The Merchant House: Bliss in Bahrain

This recently opened boutique hotel is a strong contender for the GCC’s best. (Supplied)
Updated 26 August 2019
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The Merchant House: Bliss in Bahrain

DUBAI: A couple of years ago, I interviewed the founder of Campbell GRAY Hotels, Gordon Campbell Gray, whose most well-known venture in the region is the spectacularly homely-yet-luxurious Le Gray in Beirut, Lebanon.

During our conversation, he discussed some of the gripes he had about other boutique hotels or chains. For instance, he questioned why a shower tap had to take a few minutes for the water to be warm.

“Imagine how wasteful that is,” he said, going on to add that guests should be able to jump into the shower and finish in a few minutes.

So, on my recent visit to Campbell GRAY’s The Merchant House in Manama, the first thing I did was, of course, test the shower. And true to form, the hot water was almost instant.

It’s this attention to detail that has enabled the company to retain its status as one of the best hoteliers in the world. Campbell Gray himself is apparently involved in every aspect of each hotel’s creation, design and philosophy. And no two properties are the same.

While the company has avoided rapid expansion in the region — it doesn’t want to lose its sense of exclusivity — it’s now beginning to establish a firm presence in the Middle East outside of Lebanon. First in Amman and now in Bahrain.

The Merchant House, which is just a short drive from Bahrain International Airport, is the brand’s first hotel in the GCC, and what a debut to make. Superb is an understatement. This boutique property — which launched earlier this year — consists of 46 uniquely-designed suites, each with its own art pieces.

And if you’re into your art, then this is a dream stay. Partnering with a VIP Bahraini collector (who has chosen to remain anonymous), The Merchant House features an extensive contemporary art collection, with works by local artists including Dawiya Al Alawiyat, some regional names, and some international heavyweights such as Virut Panchabuse, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol.

The rooms themselves are almost works of art too. Every little thing has been thought of, from the bathroom amenities where all packaging is recyclable (the hotel operates a non-waste policy, therefore expect things like biodegradable straws being used instead of plastic) to the shape of the ice. There is no ice bucket here. You get a pull-out fridge/mini-bar and an individual freezer filled with oval-shaped ice. And naturally, you can expect all the usual niceties like comfy robes and slippers.

The library on the first floor is not to be missed. It holds more than 1,000 curated books for guests and visitors to enjoy with a cup of tea. There’s also the property’s signature restaurant, Indigo on the rooftop, with a stunning terrace for the winter time. Lifestyle elements include an outdoor pool, a gym, and a spa promoting the Bahraini brand Green Bar.

If there is one drawback to staying at The Merchant House at the moment, it is the location. Yes, it’s next to the retro-styled faux-historic Bab el-Bahrain souk area, but a souvenir-hunting type of getaway isn’t for everyone.

The hotel is great for those staying in the city for business meetings nearby, but one can imagine it being quite tricky to lure visitors away from the more upscale Bahrain Bay area near the seafront. According to the hotel’s management, this has been accounted for. The Merchant House has arrived at a time when the surrounding area is being renovated to attract more visitors to downtown Manama. Judging by the progress, this will be become one of the Bahrain’s ‘must-visit’ places over the next year.


Music’s leading ladies turn to red carpet winner Yousef Al-Jasmi

Scherzinger chose a fitted glittering gown in a summery shade of yellow. (AFP)
Updated 23 September 2019

Music’s leading ladies turn to red carpet winner Yousef Al-Jasmi

DUBAI: US singer Nicole Scherzinger was spotted on “Australia’s Got Talent” this week wearing a sparkling gown by Hollywood’s new favorite designer, Yousef Al-Jasmi.

Scherzinger chose a fitted glittering gown in a summery shade of yellow by the Kuwaiti designer, complete with a halter neck top and a thigh high slit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lookin’ like the golden buzzer #GotTalentAU

A post shared by Nicole Scherzinger (@nicolescherzinger) on

She paired the daring look with orange-hued lipstick, side swept hair and added a number of gold rings for good measure.

Scherzinger wasn’t the only star to be spotted in a Yousef Al-Jasmi creation in recent days, however.

Canadian superstar Celine Dion teased the cover of her soon-to-be released album “Courage” — and she just happens to be wearing a dazzling design by Al-Jasmi in the photo. Dion even performed in a similar outfit by the designer — a copper toned, form-fitting number with a skirt that curves away to only cover one leg.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

جسميكو مشعللها ومولعها مع سلين ديونيكووو

A post shared by Yousef Al Jasmi جسميكو (@yousef_aljasmi) on

And those singing legends aren’t the only celebrities to step out in a design by Al-Jasmi as of late — US actress Keke Palmer rocked up to the MTV VMAs in Los Angeles in August wearing a sunny yellow column gown by the king of all things sparkly.

Popularized by the Kardashian clan Al-Jasmi shot to fame for his mastery of form-fitting eveningwear.

In April, the Kardashian family celebrated eldest sister Kourtney’s 40th birthday and Khloe collaborated with the designer.

Khloe and her stylist Janelle Miller worked with the designer, known for his extensive use of Swarovski crystals, to create a dazzling column dress with a high collar and matching headpiece.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

@khloekardashian كليوي كردشيان تتألق من جسميكو ميكو

A post shared by Yousef Al Jasmi جسميكو (@yousef_aljasmi) on

Al-Jasmi spoke to People magazine about the head-turning outfit and valued the gown at $6,500.

 “Both Khloe and Janelle were very involved, sending over screenshots from my Instagram and inspiration photos to work off of. They knew the exact look they wanted to achieve, so we worked very closely to perfect the design, from the color to crystals.”

And he seems to have fans across the Kardashian-Jenner clan, as Khloe’s half-sister Kylie Jenner has been spotted in Al-Jasmi’s creations on numerous occasions.

The queens of reality TV aside, the Kuwait-based style guru has won over many more leading ladies — Naomi Campbell wore a daring minidress by Al-Jasmi to a Halloween party in New York in October 2018 and  singer Mariah Carey chose a black, embellished dress from his collection for last year’s American Music Awards. If those stars aren’t enough to prove Al-Jasmi is a force to be reckoned with, he has also dressed the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez.