We’ve seen the film, Nayeem, and so is being a bodyguard just like Kevin Costner played it?
Well I do offer close protection to Bollywood and Hollywood stars and other celebrities when they visit the UAE, but it’s not like in the movies. We control crowds in areas where they are performing and also chauffeur the celebrity around.
Who have you looked after?
Salman Khan, Tom Cruise, who was in Dubai to shoot Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher. I love cars and was excited to be driving him around.
How did it go?
It was a little tricky! The moment I led him to the car – a Maserati – he asked me to get out of the driving seat. ‘I’ll drive,’ he said. ‘You can follow me in another car.’ He set off slowly from the airport and I was in a car tailing him, but once he got on to Shaikh Zayed Road he switched to one of the middle lanes, honked once and then just took off… My duty was to follow him but it wasn’t possible when you’re trying to keep up with Michael Schumacher in a Maserati. Luckily I knew where he was heading and took some shortcuts so we arrived at his hotel about the same time.
Any other tricky clients?
Justin Bieber was another. I can’t go into too many details, but we had to make sure that his manager was well aware of the consequences of inappropriate behaviour in this country. We had to keep a very close eye on him at all times but in the end it turned out fine.
What threats are you looking out for when doing close protection work?
We ensure the crowd doesn’t come too near to the star, throw anything or touch them. We want them to feel confident to perform or walk around without being pushed and jostled and shoved by crowds.
What could go wrong?
Timing is everything – if a car isn’t in front of the hotel when the celebrity comes out, it could be a disaster. Even a minute’s delay could result in crowds mobbing him or her.
We synchronise the exact moment that the car arrives in front of the door with the celebrity exiting the hotel.
What kind of preparation work do you do?
There’s a lot of homework but I can’t reveal a lot. One thing we do is to check out the celebrity’s fan following in the region so we can be prepared to tackle the crowds. It helps us to avoid potential issues. Also, sometimes event organisers may want us to use a certain route, but we have to convince them that an alternative is ideal to avoid crowds and delays.
If someone like Lady Gaga flies into Dubai, isn’t she likely to have her own security team?
Any celebrity who comes here for the first time would likely have their own security. But once they are here it is necessary for them to have local security who have a thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations here, as well as the best routes from and to the airport, hotel and the venue where they may be performing. Most of the Bollywood stars rarely bring their security if we’re looking after them. Sometimes we go to India and escort them all the way here.
Is it hard to stay alert when 99 per cent of the time there is very little or zero threat?
The term zero threat is not in our books. Whether the event is big or small, we are prepared 100 per cent. In every situation we should be alert and look for threats. We never encourage over-confidence in our group.
Do you carry weapons?
No. We’re not allowed to carry any weapons in Dubai – you’re not even allowed to touch anyone. We have to have a customer-friendly face. I strongly believe that arms cannot curb crimes. I don’t think any country is successful with the approach of arming security services. Transparency, openness and hospitality are very effective – plus the public will never come to you and tell you about any suspicious activity if you are armed.
Who would you love to look after?
Barack Obama. Although US presidents come with their own security team, that would be the dream.
Finally, would you take a bullet for the client, like Costner in The Bodyguard?
Whenever we are with the celebrity we are ready to take a bullet for them. There are certainly times where we have been tested. But that’s the loyalty we provide – we are ready for anything to keep our client safe.