Very Rich People – read all about it!

Finding something substantial to read about the UAE was a bit harder than I expected – most titles on offer are either travel books or how-to guides on business etiquette. Very little history or in-depth analysis of the present day. And no fiction. Seemingly a blank slate…That in itself is quite telling; from my very brief literary visit it seems that the UAE is a country in the process of Becoming. This is a place that has essentially come into existence overnight, and the shock waves haven’t stopped spreading yet. So many of the mechanisms needed for real self-reflection have not settled into place, and it seems like it may be awhile before they will…

The book I chose was Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in the World’s Richest City, written by a British ex-pat, Jo Tatchell, who grew up in Abu Dhabi in the 1970’s. Tatchell is uniquely positioned to comment on the city; her childhood memories are of a dusty outpost that could barely fight back the desert, and the differences between her recollections and the uber-modern metropolis of today create a fascinating framework for storytelling.

Abu Dhabi
(image by RĂ¼diger Meier, via Wikimedia Commons)

I’d be curious to know if you could actually buy this book in the UAE; the author displays great fondness for Abu Dhabi, but does not pull any punches about the dark side. Crimes hidden, brutality whitewashed, snuff films (!), pet jaguars that throw themselves off of balconies in despair; there were times when I was so unsettled that I had to walk away for a few days. Not to say that this is the whole story of course. It’s just that the city seems so new, and its occupants so forward-reaching that it feels like there isn’t much to hold on to. It will be interesting to revisit every few years to see what comes from all of this…