Marking Time in Dubai

Marking Time in Dubai

by | published September 11th, 2019
Editor’s Note: Before we get started with today’s column, I would be remiss in not mentioning the date. Today is September 11th. Eighteen years ago, the U.S. experienced a collective horror as people were glued to their television screens, watching two of the most iconic towers in the country topple to the ground in columns of heavy smoke, taking thousands of lives with them. Being in the Persian Gulf on this date, for me, brings the tragedy closer to home. And last year on this date, I wrote about my experiences and memories of 9/11/2001. Read it right here.

Henry Kissinger once said, upon choosing to enter geopolitics, prepare for your biological clock to be the first thing to go.

It is at times like this that I know exactly what he means.

It is early morning and I write this while watching the sun come up over the Arabian Sea. But being eight time zones later than East Coast U.S., the internal clock again feels the strain.

This hiatus – and having some time to myself – from everything taking place this week will end in a few hours. As a mentor once cautioned many years ago, “Enjoy the downtime while you can, the dissonance always starts up again way too soon.”

So, this is my personal version of marking time.

The energy reason for why I’m here will begin again shortly. Nobody ever said conducting meetings in a potential war zone was easy or straightforward, although, for the moment, business in Dubai is ongoing more or less as usual.

And then there is the other reason we are here. This stop in Dubai marks the first event in a several month-long series of thirty-year wedding anniversary travels. When the sessions get me down, there is always Marina to give wise counsel.

Those meetings began almost as soon as we arrived late last week, with those in Dubai serving as bookends around solo travel I took elsewhere in the United Arab Emirates (Sha’am and Fujairah) to consider security and shipping concerns. I provided a summary of that road trip in yesterday’s Dark Files for my readers in Energy Inner Circle.

Later this week I fly over to Doha, the capital of Qatar, for what may be more contentious discussions…

Travel Policies Between Feuding Countries

As I noted in last week’s installments of Oil & Energy Investor, the separate meetings in Dubai and Doha are required because of the ongoing diplomatic impasse between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar on the other.

Among other matters, that has meant a closing of borders and suspension of direct air travel between Dubai or Abu Dhabi (the UAE capital) and the Qatari capital of Doha. I will be flying to Kuwait City in each direction, since one can get to Kuwait from Dubai but not Qatar.

That Qatar has also been moving closer to Iran means I can meet with Iranian contacts in Doha as well. However, given the accelerating regional discord and the rising geopolitical tension, any opportunity to broker some understanding on near-term energy investment priorities among all parties (a main aspiration for my meetings) is proving elusive.

Even so, some interesting developments are likely to emerge.

We have decided to hold the Qatar meeting in a private business lounge at Doha’s impressive Hamad International Airport. This allows for all parties to fly in, meet, and leave expeditiously.

But it also may delay my commenting on what happens there until next week. For that matter, there may be follow up talks back in Dubai, further delaying my filling you in on what transpires.

Then there is also another restriction on what I can convey.

Abiding by “The Rule” of Thumb

The other matter to understand about all the meetings I advise involving global private and public figures is the modified Chatham House Rule under which they operate. I personally introduced this as a requirement several years ago when these rounds of conversations were being phased in at various locations worldwide.

As veteran readers will recall, the Rule is employed for my annual briefing at the Queen’s Windsor Energy Consultation held early each March at the castle of the same name outside London.

Established during some sensitive negotiations almost a century ago at the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs, based at London’s Chatham House, the Rule reads as follows: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity or the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

In other words, The Rule allows for free and frank conversations without participants having to defend their comments in any other place. The modified version employed whenever I meet with global investors and policy people carries this a further step. No one can discuss outside the meetings any policy or fiduciary matter considered by any participant as confidential or privileged.

The addition is essential, given that members of the discussions are always representatives of large closely held investment sources or policymaking agencies.

Nonetheless, I do have physical control over the Dubai sessions. We are based at the fabled (and self-described world’s only seven-star hotel) the Burj Al Arab. All the meetings here are held on the first level of the two-story suite in which Marina and I are staying.

Living in the Lap of Luxury

The Burj Al Arab isn’t cheap but it does serve the purpose quite well.

The entire hotel floor is secure and has a dedicated butler station on call. Participants can come and go via a private security entrance and elevator or, in the case of one exceptionally heavy hitter among the participants, from the helicopter pad at the top of the building (check out this earlier YouTube posting).

Since mentioning last week where we were staying, several of you asked to see the suite. I must also admit that some staff members over at Money Map were also interested.

Okay, this is what you get for north of $2,000 a night (overpriced meals additional), courtesy of a previous YouTube posting by a rather irritatingly pretentious guy. Watch the video right here.

Yes, there is a mirror above the bed. Each time we stay here I manage to scare myself the first morning until recognizing who is staring down at me.

The suite in the video, by the way, is three down from the one in which we are ensconced this time and is exactly the same, although we are further east affording a better panoramic view because the hotel’s wind brace is out of sight (eat your heart out irritatingly pretentious guy).

But back to the reason we’re here.

The meetings I have attended have been frank and detailed. Already, several new directions in where energy money is flowing have emerged, even given the uncertainty focused on the waters just beyond the suite windows.

Upon my return to the U.S., I will begin laying out what this means for you and your profits.



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  1. Curtis Gentile
    September 16th, 2019 at 18:03 | #1

    Having lived in Doha from 2010-2012, your description of attending meetings in a fog due to jet-lag rings familiar. In the short time since I left, I’m sure things have changed considerably, physically and politically. The entire city was a construction site! Probably still is.

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