By Jo Tatchell
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Additional info for A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City
Sheikh Zayed stepped forward to thank him for giving his people an image of themselves that would otherwise have been forgotten. To the urbanised young, the pictures were a revelation, a shocking glimpse of the gulf between their fathers’ and grandfathers’ lives and the present. The portraits of lean young Arab men – in robes, and ammunition belts with Khanjar daggers and guns wedged into them, their hair long over their shoulders, black eyes, handsome and high-cheekboned – testified to a distant, forgotten and dramatic world.
The seaside village of a thousand, living in the old barasti huts, made from palm fronds, was gone. Between the tyre tracks that crisscrossed the sand, asphalt roads were knitting together to form a well-planned seaside town. With them came new mosques, springing up to serve the tens of thousands settling there, all bound together by a common interest in oil. The desert still had the upper hand. Everything was shrouded in the fine dust that blew invisibly on the breeze and sand piled up in every doorway.
Diminutive Asian men scurry around, nodding, eager to pull it along for me. ‘Taxi, madam. ’ ‘Hotel. ’ I’d forgotten how people trail others here, women trailing men, servants trailing their masters, the young trailing the experienced. With the Indians trailing me, it’s like being back in the old souk. A taxi veers across the road and screams to a halt in front of me. The door flings open and a Pakistani man, in salwar khameez, jumps out, lifts my case into the open boot and guides me towards the door in one fluid movement.
A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City by Jo Tatchell