Irish legend Sir Bob Geldof saw in St Patrick’s Day at Dubai’s Irish Village last night. The 56-year-old singer-songwriter, who is a Dubai regular, delighted a packed audience at the popular venue as he rattled off some of his most famous hits with his band. The former Boomtown Rats frontman, the man behind Live Aid, also hosted an event by the Emerald Vacation Group while he was in town.
Emerald’s latest venture is the launch of the first holiday ownership property in the beautiful Maldives. The exclusive Turtle Cove Resort and Spa, located on a private island, is the first of its kind offering investors in the UAE the opportunity to own a holiday retreat in one of the world’s most sought after destinations.
You’re no stranger to Dubai and you like to visit regularly. What do you like about the emirate?
I’ve been here so many times since the 1970s – whether on holiday or en route to other countries – and I just love the place.
I come every year now for St Patrick’s Day. It’s a great national tradition that has migrated from Ireland to the UAE. I play at the Irish village and it’s great fun. Apart from that, I find this country absolutely fascinating. It’s a massive social, environmental and economical experiment. The futuristic construction is interesting, clever, and smart. It’s rare to come to a place that makes even Las Vegas look organic.
How did you get involved with the Emerald Vacation Group?
My friend, who brings us out to play in Dubai, told me about them, so I met up with [Emerald’s General Manager] Chris Jackson who showed us the plans, and they are absolutely beautiful. You get tired of endlessly travelling and doing stuff and whenever we go on a family holiday in August it’s just non-stop. But I’m now at the point where I don’t want to do much anymore. I mean, I don’t even dive.
Paddies can’t swim. It has always been this endless struggle to find some place where we want to go with a good price and that is different. And from my point of view and my family’s point of view, this fits the bill perfectly. I want beauty and tranquillity and a few weeks of calm to clear my head.
The resort is called Turtle Cove Resort and Spa after the turtles that can be found in abundance around the coastline of the Maldives. Did the Emerald’s impact on the environment concern you?
On one hand, you’re going to get a privileged life on the island, but on the other hand, you need to respect residents and their way of life and the environment and many precious ecosystems. If Emerald hadn’t got it right, I would absolutely tell you that I have no interest in this project and I’d just wish them luck and get on with it. But I truly believe in this. But one extra thing that should be considered is the carbon footprint when flying over. This is why carbon taxes are being implemented in the UK. I am all for putting a price on carbon. The Maldives could also possibly benefit from these taxes, but that’s up to their government to implement.
You recently travelled with President George Bush to Africa as part of an assignment for Time magazine. What was that like?
He’s a very nice guy. Mind you, I was freaked out sitting next to the President of the United States. He’s a very likeable man, the only problem is when you don’t really agree with some of his policies.
The thing is, to Americans, the issue of Africa doesn’t seem important. They can argue that why should the US build bridges in Tanzania when a bridge is needed in Wisconsin. Clinton halved American aid to Africa, while Bush quadrupled it. At the moment, 2.4million people in Africa are receiving free treatment every day. The purpose of my Time story was to get the current US Presidential candidates to speak out about Africa, because Africans have real strategic importance. That’s the story I wanted to tell. And they all came out with detailed statements, Barack Obama in particular.
Have you ever met His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai?
I haven’t, but he was the first leader from the Middle East to donate serious money to Live Aid. When I got the phone call I didn’t believe it was his representatives, I thought it was a joke. But it was real.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Bob Geldof started his career in Canada as a pop journalist after studying at Black Rock College. In 1975, he returned home to form the successful rock group, The Boomtown Rats. Moved by television pictures of suffering in famine-stricken Ethiopia, Geldof established the pop charity Band Aid Trust in 1984, which raised £8 million (Dh59m) for African famine relief through the release of the single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?. In 1985, simultaneous Live Aid charity concerts were held in London and Philadelphia, which raised a further £48 million. In 2004, he was appointed a member of the Commission for Africa initiative, tasked with helping to reduce poverty in the continent. He received an honourary knighthood in 1986.
Irish legend celebrates the birth of a new Emerald Isle