In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs
Ayat Rawthan, a petrochemical engineer, poses for a photo near an oil field outside Basra, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 28 February 2021

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs

In oil-rich Iraq, a few women buck norms, take rig site jobs
  • They are part of a new generation of talented Iraqi women who are testing the limits imposed by their conservative communities

BASRA: It’s nearly dawn and Zainab Amjad has been up all night working on an oil rig in southern Iraq. She lowers a sensor into the black depths of a well until sonar waves detect the presence of the crude that fuels her country’s economy.
Elsewhere in the oil-rich province of Basra, Ayat Rawthan is supervising the assembly of large drill pipes. These will bore into the Earth and send crucial data on rock formations to screens sitting a few meters (feet) away that she will decipher.
The women, both 24, are among just a handful who have eschewed the dreary office jobs typically handed to female petroleum engineers in Iraq. Instead, they chose to become trailblazers in the country’s oil industry, donning hard hats to take up the grueling work at rig sites.
They are part of a new generation of talented Iraqi women who are testing the limits imposed by their conservative communities. Their determination to find jobs in a historically male-dominated industry is a striking example of the way a burgeoning youth population finds itself increasingly at odds with deeply entrenched and conservative tribal traditions prevalent in Iraq’s southern oil heartland.
The hours Amjad and Rawthan spend in the oil fields are long and the weather unforgiving. Often they are asked what — as women — they are doing there.
“They tell me the field environment only men can withstand,” said Amjad, who spends six weeks at a time living at the rig site. “If I gave up, I’d prove them right.”
Iraq’s fortunes, both economic and political, tend to ebb and flow with oil markets. Oil sales make up 90% of state revenues — and the vast majority of the crude comes from the south. A price crash brings about an economic crisis; a boom stuffs state coffers. A healthy economy brings a measure of stability, while instability has often undermined the strength of the oil sector. Decades of wars, civil unrest and invasion have stalled production.
Following low oil prices dragged down by the coronavirus pandemic and international disputes, Iraq is showing signs of recovery, with January exports reaching 2.868 million barrels per day at $53 per barrel, according to Oil Ministry statistics.
To most Iraqis, the industry can be summed up by those figures, but Amjad and Rawthan have a more granular view. Every well presents a set of challenges; some required more pressure to pump, others were laden with poisonous gas. “Every field feels like going to a new country,” said Amjad.
Given the industry’s outsized importance to the economy, petrochemical programs in the country’s engineering schools are reserved for students with the highest marks. Both women were in the top 5% of their graduating class at Basra University in 2018.
In school they became awestruck by drilling. To them it was a new world, with it’s own language: “spudding” was to start drilling operations, a “Christmas tree” was the very top of a wellhead, and “dope” just meant grease.
Every work day plunges them deep into the mysterious affairs below the Earth’s crust, where they use tools to look at formations of minerals and mud, until the precious oil is found. “Like throwing a rock into water and studying the ripples,” explained Rawthan.
To work in the field, Amjad, the daughter of two doctors, knew she had to land a job with an international oil company — and to do that, she would have to stand out. State-run enterprises were a dead end; there, she would be relegated to office work.
“In my free time, on my vacations, days off I was booking trainings, signing up for any program I could,” said Amjad.
When China’s CPECC came to look for new hires, she was the obvious choice. Later, when Texas-based Schlumberger sought wireline engineers she jumped at the chance. The job requires her to determine how much oil is recoverable from a given well. She passed one difficult exam after another to get to the final interview.
Asked if she was certain she could do the job, she said: “Hire me, watch.”
In two months she traded her green hard hat for a shiny white one, signifying her status as supervisor, no longer a trainee — a month quicker than is typical.
Rawthan, too, knew she would have to work extra hard to succeed. Once, when her team had to perform a rare “sidetrack” — drilling another bore next to the original — she stayed awake all night.
“I didn’t sleep for 24 hours, I wanted to understand the whole process, all the tools, from beginning to end,” she said.
Rawthan also now works for Schlumberger, where she collects data from wells used to determine the drilling path later on. She wants to master drilling, and the company is a global leader in the service.
Relatives, friends and even teachers were discouraging: What about the hard physical work? The scorching Basra heat? Living at the rig site for months at a time? And the desert scorpions that roam the reservoirs at night?
“Many times my professors and peers laughed, ‘Sure, we’ll see you out there,’ telling me I wouldn’t be able to make it,” said Rawthan. “But this only pushed me harder.”
Their parents were supportive, though. Rawthan’s mother is a civil engineer and her father, the captain of an oil tanker who often spent months at sea.
“They understand why this is my passion,” she said. She hopes to help establish a union to bring like-minded Iraqi female engineers together. For now, none exists.
The work is not without danger. Protests outside oil fields led by angry local tribes and the unemployed can disrupt work and sometimes escalate into violence toward oil workers. Confronted every day by flare stacks that point to Iraq’s obvious oil wealth, others decry state corruption, poor service delivery and joblessness.
But the women are willing to take on these hardships. Amjad barely has time to even consider them: It was 11 p.m., and she was needed back at work.
“Drilling never stops,” she said.


British Muslim billionaire brothers buy healthy fast food chain

British Muslim billionaire brothers buy healthy fast food chain
Updated 18 April 2021

British Muslim billionaire brothers buy healthy fast food chain

British Muslim billionaire brothers buy healthy fast food chain
  • The deal includes 42 company-owned restaurants, as well as 29 franchise sites
  • The brothers said the firm was a “fantastic brand we have long admired”

LONDON: Britain’s billionaire Issa brothers have bought healthy fast food chain Leon.
More than 70 Leon restaurants across the UK and Europe have been sold for £100 million ($138 million) to EG Group, the petrol station business founded by Mohsin and Zuber Issa, the Financial Times reported.
The deal includes 42 company-owned restaurants, as well as 29 franchise sites, which are mainly found in airports and train stations across the UK and some European countries.
The brothers said the firm, which has been hit badly by the coronavirus pandemic, was a “fantastic brand we have long admired.”
Reports said the group has committed to keeping Leon’s management team and staff the same.
“We have tried hard, done some good things, made a healthy amount of mistakes, and built a business that quite a few people are kind enough to say that they love,” John Vincent, who co-founded Leon in 2004, said.
Speaking about the brothers, he said: “They have been enthusiastic customers of Leon, going out of their way to eat here whenever they visit London.”
“They are decent, hard-working business people who are committed to sustaining and further strengthening the values and culture that we have built.”
In October 2020, the Issa brothers and private equity firm TDR Capital, agreed to buy a majority stake in Asda from Walmart.
The brothers and TDR own EG Group, a global convenience and petrol station retailer, which trades from more than 6,000 sites across 10 countries.


Dubai completes first phase of e-commerce free zone

Dubai completes first phase of e-commerce free zone
Updated 18 April 2021

Dubai completes first phase of e-commerce free zone

Dubai completes first phase of e-commerce free zone
  • It includes 470,000 square feet of real estate
  • The e-commerce sector in the Gulf is booming with the forced closure of bricks and mortar shops during the pandemic giving the industry a further boost

DUBAI: The first phase of a new Dubai fee zone dedicated to e-commerce has been completed.
It includes 470,000 square feet of real estate.
The 3.2 billion dirhams ($871 million) Dubai CommerCity project also includes 145,000 square feet of e-commerce logistics units and warehouses in a cluster managed and operated by Hellmann Worldwide Logistics and DHL.
It has leased 51 percent of the logistics warehouses to companies operating across IT, fashion, jewelry and electronics.
“The launch of Dubai CommerCity aims to lead the future of e-commerce business in the region,” said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Airport Freezone Authority. “The project has been thoroughly studied not only to provide foundational solutions, but also to stimulate and support business and prosperity at a time when the sector is going through peak growth.”
The e-commerce sector in the Gulf is booming with the forced closure of bricks and mortar shops during the pandemic giving the industry a further boost.
The free zone provides opportunities for manufacturers, distributors and global e-retailers while offering tax and investment incentives, it said.
It is divided into three main clusters — Business, Logistics and Social.


Emirates NBD, Etihad Credit Insurance ink deal to ease trade finance access for UAE businesses

Emirates NBD, Etihad Credit Insurance ink deal to ease trade finance access for UAE businesses
Updated 18 April 2021

Emirates NBD, Etihad Credit Insurance ink deal to ease trade finance access for UAE businesses

Emirates NBD, Etihad Credit Insurance ink deal to ease trade finance access for UAE businesses
  • The deal will help the UAE lender to reduce any risks that may be associated with credit facilities

DUBAI: UAE export credit company, Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI), has signed an agreement with Emirates NBD to improve liquidity of UAE exporters by easing their access to credit facilities.
The deal will help the UAE lender to reduce any risks that may be associated with credit facilities, so businesses can pursue export and expansion opportunities, according to a joint statement.
More than 80 per cent of world trade relies on trade finance, ECI’s chief Massimo Falcioni said, and the agreement will allow Emirates NBD to offer innovative financial solutions to their clients.
Governments in the Gulf have been investing in strengthening local businesses as a strategy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and to gradually veer away from oil-dependence.

 

 


Italian fashion brand Diesel launches online shopping platform in KSA, UAE

Italian fashion brand Diesel launches online shopping platform in KSA, UAE
Updated 18 April 2021

Italian fashion brand Diesel launches online shopping platform in KSA, UAE

Italian fashion brand Diesel launches online shopping platform in KSA, UAE
  • The website will feature new collections of the fashion line, as well as exclusive deals for online shoppers

DUBAI: Italian fashion retailer Diesel has launched its own e-commerce platform for customers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the company said on Sunday.
The website will feature new collections of the fashion line, as well as exclusive deals for online shoppers. It will also offer free shipping for customers in both countries.
Diesel has been in the market for four decades and is known for its denim and casual fashion offerings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created huge demand for online shopping in the Gulf, with many retailers accelerating their digital efforts to take advantage of it


Kuwaiti coffee delivery app raises $10m in new funding

Kuwaiti coffee delivery app raises $10m in new funding
Updated 18 April 2021

Kuwaiti coffee delivery app raises $10m in new funding

Kuwaiti coffee delivery app raises $10m in new funding
  • The funding was provided by Kuwaiti listed investment house Al Imtiaz Investment Group
  • COFE was conceived in 2017 by Kuwait-based founder Ali Al-Ebrahim, developed in Silicon Valley and launched in 2018

DUBAI: Kuwaiti coffee delivery app COFE has raised $10 million in new funding, which it aims to use to scale up its operations in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK and to expand into Egypt and Turkey.
The funding was provided by Kuwaiti listed investment house Al Imtiaz Investment Group. COFE was conceived in 2017 by Kuwait-based founder Ali Al-Ebrahim, developed in Silicon Valley and launched in 2018.
“From its early days, COFE has shown tremendous potential as a unique offering that caters to discerning coffee connoisseurs and their consumption habits, while helping to grow and transform revenue streams for vendors. Our partners have recognized this and are confident in our ability to serve existing customers and vendors, while expanding into new markets,” Al-Ebrahim said in a press statement.
Zev Siegl, a co-founder of international coffee chain Starbucks, is also an adviser to COFE. “I am happy to collaborate with the COFE App team and proud of the success and development they’ve achieved,” Siegl told the Mubasher website in April 2019. “During my stay in Kuwait, I visited more than 20 coffee shops and I was impressed by the high level of service, innovation and the high demand on coffee shops which ensure that the COFE app market will keep on growing and will reach the international market very soon.”