As the Chairman of the Bahrain British Business Forum (BBBF), Khalid Al Zayani is one of the most important figures in relations between the Kingdom and the UK. With the organisation set to become an official Chamber of Commerce as well as the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III this month, he shares his thoughts about these momentous occasions.
Alongside accumulating more than 50 years of international business acumen in fields such as banking, motoring, manufacturing and more, one of Mr. Zayani’s crowning achievements is growing the BBBF from its beginnings as a social club of 16 members in 1995 to a fully-recognised Chamber of Commerce encompassing around 500 members.
“Previously, the BBBF was regulated by the rules of the Ministry of Social Affairs as a social club,” he explains. “In reality, it was so much more than that, conducting high-level meetings with people in government, both in Bahrain and the UK. Becoming an official branch of The British Chamber will give us access to all its activities in the UK, introduce us to its members, partners and associates, while opening its business database to us. This, in turn, will benefit business in both Bahrain and the UK.”
“The UK’s recent exit from the European Commission has substantially boosted trade relations between Britain and Bahrain, by removing EC levies on Bahraini aluminium and petrochemical exports to the UK. We can now cash in freely on an existing goodwill between our two kingdoms.”
It is a timely reminder of the excellent relations between the two countries just as His Majesty King Hamad prepares to attend the coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey this month.
Mr. Zayani has met the new monarch on numerous occasions, both socially and on business, in the UK and in Bahrain when he was the Prince of Wales.
“It is an absolute honour to have made acquaintances with HM King Charles III. I regularly reminisce having dinners with him at St. James’s Palace, Windsor Castle and other locations and hold such events as my most cherished memories.”
“I found him a very knowledgeable and well-read person, in business, Arab culture and Islam. I was amazed!
“My favourite anecdote with him was over an intimate dinner in London, just four of us, at the private residence of Nemir Kirdar, CEO of Investcorp Bank. He queried me on why Arab architecture and calligraphy has not developed in centuries since Andalusian Arab rule in Spain. He believed that it needed revising. He asked us if we would be willing to co-invest with his Prince’s Foundation into a college, teaching postgraduate studies in these fields and promising to match every pound we deliver. We did and that was how the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts started and very successfully runs to this day, generating numerous graduates from the UK, the Arab world and far beyond, amongst whom is my niece, who finished her Master’s there!
“I wish to congratulate His Majesty King Charles III on this truly momentous occasion. I strongly believe that he will be a great successor to Queen Elizabeth II, especially as he has had so long to learn!”