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  • Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger. An English explorer considered one of the greatest travellers of the 20th century, Thesiger travelled across the Empty Quarter (covering some 650,000 sq km of the Arabian Peninsula, this is the biggest sand desert on earth). He admired and respected the Bedouin’s sparse and incredibly hard way of life. His account of journeying across the desert, and the stunning black and white photography, make this a must-read for anyone visiting or living in the Emirates.
  • Mother Without a Mask: A Westerner's Story of Her Arab Family by Patricia Holton. Holton’s frequent journeys to stay with a Sheikha and her family in Abu Dhabi’s Garden City Al Ain allow the reader a remarkable insight into an often hidden side of society in the UAE. Hers is a warm and affectionate tale, which was inspired by two young Emirati boys who stayed with her in the UK while they were learning English.
  • Dubai Tales and The Wink of the Mona Lisa by Mohammad al Murr. These are two books of short stories – charming, funny and reflective, and Roald Dahl-esque in the tales’ surprising twists. Dubai-born al Murr is one of the foremost writers from the Emirates. He has published more than a dozen volumes of short stories, and these are two collections that have been translated into English. 
  • The Pearl Diver by Julia Johnson. Johnson, a well-known writer and former teacher who has lived in Dubai for more than 20 years, has crafted a classic children’s book, with beautiful watercolour illustrations by artist Patricia Al Fahkri. This captivating, award-winning story was written following interviews with an elderly pearl diver, and follows a six-year-old boy’s discovery of the wondrous world beneath the waves. Others in Johnson’s children’s portfolio include The Camel Who Got Away and Ubuntu: Summer of the Rhino.
  • Uncommon: Dubai edited by Hind Shoufani. Forget everything you’ve heard about Dubai and get ready to look at it through the eyes of the city's inhabitants. An eclectic bunch of contributors share words and images, usually reserved for diaries, to help you navigate your way around the city.
  • The Turtle Secret by Julia Johnson. Drift away to the beautiful golden expanse of the desert with photographer Wouter Kingma, as he takes you on a journey across the emirate. His awe-inspiring images reflect the magic of the city – apparent in natural landscapes as much as in architectural marvels.
  • Dubai Aerial Tour by Wouter Kingma. Drift away to the beautiful golden expanse of the desert with photographer Wouter Kingma, as he takes you on a journey across the emirate. His awe-inspiring images reflect the magic of the city – apparent in natural landscapes as much as in architectural marvels.
  • The Gulf Wife by Jocelyn Henderson. Can you picture this metropolis without paved roads, luxury hotels, and shopping malls? British Diplomat Jocelyn Henderson has lived through it all since 1968. Walk down memory lane with her as she talks about her eventful journey through the sands of time.
  • Flashes of thought by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. A permanent fixture on the coffee tables in Emirati homes, this series of essays by Dubai’s ruler is an insight into everything from his personal inspirations to musings on football and poetry. It’s a rare glimpse into the life of the man who has made it all a reality.
  • The Emirates by the First Photographers. This outstanding photography book provides a visual history guide of the earliest days of the United Arab Emirates. It covers the country from 1900 to 1962. It encompasses when the region was a collection of independent Sheikhdoms to the discovery of oil. Therefore, it talks about the official founding of the United Arab Emirates. One can see the rapid progress that the country has gone through this book.. The author, William Facey, provides insightful historical context to each of the images. The book’s archivist, Gillian Grant, provides understanding from a photography perspective.
  • An Amazing Nation. This book provides a detailed yet easy to understand look at the inner workings of the UAE. It touches on topics such as the structure of the federal government, the flora and fauna of the region. It also talks about the demographics of the population and the geography of the coastlines. It’s a great way to get an encyclopaedic look at the different facets that make up the country.
  • Telling Tales – An Oral History of Dubai. Before Dubai became the glittering metropolis of today, it was once a humble fishing village bordered by great dunes. In this book, BBC Gulf Correspondent Julia Wheeler has collected tales from the early local inhabitants of the UAE. It offers a fascinating look into what everyday life was like for the everyday people of the city. The tales in the book are accompanied by introspective portraits of citizens who have shared their story. This adds a poignant dimension to the book.
  • Emirati Women: Generations of Change. This book was written by an anthropologist, Jane Bristol-Rhys. She has interviewed three generations of Emirati women. She interviewed the grandmothers who raised their children in the poverty of the UAE’s early days, the middle-aged women who witnessed the biggest changes in the UAE first hand and the young women who grew up surrounded by the wealth of a thriving and oil-rich country. The book provides an insight into the benefits and disadvantages that the changes the UAE has gone through has had on its women. It’s a unique look at the people that some say are the backbone of the country.
  • The Trucial States. This book was published in 1970, a year before the UAE was officially founded. It was written by Donald Hawley, a British diplomat who was working in the Gulf during that time. He worked closely with the ruling Sheiks as they established the United Arab Emirates. This book provides an inside look at the wheeling and dealing that goes into founding a nation. It is a scintillating read both politically and historically.
  • My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence. This book was co-authored by the ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. As the man who spearheaded the emirate’s push into the 21st century, and the one credited for diversifying the city’s economy, Sheikh Mohammed has plenty of valuable insights into what it takes to build a strong future. The book is contains recollections from his childhood. It also shows examinations of his feats as a ruler and insight into his personal ethos. This book is a way to get into the mind of a visionary ruler who built an extraordinary city.
  • From Rags to Riches: A story of Abu DhabiMohammed Al Fahim, the writer of this book, is a UAE businessman. He tells the story of the growth seen in Abu Dhabi from the 1950s to the 1990s. He knew the poverty stricken life of the Bedouins in the harsh climate of the Gulf. Mohammed witnessed the rapid transformation of the emirate into one of the richest places in the world. Al Fahim is very frank in his recollections. He allows readers to get a true glimpse into the past from the perspective of one of the emirate’s own citizens. The book was first published in 1995. This book is now available in multiple languages including English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.
  • Dubai: Architecture and Design. Dubai is a city famed for its striking skyscrapers. From the Burj Al Arab, crafted to resemble a sail on the sea, to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the city is one that pushes architecture to its limits. This book provides insight into how these famous buildings were built. It also shows how they have worked to incorporate Middle Eastern culture into their designs. The book encompasses both the traditional architecture of the past. It focused on beating the heat, to the modern architecture of today, which is made to dazzle. While the book speaks on a specialized subject, it is written so even those unfamiliar with the fundamental principals of architecture can enjoy it.
  • Keepers of the Golden Shore: A History of the United Arab Emirates. This book traces the history of the United Arab Emirates, from pre-history to the present day. From the days of the Ottoman Empire to the struggles of the pre-oil period to the founding of the modern nation, author Michael Quentin Morton provides a clear-cut view of the past that still shapes the Emirates today. Unlike some of the other books on this list, the narrative here is not a personal history but a broader examination. Nevertheless, the book is eminently readable, playing more like an adventure story than a history book.

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