The Emirates in 1976 – Our fellow guests
We at UPITN had been asked to make three films in the United Arab Emirates. I was to produce and direct the films which were to be about re-afforestation, the Bedouin Villages and a film about the U.A.E. itself, which will be published in the future. We based ourselves at the Khalidiya Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
There was an interesting group of inmates at the Khalidiya Palace Hotel. There were a large number of British ex-pats and visitors as well as reps from most European countries, the U.S. and Japan.
Two of the Brits became drinking partners when they joined us at our evening table in the bar. Harry Hawkes was from the East End of London with an accent to match. He was slim and wiry with blonde hair, a sort of Danny Kaye. He was in his late twenties. He was always on the move and could hardly sit still. Although he had no facial resemblance, his actions reminded me of Tosher the Tie King of Soho and my youth.
He worked for a tailor in Commercial Road, London, and the tailor had sent him to Abu Dhabi to sell bespoke suits to the gentry. He said that he would go to each Palace and knock on the door. He was advised not to. As the days went by, we became astonished at his progress. He did go out and he did knock on doors holding sample material in his hand with a tape measure round his neck.
Rather than getting into trouble, he was welcomed into the palaces where he would measure up the Sheik, and maybe his sons and even the staff, and then depart with his written information. This information he would relay to London where the tailor and his staff would quickly make the suit and ship it back to Abu Dhabi. This whole process never took more than four days, well, not to begin with.
Each evening, we were keen to know how he had got on during the day. Each evening he astounded us with his progress. By the second week, his boss was complaining that he could not handle the work and it was now going to be a week before they could ship the finished suits back to A.D.
Harry asked his boss what he wanted him to do. Should he come back home, take a week off or carry on until there was no one left to sell to.
He was told to take a week off, by the end of which, we had departed and never learned the outcome.
The other man was quite different, he was shorter with dark hair receding above the temples.
Andrew Wallace was in his mid thirties and he told us that he was an engineer, a tool maker. His boss, who ran a factory in the Midlands had sent him to the Emirates to sell their wares. These wares consisted of window fittings – hinges, handles and frames.
I first noticed him sitting in the reception lounge at the hotel when we returned for lunch. After he had started to have a drink with us at the bar, I asked him what he was doing in the lounge. He said that he wanted to see what all the other salesmen were doing, knowing that there were a lot of them and that he had considerable competition.
He noticed, that, like us, all the reps returned to the hotel at 1 o’clock for lunch and did not go out again until 5 o’clock in the afternoon when the temperature had dropped somewhat.
He then started a regime whereby he would wait until 1 o’clock and then go out visiting the building sites around the city. He found that the site was still being manned by the foreman, usually an Indian gentleman, while all the workers and bosses were off to lunch and siesta.
After several days of this, we were sitting in the lounge having our evening drinks when a man came into the bar. He looked like he had just returned from an East African Safari.
He was about forty, wearing large brown boots drooping knee-length socks, khaki shorts and a short-sleeved jacket, also khaki. On top, he had a bush hat.
He came in eyeing the tables. He finally settled on us and came forward.
“Who sells the window fittings” ? “That’s me” said Andrew.
“Well, that’s my card. I’m running seventeen sites here, come along to my office tomorrow and we will do a deal”.
A site would consist of, at least, a ten story office block with about two hundred windows.
He came back the next night to say that he had got not only an order for the seventeen sites, but follow-up orders for future sites. He had hit the bulls eye.
However, when he relayed the orders back to the U.K., his boss went mad saying that they did not have the capacity to produce such quantities and that he would need to open another factory.
Andrew said ”There’s no pleasing some people”. Harry said “I don’t know why you don’t offer the bleeding order to your competition, they might appreciate it”.
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