Thursday, 12 December 2013

Ba Ba Bahrain

No sooner than I had cut the ribbon for our Regent St shop opening than I was on a plane heading once more to the Middle East, destination this trip, Bahrain. Yes you guessed, another shop opening, if we carry on at this rate I am going to need a double. 

New Bahrain
New Bahrain- reminds me of barley twist table legs

As with most Middle East countries shopping takes place in Malls, this was to be no exception. Our new shop is located on the 1st floor of the Bahrain City Centre Mall. Anchoring the mall as seems to be the tradition was the very smart Kempinski Hotel, and being German owned everything worked seamlessly for my overnight stay. There being no meetings scheduled for the morning gave me the opportunity to see a little bit of Bahrain. 

Steps in old Bahrain- a perfect design for a scarf

The official tour guide had been arranged from the Ministry of Culture, a very well informed man named Ali Saleh who in a mere two hours proceeded to educate me about the history of Bahrain. I learnt that Bahrain had originally made its name in pearl diving not, oil as I had always presumed.  I was pleased to learn that the Bahrainians are passionate about their ancient culture, leading one prominent citizen to trawl the world seeking out lost Arabian books that were mainly to be found in the West and creating a museum to house these treasures. 

Old Bahrain

I had said that whilst I admired all the towering sky scrapers, could he take me to see something of old Bahrain. We headed to Muharraq Island where ancient houses and streets had been restored which for me was what visitors to the Middle East are most excited by. We stopped by the souk that was bustling with market traders selling hand woven rugs, clothes shops that had changed little from the 1970s with advertising that  was so dated it would be fashionable in Hoxton. I paused to look in the window of a shop selling vintage watches and noticed on the dial of one of the watches a name which at first I thought I had misread so I put my glasses on and took a closer look and it indeed read Durex, it was a schoolboy moment as I imagined if asked what make was my watch I could exclaim, " I'm wearing a Durex".

Bahrain Fort

  Bahrain Fort

We continued the tour visiting a magnificent Fort built by the Portuguese in 1529 and now sensitively renovated. By now it was a balmy 30 degrees as we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the afternoon's interviews. Naturally I wore the Khaki lightweight suit that I mentioned in my last blog and which I was frequently photographed in, meaning I would need a quick change for the party in the evening otherwise they might think, poor fellow he's only got one suit. I wore a one button unlined blue cotton chambray suit and coincidentally one that had Mother of Pearl buttons; it was formal without being stuffy.

Outside a school reminding pupils of street etiquette

It was a glittering party being firstly introduced to the British Ambassador Iain Lindsay who in turn introduced me to Sheik Alkhalifa of the Bahrain Royal Family who remarked that his family shopped in our London stores. There is something about the people of Bahrain that I found different on my previous trips to the Middle East not only are they extremely friendly but a sense of relaxation pervades the atmosphere one that I could become accustomed to very easily. I am looking forward to their opening another shop in the region to give me the perfect excuse to take them up on their kindness and hospitality. 

Jeremy Hackett

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