Gulf Hotel's golden memories
THE Gulf Hotel Convention & Spa will start its year of celebrations today to mark the hospitality hotspot’s 50th anniversary with a walk down memory lane in its dazzling state-of-the-art newly-refurbished facility … combining an historic past with a fabulous future.
Under the patronage of Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce & Tourism, the chairman and members of the board of directors, the chief executive officer of the Gulf Hotels Group and the executive management will be welcoming VIP guests to the glitzy Gulf Convention Centre tonight.
Parent company, Gulf Hotels Group, has been investing heavily in upgrading facilities like many properties across the island but few others can play the nostalgia card or possess the heart-pulling feel-good factor to the same degree.
A stunning display of photographs unearthed from the hotel’s archives will be unveiled at the ceremony that have recorded everything from the very start of ground-breaking through to its construction, opening, expansion and beyond.
But what will no doubt enchant history buffs will be the images and memorabilia highlighting some of the most legendary and iconic figures setting foot on the premises from the world of royalty, politics, business and entertainment over half a century.
• The late Amir of Bahrain Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa who opened the Gulf Hotel with the president of Gulf Aviation, now Gulf Air, Captain Allen Bodger, present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony
• Shaikh Isa also visited the new tower and was welcomed by the chairman of Gulf Hotels Group, the late Ahmed Kanoo
• Yasser Arafat, leader and chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation from 1969 until his death in 2004
• Former US president George Bush, a keynote speaker at an international conference
• The late British PM Baroness Margaret Thatcher arriving with the late Minister of Information Tariq Almoayyed
• Arabic singers Ragheb Alama, Mohammed Abdu, Kadim Al-Saher all make an appearance on the photographic roll call alongside Western performers such as Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, British 1960s hit-makers The Hollies and Scottish songstress Barbara Dickson and many more, including soul legend Roberta Flack
Gulf Hotels Group CEO Garfield Jones said: “Reaching the ripe old age of 50 is a great achievement, however, when you consider that over the past 50 years, the Gulf Hotel has remained at the forefront of the Bahrain hospitality industry, continued to lead the market despite competition from all the international chains, continued to win awards year-after-year for its restaurants and continued to expand its operations, makes it all the more remarkable.
“The success over the past 50 years has undoubtedly been down to the amazing team which has worked in the hotel with iconic figures such as Mohamed Buzizi and Aqeel Raees, overseeing operations for so many years. To have played a small part in the history of the hotel is something I am very proud of.”
And it’s the combination of new and old which Fares Yactine, who only returned to the organisation last year to take over the role of GM, is convinced sets the Gulf Hotel apart from the competition.
Fares previously served the hotel as executive assistant manager, in charge of the food & beverage department, as well as health & recreation. He’s not the only one that continues to feel like he is ‘coming back home’ whenever he steps through the hotel entrance; large numbers of customers do too.
“Many remember coming along with their parents as children and they now regularly return with their own kids,” Fares explained. “They keep coming back because the Gulf Hotel is distinctive for its personalised service, our long-serving team know many by name, knowing who their father is, who their brother is.
“Today, many hotels offer a good service, have a nice set up of restaurants but what makes a difference with Gulf Hotel is its people.”
That’s why the 50th anniversary this year looks set to be so special.
Activities are planned to take place throughout 2019. “We will be taking people on a journey through those 50 years,” revealed Fares.
“There will be a lot of amazing pictures on display for sure, as people love nostalgia. It’s not just the history of the hotel, this is part of the history of Bahrain. There will be a lot of storytelling and sharing.
“The changes in the country over the period are remarkable. Once upon a time the Gulf Hotel was surrounded by water and today you have Juffair just a short distance away.
“We have also hosted numerous celebrities over the years so people will enjoy looking back and others may even remember the moment.”
The hotel management team is just as excited about the future too, thanks to the continuing investments being made in the property.
As reported in GulfWeekly, the new-look Gulf Convention Centre was recently unveiled with a spectacular show featuring live musicians and singers in a high-tech visual and sound extravaganza, so it makes for a fitting stage for tonight’s opening production.
The facility has been transformed and now features a 4,780sqm redesigned arena, including 13 meeting and conference rooms, event space, as well as a setting for stunning wedding and henna night celebrations.
Taking centre stage of the renovation has been the installation of five 4m x 3m digital HD screens. They can run videos displaying high resolution images, with surround sound to match.
Even the stunning crystal chandeliers add to the over-all ambience by completely changing colours at the touch of an electronic pad, depending on the mood of the event, with variations in tone too for stylish effect. The aim, say its designers, is to enhance the offering with a touch of luxury while combining natural charm and elegance.
Other investments include the renovation of the popular Sherlock Holmes and Al Waha outlets. The La Pergola Italian restaurant now graces the talents of multi-Michelin starred Italian chef, Giancarlo Perbellini, after a BD200,000-plus transformation and a similar sum is being invested in rooftop restaurant Fusions which is set to reopen with an outdoor terrace under the guidance of the hotel’s young, talented Bahraini chef, Tala Bashmi.
The health club is also set to be refurbished and the main lobby will also be receiving a facelift shortly.
Looking back to golden moments and looking forward to a bright future … with the promise of new cherished memories being formed every day.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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