The Story of Rally Royale: From A Love of Cars to the Oman Grand Tour

Kuwait Arab Times, the largest circulating English language newspaper in Kuwait, recently asked us to answer some questions about the rally, and how we came to develop the concept. What follows is our answers to their questionnaire.
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Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Concourse D'Elegance Hampton Court 2014My earliest memory of driving is being lined up with my sisters in the back of my father’s Chevie. Each term break we would travel back to my beautiful country of origin, Syria, listening to my dad’s full collection by the lebanese singer Fairuz. With my father’s background as a Psychology lecturer, I was naturally drawn towards academia and completed an English degree. I taught English to foreign nationals in Kuwait, until the Iraq invasion, which was the first turning point in my career.

International journalists were streaming into Kuwait, but they were unfamiliar with the ways of local culture. They looked and felt out of place, awkward in a strange land. This was my opportunity to talk to a few, who were as curious as me to ask questions and to try to understand each other’s culture. My bilingual language skills got me a full time job working with the ABC News Service in Kuwait during the height of the conflict. It was an eye-opening experience – both painful and rewarding. But what was clear to me was that my vocation was going to be something to do with raising awareness and positive exchange between different cultures through media and communication.

When I am asked to recall my experience of cars back then, I have two wonderful memories. My very first drive in my father’s Chevrolet the day I got my licence. I was over the moon (and over one or two curbs). My other enduring memory is of becoming the owner of a beautiful open top Mercedes SL500 few years later. Some of my favourite memories of Kuwait are driving her along the Gulf Road, with wind in my hair and a world of possibilities ahead of me.

One thing led to another, and eventually I ended up in the UK working for the BBC, firstly on a programme to develop a TV/Radio network in Basra, and then as a producer for BBC World Service. It was here that I developed my understanding and relationships with the media networks around the world.

Also around this time I started to get itchy feet. Large world-famous institutions like the BBC are wonderful places to work, but for me I yearned for more space, for the freedom of being independent. I ached to start my own thing and I came into contact with the enterprising culture of other independent professionals and built a network of friends and business relationships throughout London. Through this networking, I had the good fortune to meet brand consultant and entrepreneur, Arthur op den Brouw, an Australian working in London. We were inspired by each other’s vision, and in 2010 set up London based media & brand communication agency, Knightsbridge Connexxions. Connexxions is a boutique creative agency providing a wide range of consultancy services.

How did you get involved in cars?

After that, Connexxions was invited to create a short video to promote a series of Classic Car Rallies around the world. We attended the kick-off event at Arbuthnot Latham’s London HQ, where we had the opportunity to pick up our first rally project – to photograph and record the Baltic Rally. This grand tour of three weeks allowed me an insight into the world of classic car collectors, enthusiasts and petrol heads.

Ruba Jurdi on rally in Baltic

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Baltic Rally 2012
This was a deeply inspiring experience – the cars and their heritage, the places and people, the history and cultures. Driving for 21 glorious days through some of the most historic regions of Europe, meeting fascinating people and hearing their stories was an incredible opportunity. And yet, the main and most empowering experience for me was to discover the silence of my own mind. This was a time when I was more free than ever before, it felt like the sky’s the limit. Only the road ahead. It gave me to time to reflect, and let my mind explore new places and new possibilities. This was good for a person like me; my mind is one that races (yes, like a GT3 Aston Martin), and so driving on the open road gives me the much-needed time to stop thinking.

What are previous rallies you’ve been involved with?

In the following years we had the opportunity to participate in more classic car rallies, in the UK, France, Austria, Italy, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. And during this time, I had a chance to get to meet a wide mixture of people with a common interest in the heritage and design excellence of these wonderful machines. I also got to see up close the pleasure that these driving tours give so many people. Not just the drivers, but also people in the street – I never had so many smiles in one day in my life.

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Left to right and down: NZ Jaguar Rally. NZ Bentley Rally. Rolls Royce Alpine Rally  

For example, there’s an annual event in Napier, New Zealand, where people come together from all over the world to revive the wonderful heritage of classic cars, with hundreds of vehicles – many from as far away as Europe. The atmosphere is electric, with thousands of people lining the streets as a parade of majestic old-timers drive through the town. It inspires every generation, and is inspiring to me to see.

Just this weekend, I attended another event, one of the most famous in the car world – the Goodwood Revival. Nearly quarter of a million people visited this all-time tribute to the heritage of motoring sport. It’s a magnificent sight to see thousands of classics preserved for posterity. Motoring events like this bring all sorts of people with all sorts of interests together in one place. At the Goodwood Revival, you’ll find modern super cars alongside aeroplanes, luxury brands alongside car components and live music next to high value auctions. Take a look at some photos from the 2014 event here: Pictures in the pits, and photographs of the event.

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Goodwood Revival Festival 2014

What is the Rally Royale?

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Rally Royale is a boutique iconic car event business, offering VIP services to people who love cars and driving, as well as the best things in life. We also provide a platform for luxury brands, clubs, event organisers and businesses that want to share their programmes with our community.

Our team is made up of a group of experts and advisors with hands on experience of running extraordinary programmes all over the world. Key team members have deep experience of the GCC and Britain, where the company is based.

Our plans go well beyond the idea of ‘Rallies’, and while firmly grounded in the principle of providing a ‘Royale’ experience, we’ll always aim to create warm, welcoming and fun experiences for all concerned.

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It was when I got back from the Baltic that we reflected on the concept and building a new unique brand, and together we started developing a plan for how to make the most of my passion for cars, and the experience we had developed with this community.

We set up the framework for Rally Royale with a vision to bring together a combination of our shared passion for:

 

  • Vintage and classic pre-seventies cars
  • Prestige and iconic modern cars
  • Unforgettable memories
  • Cultural experiences and exchange
  • Building enduring friendships

Our vision then was to create a series of unique lifestyle experiences for anyone that loves driving and exploring new places around the world. We want new people to have the opportunity to experience what I’ve experienced.

Today, Rally Royale is much more than this, and we are now in discussions with a number of international organisations about developing new themes around our core values of innovation and excellence in engineering, and creativity, culture and heritage.

What is the Oman Grand Tour?

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My nostalgia for the Arab world made it natural for me to look to the Gulf, where the love of cars is high, and the opportunity to discover new places, people, sights, and amazing cuisine is shared with us. From our research the Oman Grand Tour was born.

Grand Touring is a tradition that goes back centuries in Europe, as it does in many other parts of the world. It’s traditionally a way for men and women to travel long distances to learn about the world. The concept of Grand Tourismo or GT in the car world, was originally coined by the Italians when they saw an opportunity to create cars that were big and comfortable over long-distances. For our plans in Oman, the words Grand and Tour seem very appropriate.

How long have you been setting it up?

image05We’ve been working on the Oman Grand Tour since early 2013. (Yes these things take a lot of planning and promoting to gain momentum!) Our first recce was in March 2013 when Arthur and I met up with various ministries and officials to ensure there was support for such an event. It was the Ministry of Tourism that was most enthralled by the idea of creating a majestic car event in their country. They clearly saw how attractive this would be to the world outside. Oman is the perfect setting for people who are looking for great driving conditions. The country has greatly invested in tourism, with new resorts, superb roads and awareness raising. We chose to work more closely with them to ensure that any plans we were making would be complementary to their own vision.

We’ve been back to Oman many times, each time further developing the options and possibilities for creating the Oman Grand Tour.

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Can you give me details about the Rally? (When it’s happening, submission deadlines, requirements for entry.)

The Oman Grand Tour

Requirements for Entry: Iconic contemporary and classic automobiles. We will accept all applications from drivers with cars that have iconic appeal. They can be modern or pre-seventies. Our definition for iconic is that vehicles will ideally be examples of trend-setting design, beautiful to behold or represent the forefront of engineering excellence for their time. Example (but not restricted to) famous marques include: Bentley, Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Ferrari and Lamborghini, etc.

Deadline We recommend early registration. There is not only a limit on the number of places we can offer, but this is also a busy time in Muscat, so it would be disappointing to miss this event if you leave it to the last minute.

OUTLINE ITINERARY

MON – Day 1(Arrivals)
Welcome to Muscat!
Check In at Muscat Hotel (We recommend The Chedi Muscat)
Welcome Reception at The Chedi and Event Official Briefing.

TUES – Day 2 (Day 1 Drive)
Coastal Drive to Sur/ Ras Al Had via Amirat, Quriyat, Fins, Wadi Shab, Wadi Tiwi and Sink-Hole. Lunch at Ras Al Had or Sur. Drive Back to Muscat.

WED – Day 3 (Day 2 Drive)
Morning drive to Bustan, Shangri La Road (Qantab) and Sifah.
Board A Luxury Dhow from Shangri La Marina for Lunch and coastal cruIse / snorkeling / water activities.

THURS – Day 4 (Day 3 Drive)
Morning at Leisure till Lunch.
Lunch at Angham Resturant (Omani fine dining at the Royal Opera House Muscat) Tour the Royal Opera House Evening: Weekend parade in Muscat: Shati Area, “Lovers Drive”, shopping malls, Mutrah Corniche and old Muscat.

FRI – Day 5 (Day 4 Drive)
Early morning to Nizwa and Wadi Mahram. Nizwa Surroundings Drive (To be refined, example add Ibri and come out of Rustaq – Mussana…etc)

SAT – Day 6 (Day 5 Drive)
Morning Visits: Grande Mosque – Amouage. Head to the Wave Muscat (The Walk – Parade – Public Display). Lunch at The Wave.
Evening: Official Gala Dinner and Closing Ceremony.

SUN – Day 7
Check out & Departures.

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What arrangements have been made to ensure safety in the region?

Oman is one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world. Already a popular destination for many Europeans, as well as regional communities such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi, it’s a secure and safe haven in the crown of Arabia. Oman has a long and warm relationship with Britain, whose interests in the region ensure additional levels of security for foreign nationals. The Ministry of Tourism will be coordinating logistics on the ground, and both the Oman Automobile Association and Royal Oman Police are fully briefed on our programme. Additionally we have partnered with Quintel Intelligence, the London based security firm who specialise in HNW security.

Can you tell us about the route and highlights for the rally?

This year we’re exploring the north-eastern region of Oman. We shall use Muscat as our base and run a series of “hub rallies” taking in the beautiful and diverse landscape around Oman’s capital city. As the first of its kind, this will allow us to introduce the concept of rallies to the region as well as Oman to the world.

There will be coastal drives, explorations of the magnificent mountains as well as public parades and displays in the region. We’ll include in the event visits to historic and unique locations such as the Grand Mosque, traditional Souk and National Opera House.

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One of the highlights of the event will be a public parade along Muscat’s famous ocean facing “Love Drive”. We’re also planning a mini concours d’elegance and public display in the city.

On Saturday evening there will be a grand finale gala event which is being sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism. This will be an exclusive evening for around 150 invited guests, and will include a competition for everyone’s favourite car, a charity raffle, live entertainment and sumptuous international food at one of Muscat’s finest venues.

Omani racing driver Ahmad Al Harthy will join the rally and show his support for safe motoring in Oman. Ahmad is Arabia’s number one racing driver, and now operates from the UK where he’s established the Oman Racing Team. Ahmad is Aston Martin’s ambassador for the Middle East, and the only Arab driver to participate in the recent world class European Spa GT3 endurance championship.

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Arthur op den Brouw, Ahmad Al Harthy and Ruba Jurdi

There’s many more plans that are being prepared behind the scenes, and we’ll be updating people regularly through our newsletter which can be found here.

How can interested parties enter?

To enter the Oman Grand Tour, visit the website: Oman Event Entry.

If you’re ready to register, to reserve a place you’ll be asked to pay a small deposit.

How does this compliment the car scene in the GCC?

The GCC car scene is a vibrant and exciting one. The passion for cars is central to the fabric of every city. From Kuwait to Muscat, Iconic brands like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls Royce are well known and cherished by a growing community of prestige car owners. Cars like these are inspiring a whole generation around the world as they represent the forefront of humanities drive for innovation, engineering excellence and creativity.

We’ve been to many automotive events and met with a wide variety of owners and collectors in and around the Gulf. It’s become clear to us that our Oman Grand Tour is something that has captured the hearts and minds of everyone.

How many participants are expected, and of what nationalities?

This year we expect most participants to come from the region, with a good number of European participants also attending. We can accommodate up to 55 cars.

image12We launched the Muscat 2015 Oman Grand Tour earlier this month, and have registered interest from a number of key groups and networks. Participants for events like these typically come from driving and car owners clubs, car and heritage institutions and private networks. We are very grateful for their support and help along the way. Regionally, we’re in discussion with a selection of clubs and networks in Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Saudi. In Europe most interest is coming from the UK followed by a strong contingent of Ferrari owners in Italy. We’ve also had interest from as far as New Zealand and Brazil.

Why choose Oman?

We chose Oman because it has a spectacular combination of the world’s most drivable roads, diverse landscape, proud heritage and outstanding facilities and accommodation. Oman offers a cultural fusion which is identifiable not just in the smile of every greeting, but also in the architecture, cuisine and dress. Omanis  are among the most hospitable of nations, open to new ideas, and keen to share the wisdom and value of their own traditions and heritage.

Are there any plans in the future for more GCC tours?

We’re in discussions with automobile institutions and individual networks in Saudi, Qatar, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman about joint-ventures and new programmes for bringing the Rally Royale vision to other parts of the region.

We’re also planning some exciting European events which have direct links with Arabia, creating unique driving experiences that engage all the senses, will be huge fun to be part of and create enduring stories for television and online entertainment.

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What are your plans after this rally?

To turn my mobile off and drive along the new coastal road from Masirah Island to Salalah again! This will give us time to reflect and explore the road ahead. I’d really like to see how Rally Royale might be able to do more to help others achieve their dreams.

WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR THE SUPPORT OF OUR SPONSORS,
AMBASSADORS, PARTNERS AND ASSOCIATES

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Anglo Oman Society, AS Motor Sport, Alila, Aramex, Atana Khasab, Beaulieu Enterprises Ltd, Pathfinder, Beer & Young, Bernd Mobus, Bespoke Rallies, Chedi Muscat, Classic Grand Tours, Club 96, QTT Oman, Dudrich, Gateway Dover, Historic Auto Pro, International Executive Search, KCW Today, KD Group, Kuwait Car Museum, Lovecars.com, Malcolm Clube, The Middle East Association, Mi2g, Nasser Al Habsi, OITE, Oman World Tourism, Paul Chudecki, Richard Newton, Tony Beyki, UKTI, Wroxall Abbey

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uk.linkedin.com/in/rubajurdi

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