Vimto: A Saudi love story in a bottle

Vimto: A Saudi love story in a bottle
Courtesy photo.
Updated 08 March 2018

Vimto: A Saudi love story in a bottle

Vimto: A Saudi love story in a bottle

LONDON: There would not appear to be much to link the rainy northwest of Britain and the searing heat of the vast desert expanses of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf — and even less likely that the link might come in a bottle.
Eighty years ago, an Indian employee of a family firm named Abdulla Aujan & Brothers introduced his bosses to a cordial drink from Britain which, he explained, had become very popular in India, which was then still a British colony.
The drink was a hit with the bosses too, and so began one of the most enduring love affairs between the Gulf region and Britain.
The drink was Vimto, a sugary blend of fruits, berries and secret herbs that was initially sold as a medicinal tonic but is now the beverage of choice in the Middle East, especially during Ramadan. Indeed no self-respecting host would consider not having a jug of thirst-quenching iced Vimto on hand ready for Iftar and suhoor.
Eating dates may be the traditional way to break the fast, and coincidentally dates are a key factor in Vimto’s popularity. When the drink took off in the Middle East the recipe was tweaked to include the fruit which is dear to all Arab hearts.
“The recipe for Vimto produced in the Middle East contains date paste. That commonality of date flavouring really cemented Vimto as the drink of choice,” said Eddie Stableford, who worked on Vimeo branding in the late 1990s and is now innovation director with Wonderstruck Branding Design.
“Many other drinks have come along over the years and there are cheaper colas out there, but Vimto is the product that delivers.
“It’s a sign of quality. It’s been around a long time so it’s familiar and reassuring. And because it’s got a long history there’s a nostalgia factor. It has fond associations for people.”
A cursory search on social media reveals just how deep the Arab attachment to Vimto has become since that first taste in 1928.
“Is it really Ramadan without Vimto?” asked one fan on Twitter, while another posted misty-eyed reminiscences about watching his mother pour Vimto cordial into a jug full of ice in preparation for the end of prayers signalling that Iftar could begin.
While Vimto is popular year-round, sales really go through the roof at Ramadan. In fact almost three quarters of Vimto’s Middle East sales occur during the month of fasting and it has at times proved necessary to restrict customers to two bottles apiece to ensure supplies do not run out.
It is easy to see why. At the end of a long and tiring day without sustenance, the sugar boost in Vimto provides an instant pick-me-up.
Vimto arrived in the Middle East in 1928 but it was invented 20 years earlier by John Noel Nichols, a wholesaler trader of herbs, spices and medicines in Manchester, the northwestern English city that was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.
He launched his new concoction as Vimtonic, a herbal tonic to give “vim and vigour” to those who drank it, but before long the name was shortened to Vimto. It was registered as a medicine and the cordial could be diluted with hot, cold or soda water. Advertisements from those early years claimed it “builds up the system” and “eliminates that out-of-sorts feeling.”
In the early 1920s, Richard Goodsir, a representative of the Kiwi boot polish company and a friend of John Noel Nichols, took a few samples of Vimto cordial to India with him for local bottling plants to try out. There was a readymade market on hand in the form of British troops, but the Indian population also developed a liking for Vimto and its popularity soon spread to neighboring parts of the British Empire, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Burma (now Myanmar).
So when Indians began flocking to the Gulf to take up clerical jobs, naturally many of them took some Vimto cordial with them, which is how Abdulla Aujan & Brothers in Saudi Arabia came upon it.
They soon saw its potential. Invented at the height of the anti-alcohol Temperance movement in Britain, it trumpeted its non-alcoholic content, making it both suitable and appealing to Muslim consumers. The company struck a deal to become sole importers and distributors of the cordial.
It was shipped in crates from Salford, just outside Manchester, offloaded in Bahrain and transported around the Arabian peninsula in dhows. In 1979 Aujan & Brothers began producing Vimto under license at a factory in Dammam.
“A member of the Nichols family went out to Saudi Arabia and personally handed over the recipe, which remains a family secret to this day — and yes, the people who know the recipe never travel together,” said Stableford.
Today, Vimto is available in 85 countries and counting, and in 38 out of 40 Muslim countries. But Saudi Arabia is still the biggest non-domestic market, with Vimto-lovers consuming 52 million bottles a year of it in cordial, still (ready-diluted) and fizzy form, although the cordial remains most popular by far.
For the makers of Vimto, success has been sweet indeed — literally doubly so in the Middle East. The Vimto sold there is double concentration to cater to the region’s extra sweet tooth.
The next biggest non-domestic markets are Kuwait and the UAE. Within Saudi Arabia, Vimto has a 90 percent share in the concentrated drinks market.
Even adverts for Vimto — Aujan launch a new campaign each year on Arab satellite TV stations — have achieved cult status.
In the 1990s, Vimto expanded into continental Europe and into confectionery. But the war in Yemen has disrupted distribution there because supply routes are under blockade. No Vimto concentrate was shipped there in December.
Change in the Saudi economy is expected to mean a slowdown in sales this year with profits for 2018 not expected to exceed the low single-digit mark.
On the other hand, UK sales were up nine percent as of November 2017 while revenues in Africa are expected to show a 20 percent increase.
However, Nichols — still the owners of Vimto — say the company was well-prepared for the introduction of tax on sugary drinks in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Regional turmoil notwithstanding, it seems Vimto will continue to keep its customers sweet.
“There’s a lot of choice out there these days but people love Vimto because they know it, they recognize it and they trust it,” said Stableford. “It does exactly what a brand should do. It’s the real deal.”


Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians
Updated 06 May 2021

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians

Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi quits Artists’ Syndicate after request to avoid criticizing politicians
  • Furious diva posts resignation letter insisting all Lebanese should express themselves freely and democratically
  • Resignation follows statement from chairman urging members to avoid political comments

BEIRUT: Lebanese pop star Nawal Al-Zoghbi has resigned from the Syndicate of Professional Artists after the body told members they could not criticize politicians.
Al-Zoghbi posted a two-page resignation letter on her Twitter account on Wednesday slamming the country’s ruling elite. 
She said there was a “negative influence” from all Lebanese politicians and political parties and accused them of sluggishness towards the country’s current economic and political crisis.
The Arabic music diva said she did not feel honored to sit back and watch her “beloved Lebanon and its people” sliding into the unknown.
Al-Zoghbi also addressed her five million followers on Instagram and 4.7 million followers on Twitter saying she would show unity and support to her fellow “decent citizens” by resigning from the Syndicate.
Last month, actor Jihad Al-Atrash, the Syndicate’s chairman, requested that members should not criticize or mention politicians or political parties. He added that freedom of expression remains respected and preserved within the parameters of the constitution.
His statement followed an attack on the house of actor Asaad Rachdan by supporters of MP Gebran Bassil, the head of Free Patriotic Movement.
During a TV interview, Rachdan had criticized President Michel Aoun , his son-in-law Bassil and their political party for their governance and blamed them for the current crises in Lebanon.
“I will not remain silent and I cannot be silenced except by killing me and I am not afraid to die,” he said.
Rachdan’s home was vandalized and Aoun’s photos were posted all around it.
Al-Atrash was heavily criticized for his statement after the attack and many artists and actors showed solidarity with Rachdan.  
Al-Zoghbi condemned the statement from Al-Atrash and the Syndicate, saying it was her obligation to back good citizens and support their demands for a better life. She said people should be able to express themselves and their opinions “freely and democratically.”
She described the Syndicate’s stance as “a dangerous and unprecedented move.”
She had been a member of the Syndicate for 20 years.
Lebanon is mired in political and economic crises as its politicians have failed to form a new government amid a financial collapse.
Many in the country are furious at the ruling elite and blame the current situation on decades of corruption and mismanagement.


Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters
Updated 05 May 2021

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters

Belgian farmer moves border with France by 2 meters
  • Group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side
  • In Belgian village of Erquelinnes, the mayor appeared keen to avoid an international incident

BRUSSELS: A Belgian farmer unwittingly extended his country’s territory by moving an ancient stone marking the border with France that was on his land.
A group of local history enthusiasts discovered the move during a walk in a wooded area on the French side.
The discovery of the stone, now sitting 2.20 meters (7.2 feet) away from where it was placed in accordance with a border agreement two centuries ago, has caused a flap in a normally sleepy rural area.
“If it belongs to us, it belongs to us. We don’t want to be robbed of 2 meters,” a resident of the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc told RTL Info.
On the other side, in the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, mayor David Lavaux appeared keen to avoid an international incident.
“The land was sold and I think the person who bought it changed the borders the way he wanted,” he said. “But this isn’t just a private border, it’s a border between countries and you can’t just at will move boundary markers that have been there for a long time.”


Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness
Palestinian women ride bicycles at the Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza city on April 28, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2021

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness

Gaza women pedal their way to glory and happiness
  • 10 bicycles in attractive colors and protection tools needed have been provided

GAZA CITY: Ola Zaqout regularly rides a bicycle as part of an unprecedented sports project she recently launched on the Gaza Strip with dozens of her Palestinian female friends.

Marking a departure from the norms in the strip that Hamas has run for 15 years, the initiative provides an opportunity for girls to ride bicycles in public places.

Its owner Rania Al-Daour calls it “Breathe Deeply” — a space for women to express themselves and lead normal lives.

Officially, there is no law prohibiting women in Gaza from riding bicycles, but under the weight of customs and traditions, it is unusual to see a woman cycling in public.

Zaqout, 23, said she felt the happiness that she had missed for years when she was able to ride a bicycle outdoors for the first time.

When she turned 10, Zaquot stopped riding bicycles following the decision of her family which considered it “a disgrace to the girl.”

She said that she loved riding her brother’s bike: “I was skilled and doing acrobatic movements in the streets.”

She said the Breathe Deeply project gives women access to the sport without restrictions and in an atmosphere of privacy.

Zaqout said she hoped that the culture of exercise spreads for women as well as for men. She looks forward to the day when she can use a bicycle in her daily life.

As a result of the prevailing atmosphere and culture since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, restrictions imposed on women — whether by an official decision or by informal means — have increased.

Al-Daour, the project owner, said its idea stemmed from her passion for returning to her childhood, the period when she was able to ride bicycles without any hindrances.

Rania, 29, a veiled woman and mother of three girls, believed that the project would provide girls with the opportunity “to practice cycling in an open space with comfort and privacy consistent with religious and community values.”

HIGHLIGHT

Women in Gaza need this sport, which improves psychological feelings, reduces depression, and improves body shape.

The project was launched in cooperation with the Gaza municipality and the Yarmouk Stadium in the city center was designated for women to practice the sport for five days a week in specific hours.

Al-Daour aims to “encourage women to practice the sport without shame or obstacles.”

The project enables girls aged 12 and above to ride bicycles for a symbolic fee. Rania has provided 10 bicycles in attractive colors for women, and the protection tools that this sport needs to maintain the safety and security of the participants.

Al-Daour and other trainers also coach girls who have never ridden bicycles.

Despite the encouragement Al-Daour has received, the project faced severe criticism on social media from people believed to be religious extremists, who shared pictures of unveiled girls during the opening ceremony of the project.

But Al-Daour preferred not to comment on such criticisms. “The project welcomes everyone, regardless of the appearance of the girl or the nature of her clothes. We practice sports in a playground designated by the municipality for specific hours and for girls only.”

Al-Daour emphasized that providing girls with the opportunity to practice cycling is not intended to challenge society and its traditions, but rather to help women pursue sport and gain its health and psychological benefits.

Women in Gaza need this sport, which improves psychological feelings, reduces depression, and improves body shape, according to Al-Daour.

During the opening ceremony, the Hamas-appointed Mayor of Gaza Yahya Al-Sarraj praised the project: “It encourages girls to practice sports and provides them with space to practice cycling in an atmosphere of privacy.”

 


Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage
Billionaire Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft Corp., and his wife Melinda attend the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho. (AFP file photo)
Updated 04 May 2021

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates splitting after 27 years marriage
  • Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one world's biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of in 2019

SEATTLE: Billionaire benefactors Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, filed for divorce on Monday after 27 years of marriage, saying they had reached an agreement on how to divide their assets.
In a joint petition for dissolution of marriage filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, the couple stated: "The marriage is irretrievably broken."
But the foundation said Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft Corp, and Melinda Gates would continue to work together in their existing roles as co-chairs and trustees of the organization.
The divorce filing, which states that the couple have no minor children, comes after the youngest of their three children is believed to have recently turned 18. The spouses asked the court to approve their agreement on division of assets but did not disclose details.
"After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage," the two said in a statement posted on each of their individual Twitter accounts.
"We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life," they said.
Launched in 2000, the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ranks as the largest private philanthropic foundation in the United States and one world's biggest, with net assets of $43.3 billion at the end of in 2019, according to the latest full-year financials shown on its website.
From 1994 through 2018 Gates and his wife, who is 56, have provided gifts of more than $36 billion to the Seattle-based foundation, the website said.
Last year, investor Warren Buffett reported donating more than $2 billion of stock from his Berkshire Hathaway Inc to the Gates Foundation as part of previously announced plans to give away his entire fortune before his death.
The Gates Foundation has focused on public health, education and climate. Its initiatives include supporting development of coronavirus vaccines, diagnostic tests and medical treatments as well as support for public radio and the manufacture of solar-powered toilets.

JOINT FOUNDATION WORK TO CONTINUE
The pair "will continue to work together to shape and approve foundation strategies, advocate for the foundation’s issues and set the organization’s overall direction," the Gates Foundation said in a statement.
The split comes two years after another leading American billionaire and philanthropist, Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos, said that he and his then-wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.
Gates dropped out of Harvard University to start Microsoft with school chum Paul Allen in 1975. Gates owned 49% of Microsoft at its initial public offering in 1986, which made him an instant multimillionaire. With Microsoft's explosive growth, he soon became one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
After an executive tenure in which he helped transform the company into one of the world's leading technology firms, Gates stepped down as CEO of Microsoft in 2000 to focus on philanthropy. He remained chairman until 2014 and left the company's board in March 2020.
Known in the technology industry as an acerbic and ruthless competitor, Gates drew the ire of rivals and eventually the U.S. government for Microsoft's business practices.
The software giant was convicted of antitrust violations in the late 1990s. But the verdict was overturned on appeal, and the company then settled the case out of court.
Gates' public persona softened into an avuncular elder statesman as he turned his attention to philanthropy, and he has largely steered clear of the many controversies currently roiling the technology business.
Gates' spouse, who recently began referring to herself as Melinda French Gates on most websites and social media, was raised in Dallas and studied computer science and economics at Duke University. She later joined Microsoft, where she met her future husband.
In 2015 she founded Pivotal Ventures, an investment company focused on women, and in 2019 published a book, "The Moment of Lift", centered on female empowerment.

 


Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him
Updated 04 May 2021

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him

Lebanon: woman and lover arrested for stashing drugs in husband’s car in bid to frame him
  • The husband was driving his car in Tabarja, eastern Beirut, when a police team stopped him, searched his car and found 11 bags of narcotics
  • The couple admitted that they were in love and needed to get rid of the husband – so they decided to land him in trouble by stashing drugs in his car and reporting him to the police

BEIRUT: A wife and her lover have been arrested in Lebanon after stashing drugs in the car of the woman’s husband in a bid to get him arrested.

The husband was driving his car in Tabarja, eastern Beirut, when a police team stopped him, searched his car and found 11 bags of narcotics.

Police seized nine bags of hashish and two bags of salvi — a plant-based hallucinogen.

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) anti-narcotics department apprehended the husband for possessing and dealing drugs and took him in for questioning.

“When questioned by interrogators, the husband denied the accusations, arguing that the seized narcotics didn’t belong to him and that he has never used or promoted drugs,” a senior officer close to the investigation told Arab News. 

After checking the husband’s criminal record, according to the officer, it was discovered that he had never been apprehended or involved in a drug case.

“It was a very strange incident. Normally when a suspect is held in possession of 11 bags of drugs it means he’s a promoter,” said the officer, who confirmed that his clean record was what exposed the wife’s malice.

ISF’s intelligence and information teams conducted further investigations before revealing that the person who had tipped off the police was connected to the wife.

That was when ISF members suspected that the wife and the person who had tipped off the anti-narcotics department had framed the husband.

According to an ISF media statement, a copy of which was obtained by Arab News, police detained the 35-year-old Syrian wife, R.S., and her 37-year-old Lebanese partner, S.H., in Jounieh and Tabarja on April 22. 

When questioned by interrogators the couple admitted that they were in love and needed to get rid of the husband. So they decided to land him in trouble by stashing drugs in his car and reporting him to the police.

After searching S.H.’s car, police seized an unlicensed handgun and eight bullets. 

“The suspects were referred to the General Prosecution pending further investigations,” the statement said.