them, though they claimed they were given a waiver covering legal liabilities. development, which was offered as security against the loan and was seized by the bank when they were arrested, covered the bank’s losses. The fine, to

be shared between all defendants, is intended to repay the bank. A Turkish banker and an American businessman were convicted in their absence. All three Britons had lived in the Gulf for more than 20 years and, in the case of Mr Ridley, children at public school in England, seemed to have a much-envied expatriate lifestyle. Mr Ridley became famous for the 50th birthday party he organised for his wife, Kino, on the beach of a hotel owned by Mr Cornelius in Kenya, which featured a game of beach rugby between his friends and a team of former international rugby stars hired and flown out for the event. Both the defence and prosecution have 15 days to appeal against the sentence. A spokesman for the families of Mr Cornelius and Mr Ridley said the sentence was “vindictive” and that friends feared they had become scapegoats for the bursting of Dubai’s government-fuelled property boom. Mrs Ridley refused to comment. GFI


saudi arabia

Innocent photos of this woman driving led to her arrest after she posted them online

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uthorities detained a Saudi woman last month after she launched a campaign against the driving ban for women in the ultraconservative kingdom and posted a videotape of herself behind the wheel on Facebook and YouTube to encourage others to copy her. Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called ‘Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,’ which urges authorities to lift the driving ban. She went on a test drive in the eastern city of Khobar and later posted a video of the experience. ‘This is a volunteer campaign to help the girls of this country’ learn to drive, al-Sherif says in the video. ‘At least for times of emergency, God forbid. What if whoever is driving them gets a heart attack?’ Human rights activist Walid Abou el-Kheir said al-Sherif was detained by the country’s religious police, who are charged with ensuring the kingdom’s rigid interpretation of Islamic teachings are observed. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world to ban women - both Saudi and foreign - from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor. Women are also barred from voting, except for chamber of commerce elections in two cities in recent years, and no woman can sit on the kingdom’s Cabinet. Women also cannot travel without permission from a male guardian and shouldn’t mingle with males who are not their husbands or brothers. The campaigners have focused on the importance of women driving in times of emergencies and in the case of low-income families. Al-Sherif said unlike the traditional argument in Saudi Arabia that driving exposes women to sinful temptations by allowing them to mingle with policemen and mechanics, women who drive can avoid sexual harassment from their drivers and protect their ‘dignity.’ Through Facebook, the campaigners are calling for a mass drive on June 17. To encourage women to get behind the wheel, al-Sherif went for a drive on Friday as another activist filmed her. Posted on YouTube and Facebook, it has now garnered more than 11,000 supporters.

Challenge: A Facebook page set up encourages women to take to their cars and drive on 17th June. Dressed in a headscarf and the all-encompassing black abaya all women must wear in public, al-Sharif said not all Saudi women are ‘queens’ who can afford to hire a driver. She extolled the virtues of driving for women, saying it can save lives, and time, as well as a woman’s dignity. Al-Sharif said she learned how to drive at the age 30 in New Hampshire. ‘We are humiliated sometimes because we can’t find a taxi to take us to work,’ she said. On their Facebook page, the group says women joining the campaign should not challenge authorities if they were stopped and questioned, and should abide by the country’s strict dress code. ‘We want to live as complete citizens, without the humiliation that we are subjected to everyday because we are tied to a driver,’ the Facebook message reads. ‘We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights.’ GFI

Gulf Insider June 2011

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LONDON PROPERTY

HOW OSAMA BIN LADEN HELPED PUSH UP PRIME UK HOUSE PRICES By Ian Cowie

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ragic events in New York a decade ago have had several unexpected consequences on this side of the Atlantic but surely the least likely to have been foreseen is an increase in prime UK residential property prices. Charles Ellingworth, a director of Cadogan Estates and founder of the HSBC subsidiary Property Vision, told me: “Wealthy Arabs don’t feel welcome in America anymore and so they have bought the top end of the British market instead. “The effect has been quite dramatic. Walk around Sloane Square at night and all the lights are off. The owners don’t live there anymore, they just visit for a couple of weeks a year.” He should know. Cadogan owns the freeholds of much of Chelsea and Knightsbridge, the estate having been formed three hundred years ago when the Second Baronet Cadogan married Elizabeth Sloane, daughter of Sir Hans Sloane, who had bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712. More recent factors which add to the attraction of top end British property for buyers from the Middle East include record oil prices and weak sterling. The latter factor makes all kinds of British assets cheaper for foreign investors and that has been reflected by stock market takeovers and country home purchases outside London. But the influx of rich foreign buyers

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and their influence at street level is most visible in many expensive parts of Britain’s capital; not just central areas. Thirty years ago, the pubs of Hampstead were filled with would-be intellectuals of modest means who often lived in bedsits nearby. Now many of these historic hostelries are eerily quiet even at weekends and several have closed. Oligarchs and oilrich trustafarians tend not to hang around in pubs, putting the world to rights – perhaps because they own it and have no wish to talk about it. Similarly, many of the most expensive residential streets in the capital – such as Bishops Avenue, the so-called ‘billionaires’ row’ in Highgate – are also strangely empty. But the simple explanation is that if you are rich enough to own a house there, you almost certainly own property elsewhere in the world. And, as Liberace pointed out, no matter how rich you are, you can only sleep in one bed at night. On a national level, the impact of foreign buyers is creating a two-tier housing market, with prices continuing to rise at the top end but with a downward trend across most other properties. The Halifax house price index shows a 3.7 per cent national decline over the last year – the biggest fall in 18 months – to an average price of £160,400. Peter Rollings, chief executive of estate agent Marsh & Parsons, commented: “Halifax’s figures indicate

that the nationwide housing market is in a precarious position, as the ongoing squeeze on mortgage finance takes its toll. “In London, the story is very different. We’ve seen some of our busiest months since 2007 this year, and are in the middle of another surge of activity. House prices have already risen 5 per cent this year, and we anticipate further rises as competition for good quality stock continues to heat up.” Like other estate agents, he says that more than 20 buyers are now registering for every prime London property placed on the market. Wealthy cash buyers and those with a substantial deposit, unaffected by the current mortgage famine, see the capital’s bricks and mortar as a sound investment – and rising house prices reinforce that trend. Some factors have nothing to do with macroeconomics or politics and everything to do with happier recent events. Mr Rollings explained: “London is set to retain its appeal to international buyers – especially after the spectacular global PR it received from the royal wedding.” While that may sound fanciful, the fact remains that house prices are set by markets which are driven by human emotion and sentiment as well as financial considerations. GFI


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US

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% In the US, just 1 per cent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income - an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret By Joseph E. Stiglitz

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t’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 per cent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 per cent control 40 per cent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. 25 years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 per cent and 33 per cent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 per cent have seen their incomes rise 18 per cent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high school degrees, the decline has been precipitous - 12 per cent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades - and more - has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years - whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies,

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has been massively negative - went on to receive large bonuses. Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin. Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are

Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid19th century. doing worse year after year is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this. First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets - our people - in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too

many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy. Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”- it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security - they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government - one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laboursaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middleclass, blue-collar jobs. Globalisation has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Much of today’s inequality is due to


US

manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favourable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest. When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 per cent in the US, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement - we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect - people outside the top 1 per cent increasingly live beyond their means. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 per cent rarely serve in the military -

the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labour rights. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care. Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 per cent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of

getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them. It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 per cent (and in some locations, and among some sociodemographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a fulltime job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from ‘food insecurity’ - given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 per cent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation - voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 per cent, comparable to the unemployment rate. GFI

Gulf Insider June 2011

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TRAVEL Venice

GREAT ESCAPES WITH TURKISH AIRLINES Taste la dolce vita. The sweet life is now easily attainable as Turkish Airlines increase their Italy network to reach six cities!

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taly; well known for romantic interludes, delicious foods and mouth-watering gelato, as well as deep cultural and historical roots. With a wonderful Mediterranean climate and so many landscapes and scenes to visit in one country, what better place is there to spend a couple of weeks this summer? In addition to their existing flights to Rome, Milan and Venice, Turkish Airlines will add a route to Genoa on the 8th June, flights to Naples on 28th June and flights to Turin on 2nd August. Whichever city you choose to fly to though, every other exciting town in Italy is easily in your reach.

Rome

Italy’s largest and most populated city is the capital, Rome aka the cultural capital of the world. Marvel as you wander through this beautiful, historical city’s narrow lanes or carrugi, visiting world famous sites and buildings such as the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona. Enjoy a mozzarella and tomato Panini at one of the street vendors or indulge in authentic Italian cuisine at any one of the restaurants that spill out onto the streets. All the while rubbing shoulders with some of the most fashionable people in the world and shopping in fabulous designer boutiques. This is the perfect place to begin your Italia vacation - after all don’t all roads lead to Rome?

Venice

Milan

The catwalk of Italy is Milan. Fashion capital of the world. It may have been accused of having no soul but this really is not the case as Milan becomes a hub for contemporary art, architecture and fashion. Fashionistas make a pilgrimage here to shop at designers’ flagship stores, or emerging label boutiques and chic concept shops. This city is also a bargain hunter’s paradise as samples, seconds and last season’s cast-offs are available in abundance. By night Milan really comes to life with its avantgarde theatre scene and chic, trendy nightclubs. Moreover, don’t forget, Milan is also home to two of Italy’s top football teams - AC Milan and Inter - so make sure you catch a game while there!

Forever the romantic, no trip to Italy is complete without a visit of Venice. Contemporary and traditional artists nestle side by side singing gondoliers and talented buskers. Here you forgo modern transportation for lazy gondolas and winding waterways. Hop on and off while visiting the sites of this floating city; check out the Piazza San Marco, at the heart of Venice, where stylish sidewalk cafes lie next to designer shops and you can shop, eat or even listen to live music performances; or visit the Doge’s Palace - arguably the most impressive building in Venice; and you must walk down Grand Canal which is lined with spectacular buildings and all kinds of boats.

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Milan

Naples

Known for its rich history, art, culture, architecture, music, and gastronomy, Naples has one of the greatest density of cultural resources and monuments that include 2,800 years of history. Its metropolitan area is the second most populated in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. From the piazzas and palaces to religious buildings and soaring structures, to art galleries and must-see museums - you will never run out of places to go and things to see in Naples. Moreover, don’t forget to check out the spectacular scenery as this city is located halfway between the volcano, Vesuvius, and another volcanic area, the Campi Flegrei.


TRAVEL Genoa. Photograph by Olgas

What You Need To Know Ticket prices: Before 15th June the net price without taxes will start at BD141. From 15th June to 31st August the net price without taxes will start at BD149. Net prices to Venice will start at BD163.

Genoa

With a long and important history stretching back centuries, the port city of Genoa is Italy’s sixth-biggest. Genoa may not have previously been known as a tourist hotspot, but this city is certainly up and coming with old meeting new in an eclectic mix of things to do. Meander through a labyrinth of medieval alleyways and find food shops nestled on the doorsteps of former palaces, and carpenters’ workshops sandwiched between designer furniture outlets. Enjoy unpretentious nightlife and fantastic food, fascinating museums and find art all around you. What’s more, Genoa is home to Europe’s largest aquarium - a must-see!

Turin

Turin may have gained a reputation for being Italy’s ‘forgotten city’ but with the Po River flowing through, the genteel hills overlooking the city, pleasant villas scattered about and the Italian Alps off in the distance, it is actually one of the most idyllic. Also, this year, a nine-month celebration (which began in March) for the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Italian state, will take place, the centre stage being in Turin. This means that Turin will host a non-stop calendar of art, design and fashion exhibitions, opera and concert performances, food and wine tastings, plus festivals of theatre, cinema, street art and music. Now that’s a very good reason to get there now!

Flight timings: (Applicable to all cities with small variations): Bahrain - Istanbul runs daily leaving Bahrain at 02.55 and arrive in Istanbul at 06.45 (local times). Connect from Istanbul at 09.25 and arrive in Genoa at 11.15. Flying time: Total flight time is 7 hours 20 minutes. Total transit time is 2 hours 40 minutes. Optimum stay period: Two weeks Car hire: From BD10 a day Hotel prices: Look on www.booking. com or www.tripadvisor.com to compare hotel prices for each city throughout the summer. GFI

For more information call Turkish Airlines on +973 1751 6100, visit www.thy.com or go to their office in the lobby of The Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel.

Gulf Insider June 2011

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CAR

MASERATI TROFEO JBF RAK MIDDLE EAST Maserati launches the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK Middle East onemake racing championship in the Middle East.

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ay marks a new date in the history of motorsport in the Middle East as Maserati launched the Maserati Trofeo one-make racing championship in the region. The series is backed by the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy and will feature up to 16 mechanically-identical Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo race cars battling it out over twelve races across the Middle East. This spectacular championship is set to visit the most prestigious racing circuits around the region with races planned to take place at Formula One tracks in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain as well as Qatar’s Losail Circuit and the Dubai Autodrome in the UAE. Gentlemen drivers from across the Middle East are able to sign up for the ‘arrive-and-drive’ championship. The cars are supplied and maintained by Maserati to ensure identical performance across the grid. The Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo has already proved its race capabilities in the region after two cars were entered into the 2010-2011 UAE GT Championship and secured three race victories out of a total of six podium finishes. The Maserati GranTurismo MC Trofeo

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Gulf Insider June 2011

is the racing version of the GranTurismo road car. The race car’s set up is tuned for the track use, keeping the optimal weight balance of the road-going car. It is powered by a 488bhp 4.7-litre V8 engine which drives the rear wheels through a paddle-shift gearbox which is able to change gears in just 60 milliseconds.

Gentlemen drivers from across the Middle East are able to sign up for the ‘arrive-and-drive’ championship. Packages on offer to drivers allow them to compete individually or in a pair for the season. All-inclusive costs range from USD135,000 to USD145,000 depending on the options chosen. The packages include the logistical management of the car, technical assistance at the circuit, a Maserati Trofeo race suit and VIP hospitality for driver and guests. The formula for each race weekend

will consist of two free practice sessions lasting 40 minutes, two qualifying sessions of 20 minutes and two races of 30 minutes duration. Umberto Cini, Managing Director of Maserati Middle East and Africa, is looking forward to the championship; “The launch of the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK Middle East is extremely important for the company, as it’s the first time we offer the Trofeo outside its home in Europe. With full support from the factory, we believe the Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK Middle East offers a unique platform for drivers in the region who are looking for a competitive championship racing with the exclusive benefits of racing with a brand like Maserati.” Cheerag Arya, CEO of JBF RAK, had this to say of the championship: “We are very happy to be part of this exciting new milestone for Maserati. As an exclusive brand, Maserati is recognised for its prestigious cars and we look forward to the arrival of the Trofeo Championship to the Middle East.” GFI

The Maserati Trofeo JBF RAK Middle East is set to debut in November 2011, with races taking place throughout the winter months into early 2012.


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ART

PHOTO SYNTHESIS Last month in Muharraq, Bahrain’s La Maison Jamsheer renowned artist Arthur D’Souza showcased his latest exhibition, ‘Photo Synthesis’ - a mix of science and photography. Arthur D’Souza

Divine Intervention

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hen did you begin your career as an artist? In a sense I have always been an artist. I was interested in art from a very young age, graduating with a degree in Applied Arts. I became a full-time artist four years ago. Why did you become an artist? Although I worked in the advertising and publishing industry as a creative

This technique allows me to express myself as an artist, through an art form that is unique and distinctive. professional I wanted to do more on a personal level. More than 17 years ago while juggling a piece of film and some coloured paper I chanced upon a technique that I refer to as “Positively Paper”. This technique allows me to express myself as an artist, through an art form that is unique and distinctive.

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Gulf Insider June 2011

Do you do anything else? Although art, photo and paint based, is my main pre-occupation at the moment, I have in the past helped run a grassroots movement in Bahrain providing a platform for emerging artists, photographers, musicians and the like. I also write and record the occasional ballad. What has been the biggest highlight in your artistic career so far? Obviously an appreciation of the art is important. I continue to get a fair share of appreciation but having a government minister buy a couple of pieces for display in a public forum is a memorable moment. It is also encouraging having people I do not know personally, buy and display my work in their homes. What is your main inspiration? What inspires you daily? As clichéd as it may sound, life has always provided me with all the inspiration I need. The motivations of people, the environment they live in, and the way they interact with each other are all raw material for my art. Where did you get the idea for Photo Synthesis? What is the


ART

Real People

Street Angel

exhibition about? The idea for the name Photo Synthesis came from a friend who commented on how the two, my art and the process in nature, seemed so similar. In nature, green plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into nutrients and life, while I turn paper and photographs (by definition, images created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface) into energetic pieces of art.

A friend commented on how the two, my art and the process in nature, seemed so similar. What does art mean to you? Why is it so important today? Art is a process that uses skill and an active creative gene. To me art is an expression that is as individual as a finger print. Art provokes and answers. In a world that is increasingly disillusioned and factitious, art - in its purest form - provides sustenance for the soul and quantifies those intangibles that contribute to our general wellbeing. Unfortunately this very reason has

Urban Garden turned art into a trading device with its economic value far outstripping its aesthetic benefits. What are your future plans? In the short term I will continue to produce more art and in the process grow and discover newer boundaries. In the long term I hope to widen my horizons and make an impact further

afield and vindicate the faith of my family and friends in my talents as an artist. I would also, and this is an ongoing saga of 20 years, like to complete an unfinished rock musical and write the occasional article on life and its oddities. GFI

For more information visit www.arthurdsouza.com

Gulf Insider June 2011

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FASHION

SUMMER ESSENTIALS The latest products to hit the market this season are out to impress. Versace

The Versace SS/2011 menswear collection is all about modern heroes – it has been designed for a new generation of fashionable men, individuals with no fear of standing out from the crowd and possessing a strong, personal and original attitude. The suits reshape the silhouette, with fitted jackets, slightly shortened sleeves and super-slim trousers rolled up at the ankle. The leather jackets slightly recall the sexy side of the ‘80s rockabilly, with fringes of leather and micro studs. The same concept has been applied to the belts, which feature jewelled buckles. Exclusive fabrics: cotton, lightweight wool, feature micro-designs and sophisticated optical effects. Optical prints, seen through a kaleidoscope, magnify and shrink. The colours collide with a high predominance of blacks: white and black, grey and black, red and black, aqua and black, blue and black, pink and black. Shoes are super glam - essential for the look, embroidered with zippers, buckles, Medusa buckles and mini studs.

Versace is located at Moda Mall and Bahrain City Centre

TOD’s

The sporty section of the collection is represented by a successful style that this season is presented in vintage leathers in a selection of colours that range from navy blue to brown. With a slip-resistant rubber sole it is the perfect casual shoe to wear at the weekend. The polacco boot, which has become a regular style for TOD’s, is crafted in soft and colourful suede and enriched with a logo in relief and a contrasting white rubber sole. The new formal lace-up shoe with a practical rubber sole is the perfect style to wear with a suit. The new styles in leather are the embodiment of modernity, luxury and practicality: the desert boot with rubber inserts on the sole is both practical and elegant. Meanwhile, moccasins crafted in polished calf leather are available with an accessory-detail or plain, and are suitable for any occasion. The men’s tote references sailing and is a functional bag thanks to its practical inner pockets and a hook that can be used to attach keys, a cell phone or a small bag. It is waterproofed using a special technique and the bottom of the bag, in a contrasting colour, is in a rubberised fabric that makes it especially strong. The tote is available in a selection of colours as well as in a more sober canvas version with a dark brown finish that gives it an elegant look and makes it suitable for city use.

TOD’s is located in Al A’ali Mall.

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FASHION Corum sports watch

Since its creation in 1960, the Admiral’s Cup epitomises the ultimate Corum sports watch. For over half a century, this robust and virile timepiece has also embodied the brand’s tribute to the maritime world, to sailing and sailors. Corum has unveiled a complement to this legendary collection by presenting two slender and elegant watches: The Admiral’s Cup Legend 42 and the Admiral’s Cup Legend 38. The Admiral’s Cup collection has forged its sporting legend on oceans the world over for the past 50 years. Its twelve-sided bezel and its nautical pennants have formed an iconic family of Admiral’s Cup models. The new classical variations on the Admiral’s Cup theme are distinguished first and foremost by their size: 38 mm for the ladies’ model, and 42 mm for men. These newcomers thus feature sizes that are smaller than the collection’s sporting versions, and a new design, while remaining loyal to a sole philosophy: that of an understated, classical and elegant watch preserving the distinctive signature codes of the original Admiral’s Cup.

Corum is available Asia Jewellers located in Bahrain City Centre, Seef Mall and Al Aali Complex

TAG Heuer

One of the new editions and innovations continued through the 1990s and into the 21st century in the much acclaimed Carrera collection from TAG Heuer. Motor racing has and always will be the inspiration of the Carrera, but watchmaking savoir-faire drives it forward. The most recent example of its avant-garde position is last year’s Carrera Calibre 1887 Chronograph, TAG Heuer’s first high-volume fully integrated columnwheel chronograph movement produced in-house. It won the “La Petite Aiguille” 2010 Best Watch of the Year Award at the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève. This year, once again challenging existing rules and conventions, TAG Heuer again surprises with the Carrera Heritage Collection, a watch and a chronograph with classic looks, yet deeply rooted in the Carrera legacy.

Ebel Classic Sport

Sporty. Contemporary. A dynamic and determined personality. The design of the new Ebel Classic Sport is a worthy heir to the lineage of Ebel Classic watches launched in 1977, and bears eloquent testimony to the quest for excellence pursued by the Architects of Time. Ebel Classic Sport radiates a disconcerting air of casual chic. It appropriates time in a disarmingly natural manner, lending it an understated yet energetic face. The uncompromising aesthetic is based on rigorous geometrical shapes expressed through ideal proportions highlighting the time indications. Designed in a spirit of pure architectural lines, the new face of Ebel Classic Sport watches remains loyal to the brand heritage. By embodying a blend of modern and classic, sporty and elegant features, the collection has found its very own design identity that conveys a truly unique perspective on time.

Ebel is located at Al Mudaifa Jewelry and Taqi’s Jewelry located at the Sheraton Complex.

TAG Heuer is located at Bahrain Jewellery Centre in Al Aali Mall

Gulf Insider June 2011

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essential rules

Phone Mastery By AJ

L

ike most people, you are probably interrupted so often that you actually live life around interruptions instead of around your chosen activities. Whether people interrupt you in person or on the telephone, they always seem to have something on their minds that just can’t wait. Not only do you lose the time you actually talk on the phone, but it will normally take you several additional minutes to regain your focus and get back up to speed with what you were doing. Your level of effectiveness in life is determined both by the number of hours you have available to work on specific objectives and by how effectively you use those hours. Obviously, achieving your goals and dreams becomes far more difficult when you are constantly working someone else’s agenda. When I have people over to my home for either business or pleasure, it is interesting to watch their reactions if they hear a telephone ringing softly in another room. Now, mind you, this is my home and telephone, not theirs, yet people are so addicted to the phone that their minds have lost track of the difference. One day I was meeting with four people in my home when the phone rang a way off in the kitchen. No phones are allowed to ring in the living area of the house, and the phone in the kitchen is for the staff. At the first ring the person talking to me stopped in the middle of a sentence, as if he expected me to interrupt by excusing myself to answer the phone. I didn’t blink an eye since I broke my addiction to answering the telephone fifteen years ago. The longer the phone

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rang, the more my guests began to squirm. I could tell their minds were on the telephone and not on the business at hand. Their focus had been broken by someone who could not possibly be calling them. I could see a sign of relief come over the entire group when the ringing finally stopped. I hadn’t moved or even acknowledged that the phone was ringing, but it had completely taken over the thought processes of four people who were not in any way connected with it. No home or office should be without voice mail. Think of it as an interruption buster. And who decides if returning a specific call is necessary? You do—not

I have learned to use the phone as a tool of accomplishment. the caller. You’ll begin to notice that once callers learn you do not pick up the telephone every time it rings, your incoming calls will become less frequent, and the demands for your immediate response less urgent. Incoming calls to your office are, of course, a different matter. Your availability to take calls and respond immediately may be an important part of your job. Even so, most offices have a system to intercept and record incoming calls receptionists and/ or voicemail. Also, don’t waste valuable time by checking your incoming phone messages continuously. Let them accumulate until you are ready to handle them. Twice a day is certainly sufficient

at home and, when practical, at the office as well. One of the secrets to the effective use of your time is to return all necessary calls at the same time. Keep phone usage to just a couple of specific periods during the day instead of scattered throughout the day, and you will immediately become aware of the extra time and mental energy that you free up. “What about your mobile phone” I hear you ask. My advice is simple. Limit the people who have your mobile number to an absolute minimum and inform them that they should only call you if their question or information cannot wait. Only 20 people have my mobile number—5 of whom are my family. Further, my mobile is enabled so as not to give out it’s call number when I use it for my outgoing calls. Once you break the telephone addiction, you will find that it may be necessary to answer the phone directly in only a few urgent instances. I have not answered a landline telephone directly in fifteen years unless I was monitoring for an important call. Yet there is no opportunity I have missed in that time no so called emergencies to handle. In fact, the hundreds of hours of time I saved have enabled me to create opportunities for myself in a stress-free and interruption-free environment. I have learned to use the phone as a tool of accomplishment instead of an instrument of forced interruptions. GFI

AJ’ is a very successful self-made businessman living in Bahrain. He wrote this article for Gulf Insider free of charge.


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