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Extra info for A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City
The highest-profile artists were those who painted straightforward portraits of the royal family, prize falcons and horses. As for the rest of the world, what kind of values could it expect Abu Dhabi to bring with it? Were the ways of the desert coming west, or was a new hybrid personality reflecting a multicultural city? I leave Customs with my bland grey wheelie suitcase. 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.
I wonder if, in a region that is still vulnerable and unstable, it is leading the way in the creation of an open, artistic, tolerant Islamic state. I’d read the odd report, and occasionally had emails from friends inviting me to stay if I was passing, but nothing suggested that fundamental change was afoot. Now I wondered if the little backwater I had known three decades ago might be about to come of age. When I was growing up, no one had ever heard of it – it hadn’t been half as rich or ambitious – but now it seemed to be casting off its traditionally insular ways to throw itself onto the world stage and into the limelight.
Nahandran and Co. General Stores. It is a tiny treasure trove, supplying the inhabitants of the thirty-storey apartment block above it with an unlikely assortment of goods: sesame snacks, chocolate, Arabic bread, milk, laban yoghurt drink, cream, overripe fruit, juices, gum, novelty lighters, Pez sweets and boxes of state-government soap from Madras. The shopkeeper eyes me from his perch behind mounds of Indian sweets piled high at the checkout. I pull snacks from the overstuffed shelves. ‘Excuse.