A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Qataris to Buy Raffles in Singapore: From Saudis. What Would Kipling Think?

I'm a sucker for colonial era hotels of the late British Empire. I usually can't afford to stay in them, but they're fine for tea or drinks; I regret that the original Shepheard's in Cairo was burned down back in 1952 when I was not yet in first grade, but I've enjoyed visits to the King David in Jerusalem, the Old Winter Palace in Luxor, the Old Cataract in Aswan, and, much farther afield, the Peninsula in Hong Kong and Raffles in Singapore. At the Writer's Bar at Raffles there are, or at least were in the late 1980s, pictures or caricatures of Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham and other folks who sat there writing while nursing their drinks (I suspect something like a Pimm's Cup, though I don't think I've ever tasted one, and the article linked below notes that the Singapore Sling was invented at Raffles), and at the Long Bar, you can picture the British Empire's satraps at their peak. (Kipling: "Send me somewhere East of Suez, where the best is like the worst, where there ain't no Ten Commandments and a man can raise a thirst . . . ")

Well, it looks like the Qataris, or at least a Qatari investment firm, are about to buy a majority share in Raffles. And, if I understand the report correctly, they're buying it from a Saudi investment group that has the controlling interest currently. The Saudis have owned the Long Bar and the Writer's Bar? Who knew? It's Waleed ibn Talal, or one of his many enterprises, apparently.

What would Kipling think?

And I know, those friends of mine who claim I blog too much about bars will feel justified again, though of well over a thousand posts, this will be only the sixth on bars. So there.

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