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Rain: Middle East's First Central Bank-Backed Crypto Exchange to Launch in 2019 (LTC, BTC, ETH!)

Two blockchain veterans are gearing up to launch what could be the first cryptocurrency exchange in the Persian Gulf to be licensed by a central bank.

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, Rain Financial has opened its public waiting list after a year in the Central Bank of Bahrain's fintech sandbox. Co-founded by Saudi blockchain consultant Abdullah Almoaiqel and Egyptian investor-turned-meetup organizer Yehia Badawy, along with their business partners Joseph Dallago and AJ Nelson, Rain aims to offer both a brokerage for retail crypto investors and an institutional platform along the lines of Coinbase Pro in Silicon Valley.

Although at least five other exchanges are also involved with the Bahrain sandbox – a regulatory program where applicants experiment in a closely supervised environment before graduating to full-fledged licensed businesses – Rain was the first to join in September 2017, and expects to launch in early 2019.

"What is unique about Rain is they are the most advanced and the closest to graduating," Khalid Saad, CEO of Bahrain Fintech Bay, a non-profit co-working space for local startups, told CoinDesk.

He added:

"There's no cryptocurrency exchange in the region that is officially regulated. Hopefully, Rain will be the first one."

Such an entity could conceivably encourage new capital flows into the crypto ecosystem from a part of the world rich in natural resources like oil and gas. As it stands, few Persian Gulf residents officially participate in the crypto markets, partly for fear of the sector's shadowy reputation (although Dubai has notably been a pioneer of "smart city" applications of blockchain technology).

Crypto-curious investors "are waiting for the right regulations to be in place and the right partners," Rain co-founder Badawy said. "We are here to fill this demand, with institutional-grade infrastructure."

Intrigued by the potential of this largely untapped market, crypto veterans such...

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