x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mövenpick hotel the place to be during the World Economic Forum in Jordan

The Mövenpick hotel in the Dead Sea resort in Jordan was certainly the place to be for the past 48 hours.

The Mövenpick hotel in the Dead Sea resort in Jordan was certainly the place to be for the past 48 hours.

The five-star hotel, perhaps the best along the strip of beach and leisure facilities, was the scene of spectacle, intrigue and even a bit of sporting history.

The reason, of course, was that the World Economic Forum was in town, with its full complement of movers and shakers from business, politics and economics. There were even some journalists allowed in, although not to every event, as I discovered.

On Saturday night, the hotel was the scene of a royal extravaganza hosted by King Abdullah II of Jordan, coinciding with the country's independence day. A couple of thousand people gathered to watch the Jordan Military Band, which sounded disconcertingly like a Scots highland regiment ensemble, over a splendid banquet of Arab cuisine.

The hotel was also the scene where the WEF's "big one" was being hatched. Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder and supremo, could be seen in delicate negotiations over what became known as BTI - breaking the impasse. Once the WEF officially bestows an acronym, you know it must be important.

BTI is the initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and it has been the constant undercurrent to all the other brainstorming sessions and debates at the forum. Backed by 300 Arab and Israeli businessmen, it could, the WEF believes, help to break the long cycle of animosity that has plagued the Middle East.

It might also get the organisation, and Mr Schwab, a Nobel peace prize, it is whispered.

Prof Mr Schwab could be seen flitting around the hotel between a series of conspiratorial meetings, all designed to hammer out the fine points. At the Jordanian evening, however, a less weighty matter was on the minds of many of the Weffers: where to watch the European Champions League football final televised later that night.

One football fan keen to sample the unique atmosphere of the event - the first final between two German teams - was Niall Ferguson, the superstar historian who is a regular at these international bashes.

I don't know how he would have taken the result - a 2-1 win for Bayern Munich. Beforehand I had a quick chat with him.

"On this game, I think I go along with what Henry Kissinger said about the Iran-Iraq war: it's a shame only one of them can lose," he opined.