The recent conversion of a Hyatt Hotel in Cairo into an alcohol-free environment was news enough. But it seems that this Islamic temperance initiative is part of a trend that may even extend into Europe.
Below is an article from yesterday’s Hamburger Abendblatt via Europe News, kindly translated into English by our Austrian correspondent ESW. When you read it, think about where the 2.5% of the profits that goes to “Islamic charities” is likely to end up:
More and more hotels without alcohol
No bars, but separate pools and hijab: Kempinski alone wants to open 30 hotels according to strict [sharia] customs.
Cairo — The Saudi sheikh is not wasting any time. Abul Aziz Al-Brahim orders all employees at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Cairo to destroy 2,500 bottles of alcohol: French wine, champagne, whiskey, and grappa. All of it is disposed of in the sewage canals of the Egyptian megacity. Ever since the owner of the hotel, a relative of Saudi King Abdullah, decided to relieve his guilty conscience last spring, the luxury hotel tells his customers: “We apologize for currently being unable to serve alcohol.” Hyatt International, the hotel management company headquartered in Chicago, is not amused with this puritan clean sweep. So far the Egyptian government has not made up its mind whether to downgrade the five-star hotel to four stars as a result of the decision. The hotel might even lose two stars.
Despite this uproar, hotels boasting sharia compliancy are on the advance. Some hotel chains want to gain a foothold on the European market with this concept. However, the no-drinks concept will be promoted as “healthy and family friendly”, rather than piety according to the prophet Mohammed.
Kempinski alone, one of the most traditional hotel chains in Europe, wants to open more than thirty sharia-compliant hotels in cooperation with Islamic financial corporation Guidance Financial Group, naming these hotels “Shaza”. They will be built in the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. There are two reasons for these plans: First, the renaissance of piety in the Islamic world is raising demand for hotels without casinos, bars, and nightclubs. Secondly, there is a rise is Islamic investors who want to invest their money in a morally sound way.
– – – – – – – – –
Hani Laschin, the CEO of the puritanical Jawhara hotels in Dubai, is convinced of the sharia-hotels’ growth potential. “Currently, there are about 5% of hotel in Dubai in this segment, but I am confident that by 2015 we will occupy a quarter of the market”, the Egyptian says. However, not every hotel owner means the same thing when he boasts the sharia-conformity or Islamic atmosphere of his hotel. Situated in Dubai’s famous shopping district Deira, the Jawhara Gardens Hotel does not only lack a bar. The bringing of alcohol into the hotel is also prohibited. “I once had an Iranian lady guest who canceled her reservation when she found out that we would store her duty free alcohol until her departure, saying that in Iran everything is prohibited. She said, ‘Why do you think I came here? I want to taste freedom.’”
In the Jawhara, only women wearing the hijab are allowed to work, even though some of them are not even Muslim. Muslim guests may stay there only if they are married. The porters greet the guests with “Salaam aleikum”, rather than with “Good morning!” The restaurant serves meat that has been slaughtered according to Islamic rituals. And next to the communal pool there is a canopied pool for women only. The annual report is done according Islamic finance: 2.5% of net profit goes to Islamic charities.
There are no dress codes in the Jawhara Gardens Hotel, however. The Chinese pilots and flight attendants, who regularly stay at the hotel during their stopovers, are clad in Bermuda shorts, sitting in the hotel lobby right next to the heavily veiled woman. And a man and a bikini-wearing woman are playing waterball on the pool deck on this oppressively hot day.
Hat tip: Steen.