The UAE boasted 59,000 millionaires in 2005, up 12% from 2004. This means that with luxury residences, superior shopping centres and technologically progressive industries flourishing throughout the nation, a certain lifestyle is to be had that embodies refinement and of course, wealth.
While the rapid growth UAE has experienced to date is a relatively new phenomenon, early players such as the pioneering FMCG marketing and distribution company, Baqer Mohebi Establishment (BME) has looked ahead, cementing its reputation as provider of high-end products and consumables. A local and regional leader in the FMCG industry and the name behind leading products from corporate giants Danone and Kimberly-Clark, its been operating since 1931. Already a veteran in this young and thriving Emirate - BME has continuously diversified its interests and expanded its range, region and core business. Today, this family-run business has risen from humble beginnings in the souk to become a national and regional institution promoting and catering to elite branding and tastes.
We are all familiar with the image: designer outfits, fabulous accessories, luxury sports cars, a premier residence and an active social life. The basic characteristics of Abu Dhabi's successful, these underline "I've arrived!" and can all be perfectly accented with a simple accessory...the iconic Cuban cigar. UAE's discerning gentlemen and more and more ladies need only turn to one place… La Casa del Habano, UAE's exclusive provider of the world's finest cigars. As a division of the tobacco retail arm of BME, La Casa del Habano offers its distinguished clientele a simple yet clear declaration of social kudos, first class service and quality combined.
Six years ago La Casa del Habano opened its flagship store at one of Dubai's premier addresses, the Emirates Towers shopping boulevard. In under a decade, the brand hastrengthened with six additional locations throughout the UAE, Oman and Iran and the largest Casa in the world destined for the Walk at the Jumeirah Beach Residence. BME's expansion plans clearly indicate the increasing popularity of Cuban cigars affording cigar smokers the ease, convenience and selection that come with a first grade product and service.
In 2004, the chairman of the group, Dr. Zainal Mohebi, was awarded the title of 'Habano Man of the Year' in the business category. Mohammed Mohebi, CEO of Zainal Mohebi Group received this accolade on behalf of his father who was the passionate inspiration behind the group's success.
In typical Mohebi fashion and Cuban tradition, La Casa del Habano deeply respects the intricacies and personal selection process of each of its 'family members'.
"Habano enthusiasts can explore their passion in our in-store lounge," explains BME's general manager, S.H. Siadat. Each store is equipped with a cigar lounge for clientele to experience and savour the aromatic lure of the famed Cuban cigar. To further ensure utmost quality and knowledge of each individual cigar, BME implements strict climate control in each location and all retail staff are required to undergo training and refresher courses to keep abreast of developments taking place in Cuba and the cigar industry. Likewise, the distribution division of BME trains all hotel and restaurant staff in the art of storing, cutting and serving a cigar.
As for health concerns, "Cigar smoking is a passion - not a habit. It's a delicate relationship and clients are very particular. They enjoy seeing a professional cutting and preparing the cigar for them to savour the exquisite pleasure properly" explains Siadat.
According to him, no textbook description can be applied to cigar smokers. A cigar smoker is as "diverse as the streets of Dubai and as intense as the streets of Havana." A love for Cuban cigars stems from a desire to experience a rich and pure tradition that is as intriguing as it is simple, a tradition that dates back 500 years and is exquisitely preserved today with over 160 million cigars produced by hand every year and encased in a signature wooden box.
With an astounding 38 brands of Habanos available to choose from and global trends heralding a smoke-free era, the UAE seems headed in the same direction. Siadat is not worried. He believes that true cigar aficionados will remain true and simply adapt their lifestyles to ensure the continued and uninterrupted pleasure of a Habano.
As a testament to this confidence, BME plans to extend its innovative marketing and advertising campaigns through cigar-inspired events and theme nights in close collaboration with the hospitality industry. He goes on to assure us that UAE's transient expatriate society on the go is not a problem, because outbound numbers pale in comparison to the multitudes choosing UAE as their base.
With approximately 59,000 millionaires currently residing in UAE today and thousands more aspiring to enjoy the city's distinct privileges, Habanos and all the fineries of life, image and social discernment show no signs of dwindling. Where industrial cities worldwide exist beneath a thick black cloud of smog, the clouds above Abu Dhabi's glistening skyline are laced with an intoxicating aroma redolent with success and fulfilment. Heaven or Havana, UAE and La Casa del Habano offer a slice of both.