Disney denies plan for theme park in Bahrain

A DISNEYLAND theme park in Bahrain is highly unlikely, according to sources close to the Walt Disney Company in the UK and the US. The company has also denied through its own news website that it is involved in talks over any project in Bahrain.

According to the official Disney news site, Mickey News, yesterday, the US-based company has no such plans.

The denial follows a newspaper report saying that Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was negotiating a $8 billion (BD3.024bn) Disney park in the country.

The project would be based on Disney's theme parks and could be called "Disney Bahrain", said Al Waqt newspaper, citing an unnamed source.

A Disney spokeswoman in Los Angeles, California, was quoted in Mickey News as saying that the company was not in talks to build a theme park in Bahrain.

Rumours have been circulating in the Gulf region "for years" about the possibility of a Disneyland theme park opening here, but all are baseless, said one source in London yesterday.

Another source in the US told the GDN that it was unlikely Middle Eastern investors would approach Disney, citing previous claims made by Iran that the company was "pro-Jewish".

"The rumour was particularly strong in the 90s, especially when the theme park Aladdin's Kingdom was opened in Qatar in 1994," said the London source.

"Aladdin's Kingdom is not affiliated with Disney."

The entertainment park is located in the West Bay area of Doha and according to its website is the only amusement park of its kind in the Gulf.

The name, Aladdin's Kingdom, was the result of a national competition and was intended to blend traditional Arabic culture with the feeling of fun, magic and myth, says the website.

The park contains more than 18 rides to suit all ages, an artificial lagoon, a theatre, cafeterias and mosques.

"A similar park is probably what they are trying to build there in Bahrain, but as far as Disney is concerned, there are no talks about an official Disneyland there at all," said the London source.

On Tuesday, Bahrain-based Kuwait Finance House (KFH) also denied the report that it was investing in the "Disneyland" theme park in Bahrain.

"The report is totally baseless and all false," said KFH Bahrain general manager Abdul Hakim Al Khayat.

"We have nothing to do with such a project and no one has approached us."

Bahrain's Economic Development Board also said it had no knowledge of the project.

The GDN spoke to leading businessmen throughout Bahrain, including some of the country's biggest investors, all of whom said they had heard nothing of any such project.

Prince Alwaleed indirectly owns 10 per cent of Disneyland Paris operator Euro Disney and his Rotana Audio Visual Company signed a deal in November to distribute Walt Disney products across the Middle East and North Africa.

A spokeswoman for the prince could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, sources in the US said it was unlikely Middle Eastern investors would approach Disney because Iran had called it "pro-Jewish".

In September last year, a report on Iranian television claimed that Disney's highly popular film, Pirates of the Caribbean, was a "tool of the Israel lobby".

The report gave as evidence of this claim the fact that "7.7pc of Disney's board of directors are Jewish".


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