Generosity abounds in a strong turnout at Help for Heroes gathering in Dubai

The event raised in the region of $450,000 for the charity, a record for the six or so years it has been going. Well done all.

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I’ve found another economic barometer that shows – this time conclusively, I believe – that Dubai is back.

Regular readers will know that other indicators, like the traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road at 9am, or the queue to get into the DIFC car park, have been heading in the right direction for some time.

But the annual charity bash at the British embassy on Dubai’s Creekside has finally convinced me that the recovery is well under way, and that the prospects are good for the foreseeable future.

Last weekend, the Help For Heroes function – a regular event aimed at providing financial assistance for injured soldiers and their families – was sold out well in advance, with 750 people (a record attendance) enjoying the cool of the evening in the ambassador’s lovely garden. Each had shelled out Dh400 for the privilege, but it was very good value, and all in a worthy cause.

The highlight of the evening was the auction of prizes donated by well-wishers to raise funds. Tom Urquhart, Dubai’s very own media celeb, carried this off with his usual panache. Quite early on in the proceedings, it was obvious that the audience was feeling especially affluent, with one bidding more than $40,000 for a week on Sir Richard Branson’s Caribbean retreat, Necker Island.

The Virgin king (not present, but represented by a bevy of Virgin lovelies) was so pleased at the outcome that he threw in another week for the under-bidder. Now that’s generous.

But the Big One was the auction of a McLaren sports car, an MP4 12C, decked out in the union flag of the United Kingdom. Not everybody’s cup of tea, but one Martin Sweeney, a publicity-shy Dubai resident, bid more than Dh1 million for the pleasure of acquiring the machine.

The event raised in the region of $450,000 for the charity, a record for the six or so years it has been going. Well done all.

For me, the highlight was being ushered out of the garden in the early hours by a member of the consular staff. “Now safe home,” she said, adding, “But if you get in any trouble and need some help, here’s my number,” handing over her card.

*****

Davos always comes back to haunt you in some form or other. The annual cerebral jamboree of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland has a habit of throwing up surprises, even months after the event.

The gathering is great for networking and deal-doing, I know, but I never realised it was part of a global marketplace in airplanes, armoured cars and other militaristic paraphernalia.

Just a couple of weeks after returning from the do at the end of January, I began to get strange emails in German from a Zurich website. I deleted them all as spam, until one caught my eye: would I like to buy six Boeing 777s for $60m or so each?

Well, considering the list price for the aircraft is about $90m, this seemed a good deal, so I responded in the positive. When could I take delivery, I asked? “We can fly them to you next week,” came the response from the mysterious vendor.

The deal eventually got bogged down when I was asked for letters of credit and other trivia to show that I was actually worth $360m, so I never actually took possession of the aircraft.

But that hasn’t stopped the same emailer from offering me an interesting line in Mercedes armoured cars, military trucks and a stack of anti-personnel devices such as landmines and teargas batons.

The WEF, “committed to improving the state of the world”, should have a look at where all those business cards handed out in the Alpine resort finally end up.

fkane@thenational.ae

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