Monday, 20 February 2012

Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa AL Khalifa

Bob and I were driving around Manama one day when we saw the first 3.3 litre Porsche 930 turbo in Bahrain driving along the highway. We found somewhere to turn around and set off in pursuit driving around a block of houses taking each street one by one until we saw the Purple coloured Porsche 930 turbo parked outside one particular house.
We parked up and went to knock the door when we realised in was one of the offices for the High Council for Youth & Sports. We asked who owned the Porsche and we were told Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa and I asked if we could see him. We were shown up to his office and he was surprised to see us and asked us if we had an appointment with him? We had seen his Porsche driving past and wanted to come and introduce ourselves. After introductions we all went down to look at the car.
Sheikh Khalid told us he ordered the car in Germany and had flown it home to Bahrain himself as there was no agent for Porsche in Bahrain and so if you wanted such a car you had to buy in privately. I asked him if he thought Porsche would sell well in Bahrain and he said yes but to a limited number of people if I was talking about the 911 range, however the 924 and 928 ranges would appeal to other types of drivers who currently drive Mercedes and BMW.
I explained that Bob and I previously worked for Porsche in the UK and that we were personally repairing cars for a number of clients in Bahrain. He said he had heard of us through the grapevine but not many local Bahraini people knew how to contact us and where was our workshop?
We told him we did not have a workshop and Sheikh Khalid we open one and he would sponsor it. He suggested we meet one afternoon in his private office in Manama and we told him we looked forward to it. In the meantime would we take the car for a test drive and check it over for him. Well not being in shy in coming forward I took the keys off him and Bob and I set off for a drive round Manama in his brand new Porsche 930 turbo. We had only gone up the next road to the pass the police fort (this was the ex-British Army fort, now used as the Ministry of Interior HQ since Bahrain had become independent in the early 1970’s). When we drove past all the police on the gate saluted us and this continued whenever we met any further police.
I must say I had driven a Porsche 930 turbo previously but after my 911E Targa, it was something else. Sheikh Khalid’s car was purple metallic with white 930-turbo stripes right across and down the bonnet. The interior was white leather and carpets with pink overlay carpets for your feet. When we returned after half an hour or so we checked the oil level and had a good look over the car, which was fine.
We found Sheikh Khalid in his office and retuned his keys and reassured him that his Porsche was in perfect condition. I said a number of police had saluted us and he laughed telling us that his elder brother Sheikh Mohammed was the Interior Minister so everyone knew him and his cars. We agreed we would meet up with him later that afternoon and left.
When we drove off Bob noticed there were not any number plates on the 930 turbo. I then thought perhaps Sheikh Khalid could drive without numbers but had heard even the Sheikhs could not do this as this particular privilege was reserved for Sheikh Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, The Ruler of Bahrain. I found out later that all the Sheiks drove around for the first few days in their new cars whilst they waited for the registration to get sorted out (slowly) which were their way of showing everyone that they had a new car.
Bob and I duly met up that afternoon with Sheikh Khalid and discussed a possible business relationship between us. For our part I had a good idea of what Porsche would be seeking in an Importer and we had roughed out some plans to discuss with Sheikh Khalid. This was my first attempt at doing business with the Ruling Family in Bahrain and something a lot of people had advised us to steer clear of. In any event Sheikh Khalid told us that he wanted to wait until his brother Sheikh Rashid arrived in Bahrain from England to discuss the matter further but he stated they were very interested in this project. 
A week or so later we all met in their offices and Sheikh Rashid turned out to be a well-educated man with an exceptional understanding of our culture as well as his own, so he could help smooth the way forward. As usual with Arabs, getting them to actually commit the money was a problem. I am not sure what goes on in their way of doing things, but we talked and talked for weeks on end.
In the daytime, Bob and I continued to build our small servicing business. Eventually Sheikh Rashid took the lead in this matter and told us he would represent his brothers, who were Hamad, Himself, Khalid, Abdullah and Isa in order of their ages.
He said he was returning to England shortly to continue his studies in Hastings where he was studying art at St Leonard’s. He suggested Bob and I go come and visit him on our next trip home to the UK and if suitable we could go and visit with Porsche Cars Great Britain? We agreed and told him we would call when next in the UK.

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