x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Charmed I'm sure, but this diehard Boss fan could never be a Belieber

A odd week for invitations, what with Justin Bieber in town and the promotion of an old acquaintance.

It's been a strange week for invitations. These are always pleasant to get, of course, but sometimes have to be turned down. Sometimes, you have to ask why they were made in the first place.

Driving at 120kph towards Dubai last week, the first came in. Dubai Media Office would like to know whether I'd be free to attend the Justin Bieber concert at the weekend as the guest of Mona Al Marri, the high-flying and charming lady who runs the media set-up in the emirate.

"Perhaps you'd like to bring your daughter," suggested the pleasant chap on the other end of the line.

While I'm hugely grateful for her consideration, and equally certain that time spent in her company could never be time wasted, I'm sure Ms Al Marri sees the line-drawing that runs at the top of this page every week.

Is that the face of your average Justin Bieber fan? I don't think so.

It was lovely of her to think that my daughter might enjoy an evening with the pop sensation, but, as I had to point out to the media office man, Amira is just four years old.

She loves music, especially Lebanese music, which she knows by rote in Arabic from having listened to so many Nancy Ajram discs, and does a fair belly-dance performance for her age. But an evening with Bieber and his hysterical fans - with a two-hour wait, as it turned out - would have been too much for her.

So I'm eternally grateful to Ms Al Marri and the media office, but sadly I had to decline. Now if ever Bruce Springsteen decides to come to Dubai, please, please count me in.


The invitation I was delighted to accept was from my old friend Parviz Ismailzade, who used to be the Azerbaijan consul in Dubai.

I was introduced to Parviz years ago by my wife Naza, a Baku-born Azeri, and we became friends. The ritual was a "big steak" dinner and some enlightened conversation of affairs in the oil-rich and highly newsworthy Caspian region.

I haven't had a "big steak" evening for a couple of years after he was posted back to Baku for a stint in the diplomatic corps there.

But he is back, this time as consul-general, no less. I'm not too au fait with diplomatic rankings, but this sure looks like a big promotion to me. His card now has the prefix "HE" to his name, so it must be.

The trappings of diplomatic honour certainly go with the new job. In place of the rather dingy consulate in Deira (shared with a bank) there is now a very nice detached villa in Al Manara, in posh Jumeirah, as the Azerbaijan HQ in Dubai. (The embassy to the UAE remains, of course, in the capital).

The reception to mark the move to the new building was a well-attended affair, with diplomats attending from Russia, the central Asian republics and the Emirates. (Strangely, I didn't meet the Armenian representative, but then I did get there rather late.)

Say what you like about Azerbaijan, it's certainly going up in the world.

New consulates, new planes on the national airline fleet, the huge success of Eurovision last year and other advances make it a coming place. There is talk of an Expo bid, but some years off.

Next year's Art Dubai extravaganza will be themed on Caucasus and Central Asian art, I hear, so I'm sure too the Azeris will have a big presence there.

All of this will soon be discussed over a big steak with His Excellency.