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A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT: Behind the Scenes in the World's Richest City

Jo Tatchell

3 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, Society & culture: general, Sociology & anthropology, Economics, Industry & industrial studies, Travel & holiday

A timely and fascinating portrait of Abu Dhabi virtually unheard of a decade ago but now a major world player with a potentially vital role to play in relations between Islam and the West.

Arabia in the 1960s still a land of desert, nomadic tribes, falcons and gazelles. And Abu Dhabi, perched on the Gulf Coast, was a poor fishing community. Barely forty years on, it is the richest city on earth, with major stakes in Western economies. And if the extraordinarily ambitious plans for the capital of the United Arab Emirates succeed, its future impact will be global.
Jo Tatchell s family arrived in Abu Dhabi in 1974 when there were only a few thousand inhabitants. She left as a young adult in the nineties, choosing personal freedom over a life of comfort and ease. But in recent years, as Abu Dhabi has become ever more significant on the world stage, she has returned to get behind the headlines and see how the city is changing for herself.
In this illuminating portrait, she shows Abu Dhabi past and present through the eyes of its people from sheikhs to Indian immigrants, housewives to ex-pats as well as her own. Tales of the Bedus' traditional hospitality and of expeditions into the desert mingle with accounts of hair-raising decadence and double standards, as she reveals a society and culture almost derailed by sudden, extreme wealth. And yet, as she discovers, Abu Dhabi is about to change again. Its rulers have a grand vision of a cultural bridge between Islam and the West, which might just transform our world.

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Praise for A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT: Behind the Scenes in the World's Richest City

  • Unusually engaging...a compelling read - Sunday Telegraph

  • A welcome addition to the short list of books on Abu Dhabi...Engagingly written and sympathetic - Guardian

  • This is a place we need to know more about, and Tatchell here provides a smart, well-informed and flavorsome guide...the best thing I've read on the Gulf Coast boom town to leaves you feeling you have come to grips with the realities of a land steeped in fable. The contradictions of its Islamic culture emerge starkly. - George Walden, Bloomberg News

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Jo Tatchell

Jo Tatchell is a journalist who writes on Middle Eastern culture for UK and US media including the Guardian. Her first book, NABEEL'S SONG, was published in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award; A DIAMOND IN THE DESERT followed in 2009.

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