The image is a fond 1980s cliché... a tall arab man with a dark beard, very masculine facial features and a white cloth (kendora) slowly walks toward an expensive business jet. Popularized in the late 1970s as the oil 'nouveaux riches' expanded their influence to the West, the image of extremely wealthy sheikhs has evolved very little... take off the round dark shades, replace the Hawker jet by a Boeing Business Jet or better yet, by a Boeing B747 VIP and here they are again, at the Middle East Business Aviation (MEBA) event.
Inspite of the disproportional number of business/private jets in the region, this time the wealthy sheikhs don't fly; all major aircraft manufacturers converge to Dubai and spare no expense to showcase their best products to this very capable market segment.
From falcons (the bird, a traditional symbol and hobby in some of the Gulf countries) to huge airports, to business jets, many local leaders seem to have a particular interest in flight. Usually very mysterious, I will briefly introduce you to five of the more public Gulf aviation leaders. I shall start tomorrow with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saif Al-Nahayan.