East meets West at the BMG Polo Cup

1 / 4
Riders compete in last year’s GCC Polo Cup at the Cambridge County Polo Club in the UK. Over the past 22 years the charitable event hosted by the Saudi-based BMG Foundation has raised millions for causes around the world.
2 / 4
Prince William, Prince Abdulaziz F. A. bin Abdulaziz, Prince Fahd M. bin Abdulaziz and Basil Al-Ghalayini in 2016.
3 / 4
Prince Charles competing in 2006.
4 / 4
Prince Abdulaziz and Al-Ghalayini at the 2016 event.
Updated 10 July 2018

East meets West at the BMG Polo Cup

  • Every summer, the BMG Foundation hosts a charitable equestrian event, with proceeds donated to a range of environmental and humanitarian causes.
  • BMG Foundation has been bridging East and West through sport, music and art for 22 years, with a string of initiatives. 

DUBAI: Saudi and British royals will join business and political leaders from East and West next week at the BMG Foundation’s GCC Polo Cup. The event outside Cambridge, with Arab News as the exclusive media partner, is a friendly match between the two nations, led by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, to raise money for global causes.

Every summer, members of the European and Middle Eastern royal families, political and business leaders, and celebrities gather at the annual charitable equestrian event, which is hosted by the BMG Foundation, with proceeds donated to a range of environmental and humanitarian causes.

The friendly match on July 12 at the Cambridge County Polo Club is the latest in a Saudi-British charitable, social and diplomatic tradition stretching back 22 years. In the past, royal family members from the two countries, including King Salman and Queen Elizabeth, have taken part. 

“The BMG Foundation’s Polo Cup is an annual social, sports and charitable event where we support several charities of the Duke of Cambridge and support awareness campaigns,” said Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini, founder of the BMG Foundation, the Saudi-based BMG Financial Group’s philanthropic arm.

“This year, we expect lots of sporting flavor, and Prince William will be the center of attention. Last year he scored several goals and we expect another exciting match.”

Faisal J. Abbas, Editor in Chief of Arab News, the strategic media partner of the event for the first time, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the VIP lunch at the annual BMG Polo Cup in Cambridge, which brings together the finest Arab and British players every year for a charitable cause. 

King Salman and the Prince of Wales at the 2002 GCC Polo Cup.

“This once again stresses the Arab News message that there is so much that brings us together, and polo is a great example of a sport that both Arabs and the British enjoy,” he said.

Al-Ghalayini said that the BMG Foundation had three core initiatives: The GCC Polo Cup; Art Alive, which enhances the art of Arab communities and promotes Arab artists in international circles; and Al-Farabi Concerto, which organizes concerts conducted by Arab composers and played by international orchestras.

Next week’s match is “an event where we really see East meeting West,” he said.

Al-Ghalayini said that behind the sporting action is the principle of giving, with the friendly match supporting charities, international causes and the BMG Foundation’s charitable initiatives, including the Safe Driving Life Saving campaign; Our Water Our Life, which raises awareness among Arab households about water conservation; and Our Health Our Crown competitions promoting well-being across the community and raising awareness of health issues. 

“We invite sponsors from the private sector to help the BMG Foundation finance these three campaigns, which we usually do with the help of university students across Saudi Arabia, as well as from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain, and others,” said Al-Ghalayini.

As well as its charity function, the GCC Polo Cup promoted the game in Saudi Arabia and helped bring international tournaments to the Kingdom, he said. 

“A federation to promote polo was set up several years ago, and it is great to see the sport gaining more recognition in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “We will see more international tournaments played on Saudi soil in the near future.

“The GCC Polo Cup is gaining recognition each year and helping to attract more youth from the Gulf to the sport. In the UAE, for example, Dubai has three or four polo grounds, and many youngsters are now participating. Hopefully, we will see this interest expand to Saudi Arabia. 

“Equestrian sport is noble. It is a good, highly skilled game for our youngsters — boys and girls alike —  to take part in instead of sitting in front of an iPad or iPhone,” Al-Ghalayini said.

The sport is more accessible and affordable than in the past, so “it really does open the door to aspiring players in the Kingdom and across the Gulf,” he said.

Queen Elizabeth presents a memento to a Saudi player while Prince Sultan bin Salman looks on in 2008.

Al-Ghalayini said that in the past 22 years, the BMG Foundation Polo Cup had raised millions of pounds for the world’s needy, and he hopes sponsors will be equally generous at this year’s event.

The GCC Polo Cup was born from a conversation between Prince Charles, heir to the UK throne, and Al-Ghalayini in the 1990s. Realizing the need for more cultural and sporting interaction between Saudi Arabia and the UK,  Al-Ghalayini decided to create a platform on which this could take place, while simultaneously supporting noble causes.

“It was my first polo match with the Prince of Wales,” Al-Ghalayini recalled. “After the match, we were having afternoon tea and he turned to me and asked me what polo was like in Saudi Arabia. I said: ‘There is no polo in Saudi Arabia,’ and that is really how we started.”

Following this conversation, Prince Charles led the British team at the first BMG Foundation Polo Cup. Both his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have led British teams at subsequent events.  

BMG Foundation has been bridging East and West through sport, music and art for 22 years, with a string of initiatives. 

Sponsors for this year’s GCC Polo Cup include the London Stock Exchange, American Express, Saudia (national airline of Saudi Arabia), the Jabal Omar Development Company, and the Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance & Reinsurance Group.

Previous recipients of donations from the BMG Foundation include the Prince’s Trust and St. Luke’s Hospice in the UK; the Disabled Children’s Association, Saudi Arabia; the Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Fund for Supporting Small Business Projects for Women, Saudi Arabia; NAAM Group, Saudi Arabia; the Friends of the Disabled Association, Lebanon; the Graham Layton Trust in partnership with Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust, Pakistan; and the Council of Arab-British Understanding, UK.


World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

Updated 17 July 2018

World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

WASHINGTON: Charred remains of a flatbread baked about 14,500 years ago in a stone fireplace at a site in northeastern Jordan have given researchers a delectable surprise: people began making bread, a vital staple food, millennia before they developed agriculture.
No matter how you slice it, the discovery detailed on Monday shows that hunter-gatherers in the Eastern Mediterranean achieved the cultural milestone of bread-making far earlier than previously known, more than 4,000 years before plant cultivation took root.
The flatbread, likely unleavened and somewhat resembling pita bread, was fashioned from wild cereals such as barley, einkorn or oats, as well as tubers from an aquatic papyrus relative, that had been ground into flour.
It was made by a culture called the Natufians, who had begun to embrace a sedentary rather than nomadic lifestyle, and was found at a Black Desert archaeological site.
“The presence of bread at a site of this age is exceptional,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher in archaeobotany and lead author of the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Arranz-Otaegui said until now the origins of bread had been associated with early farming societies that cultivated cereals and legumes. The previous oldest evidence of bread came from a 9,100-year-old site in Turkey.
“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Arranz-Otaegui said. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”
University of Copenhagen archaeologist and study co-author Tobias Richter pointed to the nutritional implications of adding bread to the diet. “Bread provides us with an important source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and magnesium, as well as fiber,” Richter said.
Abundant evidence from the site indicated the Natufians had a meat- and plant-based diet. The round floor fireplaces, made from flat basalt stones and measuring about a yard (meter) in diameter, were located in the middle of huts.
Arranz-Otaegui said the researchers have begun the process of trying to reproduce the bread, and succeeded in making flour from the type of tubers used in the prehistoric recipe. But it might have been an acquired taste.
“The taste of the tubers,” Arranz-Otaegui said, “is quite gritty and salty. But it is a bit sweet as well.”