By Jo Tatchell
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Extra resources for A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Prologue 1965 A plume of golden dust bloomed high into the desert air behind the Chevrolet pick-up. Edward Henderson was working his way inland from the flat, coastal sands of Abu Dhabi Island towards the red dunes around the Buraimi oasis. The air in the cabin was suffocating, but although it was hard to breathe, the windows and vents had to be kept tightly shut all the way. Even the tiniest crack would allow fine, glassy desert dust to fill the car, dirtying clothes and clogging every crease of his face and lips.
Then it’s a step up, and we’re off to the climate-controlled cool in which people live here. Inside the spherical terminal building there are people everywhere. My heels tap across the sparkling marble floors as I head for the immigration hall. Frankincense wafts behind two women in flowing black abayas, the scent of old Arabia. A robed woman in a wheelchair sits in the doorway of the female-only prayer room and Filipino attendants, with buckets and huge grey mops, wash the floors. Men in immaculate white robes and headdresses, the kandura and ghutra, slide past.
By the time I was at university, I was visiting two or three times a year. After graduation I avoided the recession-bound UK, with its negative equity and grunge-rock obsession, for clear skies, fun and the promise of my first job. I became the subscriptions officer at the Marina Club; I was supposed to recruit new members and run promotions, part of a mixed-nationality team – British, Palestinian, Dutch, Swedish, Filipino and Indian. I saw my role as an opportunity to stage events and shows. Getting publicity wasn’t easy and it was difficult to find potential new recruits.
A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in Abu Dhabi, the World’s Richest City by Jo Tatchell