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25th June 2024

Event Report: London’s Luxury Elite at the Residence of the Jordanian Ambassador His Excellency Manar Dabbas

Finito World reports on a remarkable evening where new opportunities opened for cooperation between the UK and Jordan

 

It was the writer of the book of Hebrews who explained the importance of hospitality: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” This important lesson has not been lost on His Excellency Manar Dabbas, who at an event co-hosted with Finito at his residence in West London, proved himself the perfect host.

In fact if hosting is an art, then it might be that every night masterpieces are being created at the Jordanian embassy. The event was attended by a group of exceptional individuals from the luxury sector including CEOs and leaders from brands as varied as Fabergé, Trevor Pickett, Kiki McDonough, the Design Centre Chelsea, Almacantar, D.R. Harris, Hirsh London and David Morris Jewels. Rounding off the guest list, there was Guy Martin from Carter-Ruck, Kamal Rahman from Mishcon de Reya, the CEO of Coutts, Mohammed Kamal Syed and revered aviation leader David Scowsill.

 

Speaking in his spacious, immaculate home, the Ambassador began with a broad welcome, and made it clear that Jordan is very much open for investment – and eager to receive visitors: “It’s one thing to hear about Jordan while we’re sitting here in London, but it’s quite another to go and see for yourself,” he said, as everybody mentally consulted their diaries.

However, given all that is going on in Gaza, it was necessary to reference the unfortunate situation in the region: “It is very sad to see what is going on. You have peace when you have people who understand another’s concerns. Wherever there’s a storyline on one side, there’s always a counter-narrative on the other. We used to have leaders who can understand the importance of compromise,” he explained.

This amounted to a moving call for peace. The Ambassador spoke throughout with a genuine sense of the sadness of the situation, always with the understanding that these matters are extremely complex and require our best efforts to find ways towards resolution.

For Dabbas, that work is going on in London. “I am focused on promoting Jordan as a business destination for different people – I am talking to Tories and the Labour think tanks, the Muslim groups and the Jewish groups. My chief concern now is that the discourse on the streets of London remains political and doesn’t become religious. Is it easy? Unfortunately it is not – but there’s still a lot we can do. There are challenges out there but also opportunities. But we’ll not see peace in the future unless we see some fundamental change.”

His Excellency went onto say that Britain faces a stark choice when it comes to the geopolitical conflicts in the Middle-East. “You can work with us and pre-empt and avoid, or wait until it explodes in our face and then react,” he warned.

Dabbas spoke with infectious love about Jordan, giving real insight into what makes his country so special. He discussed the tourism sector, and also surprised guests by telling us that The Martian, Aladdin and Dune were shot in Jordan – as indeed was the classic Lawrence of Arabia. “There are a lot of opportunities,” he said, as the superb Jordanian food materialised before the guests. “What’s missing sometimes is we’re not promoting as much of what we do in Jordan. We don’t have oil, but in a way that’s a blessing. Instead, we have top-notch human capital. When it comes to IT labour, for instance, for a lot of British companies who want to move away from the political complexities in China, Jordan is the best solution.”

Trevor Pickett asked if Jordan was easy to partner with, and whether the country hosts trade fairs as Turkey famously does. “Craftsmanship is what Jordan is good at – you must come and visit and have fun,” His Excellency replied. “We have fairs which are not as big as the ones you might have in Turkey. Come and see for yourself: you can make your decision according to your business models.”

The ambassador was also asked what the benefits are of doing business in his country: “Jordan is not just Jordan; it is the gateway to Iraq. If you want to sell to Iraq, you have to come to Jordan. Jordan is the most moderate and forward-thinking country in the region.”

Mishcon de Reya partner Kemal Raman asked how the country manages to cultivate neutrality, and what can be learned from its extremely positive international reputation. “When you say Jordan, people smile – other countries, people don’t,” she observed. “I couldn’t agree more,” replied the Ambassador. “Others would pay billions of dollars for just one per cent of the respect His Majesty the King has across the world. When he speaks, everyone listens. We pride ourselves on our royal family.”

 

And how is it that this reputation is so secure? “Legitimacy is an aspect of this – we don’t have struggles, we have a constitution. We are a principled country. Compared to our neighbours who have huge wealth in oil and gas, we decided our wealth should be our soft power. We have always been true to our foes and to our friends. What we say in private is the same as what we say in public. In America if I say I’m from Jordan they think I’m talking about Michael Jordan. If I mention King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein they say how much they love him! You rarely see a monarch who has such a level of daily engagement with his people. This is what defines us.”

His Excellency was also asked about the nature of the role he has. “When I first arrived here I realised I had to understand the importance of the parliamentary system. It is quite a big job in itself: you have over 600 MPs and over 800 Lords – the challenge is how do you manage to see each and every one of these? Even if I do meetings on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be able to get through them all!”

In addition to that His Excellency engages regularly with the government: “It is challenging to be able to reach as many policy-makers as possible and explain why the Middle East is important, let alone Jordan. Then I have to engage with media and think tanks.”

It is difficult, he says, to plan his diary. “I receive probably 20 invitations per day. That can be a little confusing – sometimes you have to do everything to decide whether it’s something you would go to for the second time or not! You have to be on top of your form to influence policy.”

So what would His Excellency say to young people considering a career in the civil service? “I have many meetings with university students,” Dabbas explained. “I tell them that I knew I wanted to pursue politics from a very young age. I also tell them to follow their passion – but it’s always possible to have that without the capability. Sometimes it can be the other way round – you need to have both.”

This was sound advice – and it was issued to a roomful of people who had followed theirs, and who went out into the Kensington night, happy that their own decisions in life had led them into the company of such a remarkable man.

 

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