The irony of his death did not pass unnoticed at the memorial service. Michael spent the bulk of his career in the Gulf, working with Jeddah-based National Commercial Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi before joining the Dammam-based Apicorp in 1989. He was part of the community of Al-Khobar, and his affection for the region was manifested in his collection of rare and antique maps of Arabia. He was committed to the region and the promotion of links between it and the rest of world. His success, and the impact he had, can be partly measured by the hundreds of friends, family and colleagues – representation from the regional project finance community was heavy – packed into the 900-year-old church.
The intertwining of Arabic and Western cultures was the theme of Michael’s life and also of his memorial service. Alongside readings from John Donne and Henry Newman, from the Books of Ecclesiastes and Revelations, were passages from Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ and verses of the Quran, the latter read by Prince Turki bin Faisal, the Saudi Arabian ambassador in London. Prince Turki also recited some Hadith, two of which were of particular pertinence: ‘Whoever slanders a non-Muslim living in a Muslim community will be punished on the day of judgement with the whips of fire,’ and ‘whoever hurts a non-Muslim living among Muslims will antagonise me and I will be his opponent on the day of judgement’.
Rasheed al-Maraj, a long-standing colleague of Michael’s at Apicorp, talked in detail of his professional commitment and success, and the generation of bankers in the Gulf with whom he did business were well represented at the service.
On a personal note, Michael Hamilton was the first person I interviewed after arriving at MEED. The editor at the time, Peter Kemp, wanted something on a project financing in Qatar and rather than explaining either the background or the story, passed me Michael’s telephone number and said: ‘Call him, ask him to explain what’s happening and write down everything he says.’ It was good advice. Forty minutes later I had completed a succinct, beautifully delivered introductory course on how the emerging project finance market of the Gulf worked. Michael’s wisdom was repeatedly sought in the years that followed, and he could be relied on for insightful commentary – invariably off the record – and a humorous approach to events in the region. Michael was a doyen of the regional finance industry and, in this capacity, was a regular speaker and delegate at MEED conferences.
As all those whoaddressed the memorial service made clear, Michael worked hard but he also had other interests and responsibilities. He was an active board member of the British International School of Al-Khobar, played a game of golf that has been described as ‘what you would expect from a canny Scottish banker’ and gave his time to charitable causes, in particular to World Vision, a leading international relief and development agency.
Michael’s family is honouring his memory by funding a specific World Vision project, the Malaku Peace & Reconciliation programme in Indonesia. Its aim is to support education programmes, peace-building initiatives and the establishment of ‘Happy Houses’ for children who suffered during the traumatic events of the 1999-2000 sectarian conflict that divided the area. Some 2,000-3,000 people were killed, communities segregated and villages destroyed. It is a fitting tribute to Michael that the charity with which his legacy is linked is working towards foste