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A Diamond in the Desert

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About the Author

Jo Tatchell is a journalist who has spent many years in the Middle East and Arab countries. She writes on Middle Eastern culture for UK and US media including the Guardian. Her first book, NABEEL'S SONG, was published by Sceptre in 2006 and was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award.


British author Tatchell (The Poet of Baghdad: A True Story of Love and Defiance) shares her quest to Abu Dhabi to see how much it has changed since she lived there for a time as a child. The capital of the United Arab Emirates and the richest city in the world, Abu Dhabi is characterized by the fine line between modernity and traditional Muslim desert culture, as Tatchell soon finds as she travels around looking for the National Archives. She talks to a wide range of people from expatriates to Emirate nationals to businesspeople, family friends, and emerging artists, seeking their views on the changes that have taken place in the last 40 years. Tatchell finds both the good and the bad, but her criticism occasionally leaves the reader wondering if perhaps she expects too much of this city struggling to find its place in a global world. Verdict Tatchell's journey toward making sense of the city's rapid transformation and her own family history will appeal to general readers and fans of self-discovery memoirs.-Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Lib., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

'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

A glittering emblem of global modernity carries a tinge of tribal clannishness and xenophobia in this revealing travelogue through the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Tatchell (The Poet of Baghdad), an English journalist who spent her youth in Abu Dhabi, compares the present city, with its skyscrapers, lavish malls, and Guggenheim branch, to the bedouin past it has all but obliterated. She finds that Abu Dhabi's 420,000 official citizens, with an average net worth of $17 million in oil wealth, have traded their camels and tents for SUVs, condos, and glitzy, indolent jet-setting; surrounding them is a sea of exploited foreign guest workers, 80% of the population, who build and run the city while living in a stateless limbo. (There are secrets lurking behind the shopping and partying, she finds during a Kafkaesque quest to locate the national newspaper archive.) The author's teeming, sharply etched portrait introduces readers to tycoons, a wastrel playboy with a pet panther, a bored housewife trying to score bootleg liquor, avant-garde artists, nostalgic British expats, and a Lithuanian prostitute. Tatchell's keen powers of observation and personal connections enable her to convey the hidden reality of this mirage-like city. (Oct.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

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