Side effect of Dubai fun was relief for a few Syrian refugees

It was an event the like of which the fair lawns of Jumeirah could rarely have witnessed, if ever.

While the Heartland Howdy Boys belted out some American bluegrass tunes, 50 or so lunchers – including some of Dubai’s movers and shakers in the worlds of business and media – enjoyed themselves at a full-length trestle table, beautifully served by the team from One Foxhill, caterers par excellence.

Some of the heavyweight people at the party were even persuaded to shake a leg to the sound of a steel guitar. It reminded me of a Renoir painting, albeit with a bit of Dali surrealism thrown in. You don’t often see a female double-bass player, let alone on the fringes of the Arabian Gulf.


The occasion was organised in support of two Syrian friends who needed to get from their refugee camp in the badlands of the Turkish-Syrian border to Istanbul for some urgent medical treatment, and it was a great success in this respect. More of which later.

The Howdy Boys – not entirely accurately named as there were two female musicians in the band – were the stars of the show, however, producing some fine authentic music from the American Deep South to see the afternoon through.

Nick Bortman, known to many in Dubai as the ace investigator from the DIFC-based firm GPW, plucked a fine chord on guitar, while Alistair Crighton – “current affairs oracle and all-round professional cynic”, according to Twitter – lived up to that line with a movingly mournful performance on an instrument that looked like a steel guitar but which had some specialist name I cannot recall now.

Antonia Carver, the director of Art Dubai, was there with her lovely children, who were the life and soul of the party and the first to be up dancing. I didn’t notice her husband, Simeon Kerr, in action on the grass, but I suppose Financial Times journalists always have something more weighty on their minds that prancing about in the open air like fools.

Former soldier turned florist (“guns and roses”) Terence Bramble, he of the Andean Arabian Flowers business, was seen to tap a foot in time to the music. A former senior diplomat was even seen to move away from the beverage cabinet on occasion.

It was that kind of afternoon, and great thanks to the splendid hospitality of the media personalities Nick and Paula Walsh, who let their villa be used for the afternoon. (Sorry about the sofa, guys.)

A word for the organiser, Nick Lunt of Instinctif PR firm. As I wrote a few months ago, Nick gave up his Christmas last year to go to the war-ravaged region of Kilis in Turkey to teach Syrian refugee children.

One of the people he met there, a young lady called Bushra, needed medical attention as a result of wounds she sustained during fighting in the region, and the after­noon was a way of helping her on her way, showing support but also using the business contacts to do something practical to get her to Istanbul.

The deteriorating situation ahead of the recent ceasefire, with increased shelling and bombing in the region, meant that doctors who had been making the trip from Kilis into Syria to tend wounded people had to stop that because of the risk to themselves and their patients, increasing the humanitarian suffering all round.

As Nick said: “We won’t stop a war or its side effects but we will make a few very deserving people very happy for a bit.”

Hear, hear. You can have fun and do good at the same time.

fkane@thenational.ae

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