Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain’s transparent dome-like structure is a stunning affair, striking in appearance, a triumph of design combined with a welcoming ambience – living up to its grand billing after featuring in this newspaper’s last issue.
The look is right and that’s not the only thing that strikes you as sweet … just wait till you get to the desserts … but more of that later!
I recall when I first introduced readers to new GM Spencer H. Wadama, he was very excited about the special attraction. “It’s a unique see-through dome and its Arabesque-style will make it the perfect venue for Iftar and Ghabga between friends, family and colleagues.”
He was spot on. The grand entrance to the superbly-lit Al Saraya Tent, has the added bonus of a majestic Mercedes-Benz on display supplied in partnership with Al Haddad Motors.
The experience oozed excellence from the start and it passed the taste test with flying colours too thanks to the talents of Executive Chef Jocelyn Argaud.
With 19 years of experience in French Michelin star restaurants and international fine dining establishments, he also boasts a royal seal of approval having dished up delights exclusively for members of a Gulf state’s royal family too, according to reliable sources.
There were touches to the buffet that were quite unique to the property in both content and appearance, although all the expected break-fasting favourites were available in abundance.
My favourite was a delicate Seafood with Garlic Croutons offering, fabulous with a crunchy helping of fresh salad on the side. The flavoursome Mushroom Soup also made for a nice alternative to the usual Lentil.
Just outside the tent were live grilling stations, featuring magnificent meaty lamb chops amid the Arabic Mixed Grill options, cooked to perfection, and superb with a help of freshly-sliced succulent shawarma.
There’s something for everyone, of course, with a pasta station with Italian classics, a sushi station and even a fresh fruit station too, alongside Indian and oriental chicken dishes, and the obligatory Lamb Ouzi.
I was sharing my table with a colleague who has recently undergone surgery and I was reeling from far worse, the dreaded remains of ‘man flu’. We didn’t look the healthiest of fellas but like true troopers we soldiered on.
The multi-choice ice-cream station and the desserts selection were a delight with Tiramisu, Karabij with Pistachio and chocolate cake on offer, but then we spotted the Apple, Date & Almond Crumble and the Sticky Toffee Pudding and suddenly everything was all right with the world.
Now, I like to consider myself a Sticky Toffee Pudding connoisseur and I have never seen a finer example as chef’s special creation. Normally, you have to spoon out or cut into a slab of pudding. Not here. There were individual mountains of magnificence ready to be placed on the plate with a spoon of delicious sauce.
It looked good and tasted even better.
Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain, the beach property in Seef, may be a newcomer to the Ramadan scene on the island, but first impressions certainly show there’s a serious contender in town for holy month honours.
Iftar is priced at BD27net, Ghabga is BD29net, a double package for BD50net and children, aged between four and 12, eat for half price and there’s traditional live Arabic music to enjoy too. For more information and reservations call 77707070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
LULU today opened its 171st hypermarket, its eighth in Bahrain and first in the historic and vibrant city of Muharraq … and the parent company’s chairman and managing director Yusuff Ali M. A touched down in Bahrain for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The giant store occupies the entire first floor of the revamped and newly-opened Muharraq Central Market and its designers say that the 8,500sqm space has been ‘designed using the latest retail space concepts and most modern technology for ease of shopping and display’.
Yusuff Ali said: “It has been our policy to reach nearer to the people.”
The new hypermarket aims to ‘live up to the Lulu promise of quality and value’ offering an extensive choice of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits and herbs, as well as leading brands of frozen and canned products, alongside a wide range of electronic goods.
It will also sure to generate enormous customer footfall to the the new Muharraq Central Market which only opened on a trial basis in February, as reported by GDNonline, the popular portal of our sister daily newspaper, the Gulf Daily News.
Khalid Al Banafallah, GM of Tashgheel, the company developing the project, said the market will have 61 shops, 24 vegetable vendors, 36 meat vendors, 42 fish vendors as well as the Lulu Hypermarket attraction.
Bulldozers started demolishing the then-35-year-old rundown Muharraq Central Market back in 2013 allowing it to finally get a much-anticipated BD1.45 million facelift after four years of delays.
All this week staff members of the Lulu team have been busy making final preparations for the big unveiling ceremony and stocking up the shelves with fresh produce.
The new Lulu store at Muharraq Central was opened under the patronage of Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa.
Only last December, he also carried out the honours at the 100,000sqft store’s ribbon and cake-cutting inauguration ceremony at The Atrium Mall & Towers in Saar.
The royal VIP was joined by Yusuff Ali, the dynamic Indian businessman and philanthropist from Kerala, who said at the time: “It is a sign of our steady confidence in the bright future of Bahrain and our commitment to be a part of the progress of the kingdom.”
He has proved it once more with the opening of the eighth hypermarket in Muhurraq, confident that there is room for growth despite having a popular store in nearby Hidd, continuing to work on the successful premise of bringing the brand as close to the people as possible.
GulfWeekly covered the opening of the first store in 2007 at Dana Mall in Sanabis. The other stores are in Riffa, A’ali’s Ramli Mall, Juffair Mall and Galleria Mall, Zinj.
“I always say, if the shoppers cannot come to Lulu, Lulu will go to them!” he told GulfWeekly in an exclusive interview last year, also explaining why he believed the Lulu concept had proved so successful. “Firstly, wherever we establish our footprint, we embrace the community,” he explained. “We spend time finding out what makes the community tick and we become a part of it.
“In Bahrain, for example, you will find that while our core customer service values are the same, our aisles are stocked slightly differently to meet specific area needs. Moreover, every employee from the directors to the shop floor assistant believes that the customer comes first. It is this attention to detail that makes shopping at Lulu a personalised experience and not just an anonymous, impersonal one. That, I believe is our unique selling point.”
Yusuff Ali revealed that Lulu’s total investment in the kingdom had already crossed BD125m. He was quick to praise the local workforce too saying they formed the ‘nucleus’ of operations and were ‘a key’ to the company’s success.
There are more than 1,200 Bahrainis who work in the group, he added, and he was ‘proud to say’ that Bahrainis have proved successful in managerial and specialised positions not only in the kingdom but across the Lulu network.
Muharraq should prove a hot location too. It is the predominate city of Bahrain’s second largest island.
The capital of Bahrain from 1810 to 1923, the peak years of the pearling economy, it sits just above sea level over an area of about seven square miles. Muharraq literally means ‘the place of burning’.
Muharraq has existed since the Dilmun era some 5,000 years ago but came to prominence in historical records when Bahrain came under the domination of the Seleucid Greeks. The town’s geographical position, abundant supply of underground water and convenient anchorage for ships made it an important natural gateway to Bahrain.
The decline of the pearling economy and the almost simultaneous discovery of oil and gas resources in Bahrain saw Muharraq’s role diminish, and that of the city of Manama, located just across the harbour on the main island of Bahrain, expand. The development pressures on the new capital, however, helped Muharraq retain much of its atmosphere.
Despite a great deal of modern construction, in most parts of Muharraq city, the street pattern remains the same as in the pearling era, characterised by a maze of narrow, often picturesque alleyways.
And it now boasts a pearl of a hypermarket.
The only live cryptocurrency automated teller machine (ATM) in the MENA region has been unveiled in the kingdom and its operator is confident that one day they will be an everyday feature within malls and on high streets across the globe.
The Crypto ATM from Basket SPC at Bahrain FinTech Bay, inside the Arcapita Building, allows people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies or coins using cash. Right now it is supporting Bitcoin and Litecoin – the two best known – and others can be added.
Basket is the brainchild of founding entrepreneur Jamal Al Mutawa, a technologist, highly-regarded telecom professional, Bitcoin investor and blockchain authority.
“I believe it (the ATM) will become common,” he said, “once more adoption takes hold and shops and commercial establishments realise how useful it is since it is person-to-person with no intermediate, coins received are immediate with no clearing period, and fees are minimal compared to other established payment networks.
“I see changes and developments in the cryptocurrency world very similar to the time when the internet became mainstream and popular.
“A lot of very smart people are building platforms and providing solutions that a few years back would be considered impossible. As an example of one of many, a new innovation using Bitcoin and other similar coins is the Lightning network.
“This allows you to pay very small amounts almost immediately. One use for this is that there would be no need for a person to subscribe to a video service like Netflix with a monthly fee. Instead you pay as much as has been consumed – if it was five minutes of a film, you’d pay just for that.”
The ATM development created a storm of interest across social media as soon as details were outlined by a Bahrain FinTech Bay executive on LinkedIn.
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with one top banker describing the move as ‘revolutionary’ and suggesting it would contribute further to the ‘development, awareness and acceptance of the crypto-eco system’.
A communications specialist simply said ‘proud’ and a payments & cards products manager described it as ‘such a beautiful machine’.
Anyone can use the ATM once they have gone through the registration process of ‘taking a selfie’, providing their mobile number and being approved. “Your crypto coins are referenced using a crypto wallet, usually in the form of a mobile app, the wallet accesses the blockchain and sees how many crypto coins you own,” Jamal explained. “Cash / paper bills are used to buy these crypto coins and vice versa, crypto coins can be sold to the machine and cash is paid out by the ATM.”
Jamal describes cryptocurrencies today as a form of ‘digital gold’ where owners keep their money in a manner that is ‘always available’ to them.
“It is also used for speculation, it can be used for remittances and transfers and is very easy and reliable and low cost,” he said. “It is possible to use it for online commerce and more and more e-commerce sites see the benefits and are adopting it.”
For the uninitiated, a cryptocurrency is a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography to secure financial transactions, control the creation of additional units, and verify the transfer of assets.
Although he lives in Kuwait, Jamal considers Bahrain as his ‘second home’ as he lived here for a few years during his past work with Zain Group. “I came to Bahrain with my Crypto ATM project because they welcome new initiatives in FinTech similar to mine and have a very robust and comprehensive approval roadmap for these projects.”
Jamal, a former business support systems / operations support systems director at Zain Group, said that although his new business was still in the Central Bank of Bahrain’s ‘sandbox process’, he is confident that once the bank sees the operation as ‘competent and following the conditions set forth by the CBB’, Basket will be allowed to operate in Bahrain.
Basket S.P.C. is a ‘Bahraini company’ he said, adding: “Our aim primarily is to roll out and manage Crypto ATMs in Bahrain, and expand wherever the regulatory environment is friendly and welcoming in the MENA region.
“We will also include more coins on our ATMs, including local currencies when they become digital.”
The move has delighted the crypto-pioneers at Bahrain FinTech Bay. CEO Khalid Saad said: “Basket is currently testing their solution under the Central Bank of Bahrain’s Regulatory Sandbox. This is a great addition to Bahrain’s growing crypto ecosystem.”
Bahrain FinTech Bay recently celebrated its first anniversary confident it can continue accelerating local early-stage FinTech companies to their next stage of development, as well as attracting foreign ‘growth-stage’ FinTech companies to Bahrain.
Since its launch, to date, it has attracted 75 local and international partners, eight venture acceleration platform partners and published several in-depth market ecosystem reports.
After successfully creating a physical hub located at Bahrain Bay for co-creation and the sharing of resources and ideas, it has ambitious plans to attract even more young FinTech brains into the arena.
As reported in FinTech Focus, The CBB has granted a number of licenses under the sandbox regulation framework in the kingdom, setting the stage for much-awaited acceptance by regulators, banks and currency exchange houses in the region that have been weary of transacting with digital currencies.
A regulatory sandbox is a framework and process that facilitates the development of the FinTech industry in a safe and calculated way. New business models in the sector can create regulatory ambiguity, therefore, regulatory clarity is critical to innovators in order to bring compliant services to market.
In effect, the sandbox creates a virtual safe space in which both start-ups and established businesses can trial and refine innovative products, services, platforms and business models in a live but controlled environment, where risks to customers and the wider financial system are mitigated, giving regulators time to adapt legislation as needed.
Whilst in the regulatory sandbox, companies are required to adhere to CBB regulations including Know Your Customer, Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism, as well as follow appropriate disclosure, protection and compensation requirements related to their customers.
The move has marked the arrival of a new wave of forward-looking regulation around digital asset trading in the region that is geared toward creating an environment to encourage FinTech innovation and inclusion, while ensuring the best interests of the nation, the banking system, investors and customers are protected.
A short-lived unofficial Crypto ATM is believed to have been set up in Dubai back in 2014 but was unlicensed and closed down. That is why Bahrain can proudly boast ‘the only live one in the region’ and under the framework of the regulator. “These ATMs will grow in popularity down the road,” Khalid also predicted.
In fact, the number of crypto ATMs installed worldwide has surged past the 4,000 mark, data from industry statistics aggregator Coin ATM Radar indicated earlier this year.
Around 70 per cent are located in North America, 23 per cent are in Europe, and 2.6 per cent in Asia. 1.3 and 1.1 per cent are in Oceania and South America respectively, and just 0.2 per cent are located in Africa.
Within Asia, Hong Kong has the lion’s share of them – accounting for 0.8 per cent of machines worldwide – while in Europe it is Austria (6.4 per cent), closely followed by the UK (4.8 per cent).
While the vast majority support Bitcoin (BTC) – 99.9 per cent, or 4,162 – 64.6 per cent support one or more altcoins.
These break down to 59.5 per cent support for Litecoin (LTC), 49.3 per cent support for Ethereum (ETH) and 33.9 per cent support for Bitcoin Cash (BCH). Dash (DASH) is supported by 17.9 per cent of ATMs, while Monero (XMR), Dogecoin (DOGE) and ZCash (ZEC) are each supported by three per cent or less.
Conspicuously absent from Coin ATM Radar’s global statistics is India. Last November, the developers of the country’s first Bitcoin ATM were arrested in the city of Bangalore under criminal charges due to its ATM label, as the machine was not strictly an ATM but a device that aimed to allow crypto-users to circumvent banking channels.
The arrests came after the Reserve Bank of India’s spring 2018 prohibition on banks’ dealings with crypto-related firms.
Earlier this month, Cointelegraph reported that Bitcoin ATM manufacturer Lamassu has relocated to Switzerland, due to regulatory difficulties in other countries.
For more details, follow @basketbahrain on Instagram
The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain welcomed world-renowned oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau for a two-day interactive session, taking young audiences and adults alike on a ‘land to sea’ journey, unveiling his life-long expeditions and explorations of unique ocean environments and the natural wonders of the world.
As reported in GulfWeekly, the campaigner arrived in the kingdom straight from high level talks to ‘Save the Russian Whales’ captured illegally to be sold to theme parks in China.
He was on his first visit to Bahrain as part of a global Ritz Kids environmental programme.
In an emotional address to the audience of young people and their families, he clutched a copy of this newspaper in his hand, and said he was deeply moved by the coverage as he was keen to spread the message around the globe.
Amongst the audience was British expat schoolgirl Charlie Axtell. The 15-year-old from Saar gave up precious time from her studies as she revises for her GCSE examinations to attend one of the insightful Cousteau sessions.
Charlie, who is torn between a career in marine biology and architectural design, was delighted to note that the star guest was qualified in both subjects. Whatever her future path she remains determined to passionately campaign on behalf of the planet.
This is her report:
Oceans are one of the earth’s most valuable resources. They cover more than 70 per cent of our planet and govern the weather, clean the air and provide a living for millions while helping feed the world.
They house most of the life on earth ranging from microscopic algae through to the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale.
Yet we are bombarding them with pollution. Choking plastic, discarded nets and leaking oil are amongst the countless ways humans find to destroy the beautiful blue planet.
Micro-plastics and even finer degraded particles have been traced in the darkest depths while whales and dolphins are being washed ashore suffering from new diseases. Species have become extinct while ecosystems are destroyed.
After generations of neglect at least we now have a voice.
In some countries tougher protection for waterways is the Number One concern of the electorate, ranking above child poverty, rising costs or housing shortages.
The ability to fish and swim in rivers is a birthright.
Greta Thunberg may be the modern face of environmentalism (the Swedish schoolgirl climate activist has been described as a role model for worldwide student activism and is famous for having initiated a school strike for climate movement last year that surged globally) yet the Cousteau family name has legendary status.
Jean-Michel, 81, the son of the late legendary pioneering sea adventurer Jacques, visited the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain last week.
Despite spending only a brief time in the kingdom, he had the opportunity to educate hundreds of people, including more than 300 schoolchildren.
Starting by highlighting one of his campaigns featured on the cover of GulfWeekly, he spoke passionately about the need to make a bridge between the main issues facing us today and the impact current decisions will have on the future – hence the need to heavily involve students.
He pointed out that 12 of the last 20 years have been the hottest on record and the effect of this on the diminishing life in the oceans.
Cousteau also established a link to the audience by showing the connection between all water sources, stressing the importance of our ‘one water system’ by referring to the fact that more than 55 per cent of the human body consists of water.
His mantra is ‘we cannot protect what we cannot understand’. He appeared particularly impressed by the development of a new Exosuit that will allow exploration to new depths of the ocean.
There is so much that needs to be done it can all seem daunting. You may be asking: ‘what difference can I make?’
Governments and industry need to take action. It is not acceptable to place the burden of responsibility on someone-else, pointing the finger at each other. Yet they are often motivated by the will of the people.
I challenge you to take a decision today that will have a positive impact on saving our planet.
Inspired by Cousteau, I have already written to a charity to encourage them to help educate and collect data to support his work. What will you do?
The oceans may roar, but they cannot speak for themselves – they need our help.
Bahrain FinTech Bay’s National FinTech Talent Programme (FTP) has officially kicked off with its first batch of 25 Bahraini candidates.
The first cohort will be part of a specialised roadmap that will offer unique opportunities to develop their professional skills and gain insightful experience in the latest FinTech trends and technologies on a global scale.
The programme started accepting applications in early January and a successful batch of 50 ‘high-calibre’ candidates progressed to an exclusive career fair exposing them to around 15 employers, including speed networking, as well as breakout sessions, at the event.
Following the candidate’s performance at the FinTech and Innovation Career Fair, 25 candidates have been placed within FinTech and innovation-related internship roles for a period of six months.
The accepted candidates start their journey by receiving mentorship from global partners of Bahrain FinTech Bay and will complete training on FinTech verticals focusing on block-chain and artificial intelligence run by SettleMint, Blockchain Academy Global and TAIGER A.I. Academy.
In parallel to their internships, candidates will be enrolled on a three-month professional development course in FinTech delivered by the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. The semi-annual programme will be delivered in a combination of live and online modules certified by Georgetown.
The certification comprises of seven modules and four case-studies led by Professor Jim Angel, Associate Professor of Finance, and co-inventor of 12 FinTech patents.
He said: “The financial services industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation. New technology enables us to offer services, products and interact with consumers like we could never do before.”
Additionally, the course will be hosting local and international guest speakers, the entrepreneurial community and ‘thought leaders’ from the financial services industry.
Khalid Saad, CEO, Bahrain FinTech Bay said: “As the FinTech ecosystem in Bahrain and the region transforms further, the development of talent to continue and sustain such transformation is key.
“Initiating the region’s first National FinTech Talent Programme with Tamkeen is a key step in the development of such talent.
“Through training and job placement opportunities within our partner network, we aim to develop a generation of leaders that will be able to take the industry forward and support Bahrain’s transition into a knowledge and innovation driven economy.”
Bahrain FinTech Bay is considered the leading hub in Middle East, conveniently in the Arcapita Building on Bahrain Bay. It provides a physical hub to incubate insightful, scalable and impactful FinTech initiatives through innovation labs, acceleration programmes, curated activities, educational opportunities and collaborative platforms.
Bahrain FinTech Bay partners with governmental bodies, financial institutions, corporates, consultancy firms, universities, associations, media agencies, venture capital and FinTech startups with the aim of bringing the full spectrum of financial market participants and stakeholders together.
The National FinTech Talent Programme focuses on the development of Bahrain’s FinTech ecosystem and ensures Bahrainis master the skills and knowledge to capitalise on the new opportunities created by FinTech disruption. It’s a one-of-a kind FinTech initiative for Bahraini university graduates, who will have the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain insightful experience in the latest FinTech trends and technologies on a global scale.
For more information on the National FinTech Talent Program, visit www.fintech-institute.com/ftp
Professor Angel, known as ‘Dr Jim’ specialises in the market structure and regulation of global financial markets, and he has visited more than 70 financial exchanges around the world.
He teaches undergraduate, MBA and executive courses, including Investments and Capital Markets.
Dr Jim has testified before the US Congress about issues relating to the design of financial markets. In addition, he has been quoted in hundreds of newspaper articles and has appeared numerous times on radio and television.
Dr Jim began his professional career as a rate engineer at Pacific Gas and Electric, where he worked on FERC and CPUC related issues. Along the way he has also worked at BARRA (later part of Morgan Stanley) where he developed equity risk models.
He has also served as a Visiting Academic Fellow in residence at the US National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD – now FINRA) and also as a visiting economist at the Shanghai Stock Exchange. He has also been chairman of the Nasdaq Economic Advisory Board, a member of the OTC Bulletin Board Advisory Committee, and has served on the board of directors of the Direct Edge Stock Exchanges (later part of BATS Global Markets).
From 2012-2014 he was a visiting associate professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Angel is a co-inventor on 12 FinTech patents. He is now Associate Professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University which boasts a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) programme, renowned for helping to transform today’s best professionals into rising industry leaders. It was created by the distinguished faculty of the McDonough School of Business.
American with a mission Spencer H. Wadama aims to ensure one of the most prestigious properties on the island fulfils its rich potential.
He’s the third GM to take hold of the reigns of the 174-room Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain since it opened last year.
And Spencer, a seasoned hospitality operator, is lapping up the challenge of a highly-competitive sector and looking forward to unveiling the Seef beach resort’s first-ever Ramadan tent.
“I bring 25 years of global experience to the table and the last eight years in the region. I bring tremendous optimism and I love to win,” he told GulfWeekly. “Being the fact that I’m a ‘grass roots’ hospitality person, I understand and stand side-by-side with my team to ensure we deliver on our guests expectations.”
Father-of-three Spencer, 51, boasts a decade of senior management experience including a successful spell as GM of the award-winning Armani Hotel Dubai, the flagship property that marked the partnership of global developer Emaar Properties and fashion legend Giorgio Armani.
Although being actively involved in 12 new property openings, he left hotel management for a spell as a managing partner of a gourmet food company … but the chance of following in the footsteps of Nordine El Yafi and Zeki Ozal in Bahrain proved too tempting to resist.
“Honestly, hospitality is in my DNA,” he said. “I love it too much.” But he admitted that after ‘all the years’ he got ‘a bit bored and even hyper-critical of the business’. “I needed to step out for a bit and allow me a chance to realise that having a team, watching them grow and succeed, meeting new people and being a part of creating memories for people IS what I truly love to do,” he explained.
The magnificence of the Jumeirah Royal Saray was a magnet too. “I personally love the Arabesque-style, yet the hotel has a very elegant, modern feel to it,” he said. “In a new property, there is always change. The resort needs to find its best operating model. Most new hotels open with an aspirational structure then as time goes by, attrition happens.
“At the level of GM, you always need ‘fresh eyes’. My predecessors have all been a crucial part of where this hotel is today so I would never take away from their contributions.
“I am truly honoured to be a part of the Jumeirah Royal Saray family and feel fortunate to be entrusted with such a beautiful property. Jumeirah is an amazing brand and Sevens Holding is a supportive owner which, for a GM, is a great combination.
“The Jumeirah brand also brings comfort and stability to all the staff. Being a part of such an iconic hospitality group is what means most to them and even our guests.
“It was very satisfying to meet the staff of the hotel and feel the passion they have to serve and the way they are enjoying their jobs. Our ownership Seven Holding continues to offer amazing support and guidance with a shared vision for success.
He appreciates the competitiveness of the hospitality sector in the kingdom but also believes the country should take ‘credit’ for enticing such major brands, ‘Jumeirah being one’, to set up operations here and encourage a growth in tourism.
“I’ve been to Bahrain a few times, mainly on business, so I really have not seen much yet,” he said. “My visits have always consisted of ‘airport to hotel and back to the airport’ so I’m excited to explore more of the island.”
He enjoys working out and keeping fit and is also a motorsport fan, a proud member of ‘Team LH’ made up of fans of British Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton – although basketball was his sport growing up. “Being a NORCAL (Northern California) guy, the current world champs (Golden State) Warriors is my team,” he added.
And, he’ll need all the energy he can muster for the months ahead. “Well, we have finally taken over the new Garden and Royal Villas which are amazing 3-4 bedroom private ‘homes’ with all the Jumeirah touches, definitely a ‘must see and experience’ – with private butlers,” he said.
“We have our ballroom/event space recently opened too, perfect for weddings, events, meetings and receptions.
“This year we will also have a true Ramadan offering in our very special Ramadan tent. Its unique see-through dome and Arabesque-style will make it the perfect venue for Iftar and Ghabga between friends, family and colleagues.”
A group of talented millennials from Bahrain have joined forces and created something ‘monumental’ in the middle of the hustle and bustle of London.
From the British School of Bahrain (BSB) classrooms in Hamala to the busy offices in the English capital, the fab four have combined their ambition and drive to take the marketing and public relations world by storm.
With a specialty in digital growth marketing, Jamie Love – former BSB student, CEO and founder of Monumental Marketing – has created a multi-channel ecosystem that has allowed him to grow his team and multiply revenue by 10 in less than a year.
“Having grown up around my colleagues and having gone through familiar experiences makes for a great working environment,” said Jamie, 24.
“We can talk about the old BSB days and people we knew or even meet up in Bahrain when we all return for our holidays. It’s really nice having a familiar feeling and environment in a city as large as London. It gives us all a home-from-home.”
Although he says it was never intentional to have a Bahrain-centric team, he admits that ‘business for me is based on trust’ and that’s where Tala Nasr, Alicia Van Der Meer and Amani Moosa prove their weight in gold, or probably Bahraini pearls would be a more apt metaphor.
Like most expat children, Jamie, of Scottish and Italian descent, moved to Bahrain with his parents, Andrew and Giuliana, after his dad secured a job here. Twelve years on, his parents still live in the kingdom, and have settled in Riffa Views. His sister, Nadine, 21, has also moved back to the UK for university.
“I was a pupil at BSB for five years, there I pursued my GCSEs and A-levels,” he explained. “The thing that really stands out to me about living in Bahrain is the sense of community and the general relaxed feeling about the place. Wherever I went I always bumped into someone I knew, and life just seemed really easy!
“My fondest memories of BSB were when I first joined. At that time the school was still a mismatch of buildings and portable cabins. My year was tiny, so we all got along as well as mixing with younger and older students.
“Anyone that was in the school at that time absolutely loved it – not to mention the great teachers I had, honestly I wasn’t the most academic person but I had certain subjects that I adored, especially business.
“That was the one subject I was always excited about and had a great teacher for, as well as languages and sciences. However, my role as ‘background dancer number five’ in the school’s production of Mamma Mia is also a standout!”
After BSB he moved to Edinburgh and took a gap year. He looked at numerous university courses but none jumped out at him so he thought it would be best to just take some time out to consider his options.
Over the following months he started working in the hospitality sector and managed to work his way up as well as starting his first business called JLUK.
However, the following year he tried academia again and started a degree course in psychology at Stirling University. “After completing the first year I realised university wasn’t really for me, so I moved to London and got my first marketing job,” he said.
“I have a curious mind, so I took it upon myself to find courses to help me in my career journey.”
Every evening and weekend he studied marketing and now boasts professional certifications that entitle him to add Charted Digital Marketing Specialist to his CV.
Throughout Jamie’s experience in the marketing industry, he noticed a growing need for what he describes as ‘an honest, dynamic and results-driven solution’ for brands who are tired of ‘too many big promises and poor results’.
Monumental took a ‘deep dive’ into digital marketing to find out exactly how it worked and, according to Jamie, ‘multi-channel’ proved to be the answer.
“Our ecosystem believes in pairing channels to leverage each other to boost the overall success of marketing,” he explained. “Maximising budgets through the unique understanding of how channels work together technically and operationally but as well as understanding user journeys and behaviour.
“The focus on driving bottom-line success naturally attracted a number of start-ups to Monumental. Many started with just one channel and it wasn’t long till the results sparked an interest in adopting the full ‘Monumental’ ecosystem. Clients see their businesses, teams and revenue grow month-on-month.”
He started working in digital marketing for a fitness company but wanted to do more.
“Working with lots of agencies throughout my career I noticed that there wasn’t really an agency that could just be different, results-driven and flexible with their offering,” he said. “I started Monumental alongside my day job and in September 2017 I took the jump to going full-time.
“The first few months were really tough, but I chose to grow organically, slowly and steadily. Being completely bootstrapped and self-funded I could only invest what I was getting in. Early 2018 is when momentum really started to grow, we were welcoming clients to Monumental regularly and that’s when the team started growing.
“From my sofa in my living room, to the Monumental offices in Monument. This was the best place for us to base our headquarters, in the centre of all the hustle and bustle and with the branded location to match.”
The Monument, near London Bridge, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren to commemorate the Great Fire of London. It has been welcoming visitors for more than 300 years. Today, visitors can still climb 311 steps to the top of the historic landmark built in 1677 to take in spectacular views of the city.
“It’s great!” added Jamie. “London is the heart of digital marketing, so it made sense for Monumental to be here. The best thing about London is the environment, there is always something happening both social and business – one can never get bored here.”
Monumental now has a fixed team of six in the London office, as well as a team of six who work on a contract basis, part-time and as freelancers.
The BSB alumni have brought their own individual flair to the business, as well as using their expat experiences to shape the company in many ways as their unique outlooks influence their marketing work, according to Jamie.
Their roots in the multi-cultural kingdom means that they are able to approach many aspects of the business ‘from a point of view that many people just don’t have’, as well as equipping them for the diverse client base that Monumental has built globally with companies based across England, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Canada, and the list continues to grow.
“Everything from lifestyle, to tech, to finance – our ethos is wide and results-driven meaning we are completely industry agnostic,” he said.
“Our big focus this year is to bring Monumental to Bahrain. The Monumental Marketing model has been tested in one of the busiest markets in the world and the result was success.
“Couple this with our knowledge of Bahrain and our Arabic speaking team it’s a no brainer… and I’m surprised we haven’t done this sooner! We’ll also look to continue growing in the UK and Europe, however, I don’t ever want to lose sight of who we are and what we do. We are the new age of marketing and PR – I don’t ever want to lose that.”
With a constantly growing portfolio of clients, celebrities and corporate businesses alike, the former BSB students don’t seem to be slowing any time soon with Jamie’s mantra singing in their ears ‘Create. Optimise. Grow’.
Lebanese Tala, 20, is currently in her final year at the University of Kent studying a Bachelors in Politics and International Relations and works as a marketing executive for Monumental.
She has an older sister and younger brother, who still live in Bahrain – her dad works as a business consultant in Saudi Arabia and her mum’s an image consultant in the kingdom.
“I studied in BSB from Year 7 to Year 12 then I went straight to university,” she said. “My favourite memories of living in Bahrain is experiencing the diversity and the close community – I loved the fact that wherever you went there was always a friendly face to run into.
“As for BSB, my best memories are when I founded the Debate Club, coaching delegates in public speaking for MUN, and being selected for the University of Warwick gifted and talented programme, not to mention being part of many committees. My best memories were made from being actively involved in the school’s extra-curricular activities.
“Initially I was looking for an internship that would be mentally stimulating and also help me build discipline whilst making a positive contribution towards a company.
“I found Monumental Marketing through LinkedIn and saw that Jamie had founded it. I had asked him if there were any opportunities available and he mentioned that they were only looking for marketing executives but would be more than happy to still give me a chance to apply.
“After completing the marketing and PR task that I was sent and going through the interview process, Jamie invited me to the Monumental offices in London and explained that due to my transferable skills and the potential he saw, he wanted me on the team.
“It’s funny because we never used to talk much in school, and now we’re all wondering why. It amazing to be working with like-minded individuals, and to be able to see where we all started from and where we are now is truly motivating. We’ve built a little family and when Jamie told me that working at Monumental Marketing would not be a 9-5 and is a lifestyle, he wasn’t lying. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I currently live in Canterbury as I am still a student, so I commute to London for work. Working in London is very hectic because of the extremely fast momentum the city adopts, and especially in contrast with Canterbury which is a lot more mellow and quiet. However, I love it and I personally thrive under pressure so this is a very invigorating environment to be working in. The best part about London? The networking.
“Jamie has really invested in me during this whole experience and gave me the chance to really build myself whilst helping build the company, something I will be forever grateful for. It’s not often that you find business leaders that really invest in and look after their team the way Jamie has.”
Fellow marketing executive Alicia, 21, is part-Belgian, part-Indonesian and currently lives between London and Bahrain.
“I moved to Bahrain with my parents and little brother from Singapore due to my dad’s job,” she explained. “My family still live in Bahrain, they have been here for 11 years and counting.
“I was a student at BSB from Year 6 to Year 13. I graduated in 2015 to go on to study at university. My memories of Bahrain; I couldn’t imagine growing up somewhere-else. From getting late-night shawarmas to lounging beachside at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain will always be home to me no matter where I end up in the world. BSB was also amazing. We had such a close-knit community where everyone was friends with each other, so it was such a lovely environment to be a part of.”
She studied Sociology and received a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at the University of Kent.
“Jamie and I knew each other from BSB and our families are pretty close so it was bound to happen that I eventually would work for him,” she said. “It’s the most surreal feeling to be working alongside former BSB students.
“We used to see each other in the BSB hallways and now we are at business meetings with each other. But it is amazing working in such a comfortable environment surrounded by people who grew up in the same place as you, so we all get along really easily and can relate with one another in a way that would be different if we hadn’t all grown up in Bahrain.
“It is so much fun working in London too. It’s such a lively and culturally diverse city, so there is so much going on all the time. It’s impossible to get bored here.”
Former GulfWeekly intern, Leisure Guide compiler and film reviewer Amani Moosa, 23, has Scottish and Bahraini roots and is also currently in-between London and Bahrain.
The freelance visual communicator and designer was born and raised in Bahrain and only moved to the UK to start her university degree in Bournemouth. Her parents still work and live in Bahrain and her brother now works in Glasgow.
“I attended BSB for 11 years, starting in Year 2 and finishing in Year 13,” she said. “For me, Bahrain will always be my home, no matter where I live, I will forever treasure all the crazy, fun experiences of growing up there! I also have great memories of the BSB, I am truly thankful for all the incredible friendships that were made throughout the years that I still cherish and value!
After finishing school in 2014, she attended the Arts University Bournemouth in England and went on to achieve a BA Honours Degree in Visual Communication and a Certificate of Higher Education in Graphic Design.
“After moving to London, Jamie and I got into contact with each other as we both lived in the city and hadn’t seen each other for a few good years so we decided to meet and have a catch up,” she explained.
“Jamie was telling me about his journey with Monumental Marketing and it just so happened to be that he had recently got involved with some creative projects and would need designers to work on them, so I sent over my portfolio and began working a couple weeks later!
“It was most definitely a delightful surprise to have ended up working alongside people that I attended school with many years ago in a different part of the world! Everyone working at Monumental is so lovely and it’s great to be able to share some memories of growing up in Bahrain.
“It’s not very often we go to work and sit around a table with people who have shared similar experiences of attending the same school in the same country, so that has been pretty incredible!
“I have dreamt of moving to London for more than five years now, so to finally be able to say I live here is fantastic. The opportunities are endless, you meet great people and there is always something to do at whatever time of the day! The only downside is the living costs ... and the weather!”
BSB’s executive head Jeff Smith said: “It is always pleasing to hear about the success of former BSB students. There are many teachers at BSB who remember Jamie as a student and it is no surprise to them that he has already made his mark on the business world at such a young age.
“Teachers and school leaders describe him as a popular, courteous and respectful young man with ‘an air of flamboyance’ that naturally drew people towards him. His UCAS references for his UK university applications identified his enthusiasm for life, his aptitude for business and his creative mind.
“Wayne Ridgway, his tutor at the time – recently appointed head of senior school – wrote about his contributions to school and his determination to succeed. BSB is very proud of Jamie’s achievements.”
THE region’s ‘smallest fine dining restaurant’ will open its doors today inside one of Bahrain’s premier beachfront resorts and promises to offer the ‘most exclusive experience of rough luxury’ – simply put, it is for those who treasure the best things in life but also take pleasure in items that have stood the test of time.
La Table Krug by Y is the 12th restaurant concept to open at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain and it’s a unique tie-up between the vineyards of Reims, France, with a heritage dating back to 1843, and a master chef celebrated for his modern artistic culinary flair.
The venue will host up to 16 guests who will ‘experience the feeling of dining in a 19th century estate house in the countryside of France,’ in which award-winning Executive Chef Yann Bernard Lejard will take the most discerning of palates on an ‘epicurean eight-course journey of the senses’.
“The menu EXPeRiMENCe will be like a never-ending story with each menu numbered in order to create a unique dining experience for each guest.
“The dishes will change daily based on my inspiration and feelings, and I will ensure a menu that is always daring, playful, unexpected and, most importantly, without limits,” said Chef Yann (‘Y’).
The table setting will be equally unique. Inspired by the nouveau high fashion concept of ‘rough luxury,’ guests will dine using only the finest of settings with silver tableware by Christofle, plates by Bernardaud Ecume, crystal glasses by Reidel and even the chef’s touch of hand-made local pottery by Bahrain’s own Nada Pottery … and the occasional touch of eccentricity. Ambient music will also aim to elevate the experience with house sounds curated from the Krug Music Experience series culminating in a ‘360 degree journey of the senses’.
GulfWeekly reported recently on Chef Yann’s promotion, and how his creations had attracted a mass social media following with more than 120,000 people checking out @YBLinc - waiting to see what he does next.
He exclusively teased that he was busy working on a ‘top secret’ new small select restaurant opening at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain offering an exclusive contemporary dining experience to culinary connoisseurs, and the fruition of that work was unveiled to a select group of hospitality journalists, including the editor of this newspaper, who enjoyed a sneak preview of La Table Krug by Y last Wednesday evening.
A play on words of ‘experiment’ and ‘experience,’ his EXPeRiMENCe 0.1 menu aims to provide ‘a sensual eight-course journey with every bite awakening both the palate and mind’.
With most dishes artfully plated in a Picasso-like form, the menu highlights the most elegant cuisine including hammour lemon ginger, light foie gras and Oscietra caviar, local vegetables with confit lobster and mango emulsion and the Elbow Pasta cooked in a risotto-style with unctuous coriander, truffle and quail. Desserts also surprise like the blueberry parfait in chocolate crust with coconut coulis and more.
Alongside the signature splashes of artsy cuisine, there’s fun too in the presentation. Wednesday’s starter was served in a sardines tin and there were smiles all around with a clever balloon-dog dessert.
The party was welcomed by The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain GM Bernard de Villèle, who was celebrating his birthday, and said: “With every bite, a ‘rough luxury cuisine d’author’ experience unfolds into a symphony of flavours, leaving diners in pure levitation.
“This is my second La Table Krug to open after the St Regis Mexico City, and I can’t wait for our guests and our members to experience the region’s most intimate fine dining experience yet.”
A video message from Maggie Henriquez, CEO of Krug, celebrating the launch and partnership was played to the guests. ‘Rough luxury’ is the Maison Krug way of playing the contrast game.
Every year, following the dream of Joseph Krug, founder of the house whose framed portrait is displayed on the wall, (the chef in action is featured on another work of art) who believed in ‘outstanding creations as a source of pleasure’, Maison Krug boasts that it ‘offers the very best, regardless of climate variations’.
Joining the official ‘Krug Ambassade’ programme, represented in 27 countries all over the world, La Table Krug by Y at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain will mark the 151st Ambassade, the first-ever in the Middle East and the fourth La Table Krug restaurant concept within the community after Vienna, Mexico City and Berlin.
La Table Krug by Y is led by Executive Chef Yann and Directeur de Restaurant and master mixologist Riccardo Fabian Ciancilla. Nightly dinner service will begin from 7pm to 11.30pm every Tuesday to Saturday. The menu starts at BD120 with special beverage pairings and BHD90 with soft drinks. For more details call 17586499, or email email@example.com
I read the preview notes prior to sitting down for a dress rehearsal before tonight’s opening show and expected a ‘dark comedy’. Instead, I witnessed a shocker … in the best possible sense.
Yes, there are the occasional moments of mirth but this Martin McDonagh offering is much more spine-chillingly Hitchcock-esque than most. Be ready to squeeze your eyes shut and let out a gasp of breath when the key moments occur.
It’s not for the faint-hearted.
Set in the Irish mountains of Connemara, County Galway, it tells the tale of Maureen Folan, a plain and lonely spinster in her early forties, and Mag, her manipulative, ageing mother.
Mag’s interference in Maureen’s first and perhaps only chance of romance sets in motion a train of events that are as tragically funny as they are devastating.
Maureen, played with immense stage presence by Sharon Burke, an actress you will not be able to take your eyes off for more reasons than one, is dynamic to the extreme. She grabs this role by the throat, like a desert dog to a motorcycling fast food delivery boy. Talk about conjuring up a mixture of emotions, one time you have complete and utter sympathy for her plight and the next moment you’ll hate her guts.
One of Bahrain’s most amazing veteran stage talents, Anne Koheji, plays misery Mag and also sparkles in her roll. She creates her own roller-coaster of audience emotions with her portrayal of the lonely, moaning old dear. Another character to hate, love, hate again and sympathise with as the storyline develops.
The male characters in this stage show are equally as strong. There’s an annoying messenger, Ray Dooley, played with irritating excellence by Dave Lock who you’ll want to shake some sense into throughout the play.
And then, the bearded ‘love interest’, namely Ray’s older brother, Pato. The character is played with absolute charm and charisma by James Wassom. One scene, where he pens a letter to the woman of his dreams, is worth the admission price alone.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane will keep you riveted until the end and I guarantee you’ll be discussing the ins-and-outs on the journey home and when you settle down on the sofa and look into your sweetheart’s eyes, you’ll be feeling very thankful.
The British Club has invested vast sums of money in refurbishing the hall, the sound now is spot on and add that to a larger stage and superb set, it makes for a memorable theatrical experience. But the leaking roof still needs mending.
Directed by Hannah Turner and produced by Carrie Bell, this is one to remember.
l Tickets priced BD7 are available from the British Club reception. Theatre seating tonight, tomorrow and Saturday with dinner & theatre on Friday with an Irish-themed menu (food & beverages separate to ticket).
The holy month is soon approaching and The Crowne Plaza Bahrain became the first five star property in the kingdom to display its culinary offerings with a pre-Ramadan reception for members of the media and special guests.
Executive Chef David Miras and his team of chefs have pulled out all the stops to entice families and corporate bookers to its conference centre with an impressive range of Arabic favourites and international cuisine delights.
The conference centre and ballroom has once again been transformed into a traditional tented triumph of design, comfort and style, with a beautifully-lit entrance.
For the very first time its designers have created secluded seating for families and, to add a special twist to the offering, alongside the delicious flavours and relaxed ambience, daily and weekly rewards will be given away – from dinner vouchers to electronic goods – as part of the spirit of giving.
The ‘island buffet’ started with popular Ramadan juices and dried fruits, including everyone’s favourite Vimto, alongside Lumen with Mint and Rose Milk, always ideal for that first taste of refreshment after a full day of fasting, broken too by energising bites into dates, figs, dried apricots and a handful of walnuts.
The spread of cold messeh, which included a superb Green Beans Lebanese-style Salad and crisp international salad dishes, was impressive and the chefs, waiting and set-up crew should also take a bow as a result of the impressive display and arrangements of the dishes.
Eating out is so much more than just the food, the visual impact plays as an important a role, in my opinion, and little touches of excellence make all the difference. It displays care and a desire to please and brings a smile to the face and that’s exactly what the cute crafted camels placed in prominent positions and the heart-shaped display of spectacular sushi were guaranteed to deliver.
The hot messeh included a superb Spinach Fatayer and Cheese Sambousek and crowds of hungry hacks quickly descended on the live Chicken Shawarma station. The Lamb Ouzi, a whole lamb slowly cooked with oriental rice and yoghurt and served with cucumber raita, was majestic and a crowd favourite, of course.
Indian dishes, such as Prawn Biryani and Mutton Malala, looked tempting but I had my eye on the Arabic mixed grill with Shish Kebab and the most amazing Lamb Chops.
Those with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed and my standout desserts were the Vanilla Profiteroles and the Chocolate Mousse Verrine and you can’t miss the crazy Turkish ice-cream magicians dishing up their delights with bell-ringing, twist and turning artistic flair. The children (and big kids like me) absolutely love it.
Crowne Plaza Bahrain also aims to provide the ‘perfect atmosphere’ with special menus that can be tailor-made to host both corporate or private Iftar and Ghabga events, said general manager Gilles Nicolas.
“We have created a plush ambience with specialised menus that can cater to your very own exclusive event, where events from 30 up to 1,000 may be accommodated in private rooms,” he added.
As Ramadan is a time of giving, this year the Crowne Plaza Bahrain will be making donations to the Children and Women’s Wellness Charity.
Enjoy the lavish Iftar buffet featuring Ramadan delicacies, live-cooking stations and a delightful array of mouthwatering desserts served daily at sunset. Priced at BD 12++. The little ones will be taken care of at the ‘Kids Corner’ where children under six dine free, and those up to 14 pay half price. For bookings and more information, call 17531122, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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