The Weekly Circuit
👋 Good Monday morning in the Middle East!
Aid from Gulf nations is pouring into flood- and earthquake-ravaged Libya and Morocco. The United Arab Emirates will launch a new online response platform that is designed to support disaster-affected countries and communicate their humanitarian needs to the international community. Meanwhile, UAE-headquartered ride-hailing company Careem offered free rides to blood donors in the cities of Casablanca, Rabat and Tangier.
Several Middle East leaders are headed to New York this week for the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani; Jordan’s King Abdullah II; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Besides addressing the world body, Netanyahu will meet with President Joe Biden, who declined the Israeli leader’s request for a White House get-together.
Before Netanyahu’s appearance at the U.N. on Friday, he will visit Silicon Valley for a meeting with Elon Musk as the billionaire owner of X, formerly Twitter, tries to quell a crisis over antisemitic posts on the social media platform. Netanyahu will also visit other top tech executives in California who have operations in Israel. Throughout his trip to the West Coast and New York, Israeli activists are planning demonstrations to protest Netanyahu’s effort to make changes in the country’s judicial system.
From zero to 106 weekly flights, $5.6 billion in bilateral trade and 70-plus companies from Israel registered in the UAE. These are just some of the figures shared by the UAE Embassy in Tel Aviv last week as the two countries marked three years of the Abraham Accords.
Dubai’s white-hot property market shows no signs of cooling even as higher interest rates put a damper on the luxury property boom globally. The city leapfrogged New York, London and Hong Kong in the second quarter of this year to take the top spot for total sales in the luxury segment, according to data from Knight Frank.
Welcome to The Weekly Circuit. Read on for the stories, deals and players at the top of the news across the MENA business landscape. Please send comments and story tips to [email protected].
BRIDGE OF BOOKS
From Suleiman the Magnificent’s love poems to a ninth-century Quran
When Israeli President Isaac Herzog made a state visit to Turkey last year, he presented President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with an illuminated manuscript from a book of love poems composed in 1553 by Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning sultan of the Ottoman empire, Linda Gradstein reports for The Circuit.
Gold leaf: The gift was a museum-quality replica of a page from the Divan-i Muhibbi, an anthology of poems written by Suleiman under the pen name Muhibbi, or “the lover.” The nearly 500-year-old manuscript – a masterpiece of Islamic literature decorated in gold leaf and intricate floral patterns – sits in the National Library of Israel and is one of five existing copies in the world.
$225 million building: Suleiman’s book of verse is among the jewels of the library’s collection of Islamic literature, which will become more accessible next month when the Jerusalem institution’s new $225 million building opens next month across the street from the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
Wealth of treasure: “We have important theological works, Sufi mystical treatises, Persian poetry, miniatures, scientific texts and mathematical texts,” Samuel Thorpe, curator of the Islamic and Middle East collection, told The Circuit. “It’s not the biggest collection in the region, but the quality is very high. There is a wealth of treasure here.”
Regional partners: Since the Abraham Accords were signed three years ago, normalizing Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, the library has sought to develop ties with its counterparts in the region. A team from the Emirates National Library and Archives visited in 2022. The director of the National Library of the Kingdom of Morocco, Mohamed Elferrane, said he will attend the opening reception in Israel on Oct. 17 where the two institutions will sign a preliminary agreement on scholarly cooperation.
Israel’s most active VC firm aims to triple head count at Abu Dhabi AI office
Israel’s most active venture capital firm is looking to triple the head count at its Abu Dhabi office dedicated to artificial intelligence development as it ramps up efforts to develop tools for customers in fintech, energy, health care and government, The Circuit’s Kelsey Warner reports.
First mover: The UAE venture, Integrated Data Intelligence, is a subsidiary of Jerusalem-based OurCrowd, the first VC firm to register in the UAE after the Abraham Accords were signed three years ago and with $2.2 billion in committed capital.
New platform: IDI, which is less than a year old, is the commercial byproduct of OurCrowd’s decade-long, $100 million investment into developing a new kind of investment platform that has made it among the most prolific VC investors in the world. The platform has allowed its 260,000 investors to invest in over 370 portfolio companies from almost every country in the world while adhering to local laws in those investors’ respective jurisdictions.
Seeing opportunity: “That’s a lot of data,” Sabah al-Binali, executive chairman of OurCrowd Arabia, told The Circuit. The startup, which was seeded with an initial joint commitment of $60 million from OurCrowd and the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), is the venture firm’s first R&D center outside Israel. It continues to develop AI for OurCrowd but is now using its technology as a blueprint for other platforms that will benefit by applying AI to their own data.
Head count: IDI has 16 people from 15 countries working in the Al Maryah Island office at Hub71, the emirate’s startup and technology campus, with two employees from Israel and two recruited from the first graduating class of Abu Dhabi’s AI research university. IDI is looking to grow to 50 employees by the end of 2024.
Click here to read the full story.
🎲 Fair Play: Just as the UAE is moving toward legalized gaming, Caesars Palace said it will close its Dubai location at Bluewaters after five years, with the hotel set to reopen as a Banyan Tree in November.
🔬 Smart Move: A Saudi-backed longevity-focused investment fund opened its North American headquarters at 200 Clarendon in Boston, with plans to invest as much as $1 billion a year from the life sciences hub.
🌴 Island Hopping: Emirates Airline has expanded its route network to 16 more destinations in the Maldives with an interline partnership with the nation’s flag carrier.
🌏 Road to China: Chinese carmaker FAW will work with Israel’s Mobileye, a unit of Intel, to integrate self-driving technology in FAW’s Hongqi brand vehicles.
♻️ Sustainable investment: Dubai-based SEE Holding, which developed the Middle East’s first residential community to achieve net zero, is mulling an IPO, Bloomberg reports.
🎲 Generational Wealth: The Middle East is becoming a popular destination for family offices to set up headquarters as opportunities for wealth creation increase, a new survey by Citi found.
🎮 Game On: Once banned, Saudi Arabia is getting in on the business of video games with multibillion-dollar stakes in the biggest franchises, The Wall Street Journal reports.
🏭 3D Metal: Thyssenkrupp, the German engineering giant, and Israel’s Impact Labs opened a factory for 3D metal printing to produce customized machine components.
⚒️ Precious Metals: The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are in talks to secure metals in Africa needed for both countries’ energy transitions, The Wall Street Journal reports.
⚓ Cleaning Up: Egypt’s VeryNile environmental group said its new strategy of paying fishermen to collect plastic waste has substantially improved the river’s water quality.
🏠 Printing Money: Saudi Aramco’s venture capital arm Wa’ed Ventures co-led a $52 million fundraising round for California-based Mighty Buildings, a 3D-printing construction technology firm.
🚀 Apollo Mission: Mubadala Capital rolled out a new investment platform seeded with $2.7 billion and backed by U.S. private equity firm Apollo Global Management, aimed at family offices and institutions.
💊 Youthful Injection: Mubadala backed a $75 million series B funding round for Swiss biotech firm Rejuveron to develop drugs targeting the effects of aging, Bloomberg reports.
🌏 Starting Out: Dubai-based Nuwa Capital raised $100 million for its debut fund and is eyeing expansion into southeast Asia.
💰 Fresh Funds: Chimera Investment, part of Abu Dhabi’s Royal Group overseen by Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, set up a $50 billion fund called Lunate.
🏠 House Call: A subsidiary of Abu Dhabi developer Aldar Properties acquired FAB Properties, a portfolio of 22,000 residential units, for an undisclosed amount.
🛢️ Big Debut: Oil and gas drilling firm ADES Holding’s IPO, set to be Saudi Arabia’s biggest listing of the year, is expected to price at the top of the range and raise $1.2 billion.
🛒 Green Grocer: Abu Dhabi’s LuLu, one of the biggest grocery store chains in the Gulf, is planning to launch an IPO in the first half of next year and plans to list on a local exchange.
🔋 Getting Charged: Israel is allocating $16 million for new charging stations as it expects the number of electric vehicles to grow from 70,000 to 1.3 million by 2030.
💰 Investors Unmoved: Concern investors will leave Israel in significant numbers because of the government’s judicial overhaul has proven unfounded, Bloomberg reports.
On the Circuit
Salem Mohammed Al Darei, formerly Adnoc Group’s chief legal counsel, has been tapped to become the CEO of the ADGM Authority, the international financial center of Abu Dhabi, taking over from Dhaher bin Dhaher Al Mheiri, who held the role for nearly a decade.
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a deputy mayor of Jerusalem and co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, was appointed Israel’s special envoy for innovation.
Noura Al Mazrouie, the former UAE national team goalkeeper, is coaching Banaat FC, a Dubai football club started by entrepreneur Budreya Faisal.
Gerry Cardinale, managing partner of RedBird Capital and owner of AC Milan, called Saudi Arabia’s foray into sports a “positive” in an interview.
Patrick Drahi, the Moroccan-born Israeli billionaire and owner of Europe’s Altice telecom, bought Tel Aviv’s historic Shimon Mizrahi house for $29 million.
Joshua Teitelbaum, a historian at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University specializing in Saudi Arabia, was named a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who returned from abroad after a Sept. 8 earthquake to lead a cabinet meeting and donate blood, was nevertheless profiled in The New York Times as a generally remote and mysterious leader.
Sand Sea: The Unesco World Heritage Committee is meeting in Saudi Arabia to evaluate 50 sites that have been nominated for the World Heritage List. Eight of the entries are scattered across the MENA region. On the western edge of the Empty Quarter, spanning Saudi Arabia to the UAE, the 12,000-square-kilometer Uruq Bani Ma’arid was nominated and is of note as the planet’s largest continuous sand sea. Ancient Jericho in Palestine, among the oldest sites in the Middle East, is also on the list.
King Depp: The 39th Haifa Film Festival kicks off on Sept. 28 with “Jeanne du Barry,” the elaborately costumed French period piece that stars Johnny Depp playing King Louis XV. The film, which was also the opening-night pick this year at Cannes, will be followed over the next 10 days by hundreds of movies from Israeli and international directors at the Haifa Cinematheque and other theaters across the northern port city.
Ahead on the Circuit
Sept. 19, Dubai, UAE: Middle East Investment Conference. Asset owners, managers, investors discuss latest trends in regional market. Ritz Carlton, DIFC.
Sept. 19, Tel Aviv, Israel: Climate LaunchPad Israel. Competition showcasing 30 startups in climate and energy spheres. Microsoft Reactor, Midtown Building.
Sept. 20-24, Dubai, UAE: Gitex Shopper. Electronics fair with product launches, presentations by major world brands. Dubai World Trade Centre.
Sept. 25-27, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Future Hospitality Summit. Investors, managers, government officials discuss prospects for the hotel and restaurant industries. Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island.
Sept. 28-30, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Melody Festival. Three days of music honoring Saudi Arabia’s vibrant musical heritage and the artists who have shaped it. Jeddah Superdome.
Oct. 2-5, Abu Dhabi, UAE: ADIPEC 2023. Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference brings oil industry together to discuss trends and strategy. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Oct. 9-12, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: MENA Climate Week. Hosted by Saudi Arabia, a convening of regional stakeholders ahead of COP28. The Boulevard Riyadh City.
Oct. 16-20, Dubai, UAE: GITEX. The biggest consumer technology and startup show in the world. Dubai World Trade Center.
Oct. 16-20, Dubai, UAE: AI Everything. Hosted by the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence and held on the sidelines of GITEX. Dubai World Trade Center.
Oct. 16-20, Abu Dhabi, UAE: World Investment Forum. A gathering of global leaders brought together by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to tackle issues related to sustainable development. Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.