10 books to read by Sharjah Ruler Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi

His books have been translated into various languages including English, French, German and Spanish

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Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi is not only the longest of all the current UAE rulers, but also one of the nation’s most esteemed historians.

In addition to developing Sharjah into a global cultural hub, Sheikh Dr Sultan is a prolific writer, having penned a series of memoirs, academic studies, novels, poetry collections and plays.

While the genres may differ, all the works are unified by a quest to find relevant teachings from the rich history of the UAE and the Middle East and North Africa.

With 2022 marking 50 years of Sheikh Dr Sultan as Sharjah’s Ruler, we take a look at 10 books that capture the evolution of the emirate and provide salient commentary on the nature of his leadership.

1. 'My Early Life: Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi' (2009)

in 'My Early Life: Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi' (2009), the Sharjah Ruler paints an evocative picture of a changing Arab world.

The memoir traces his childhood in Sharjah and expands on him taking charge of the emirate's affairs at the age of 33.

Along the way, he paints an evocative picture of a changing Arab world and recalls interactions with key figures from the region's political and cultural scene.

In addition to its 2011 English edition, the book has been published in various languages including German, French and Spanish.

2. 'Taking the Reins: The Critical Years, 1971-1977' (2012)

'Taking the Reins: The Critical Years, 1971-1977' (2012) recalls the first six years of Sheikh Dr Sultan's stewardship of Sharjah.

A companion piece to My Early Life: Sultan Bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, this memoir picks up a few weeks after the formation of the UAE in 1971.

Sheikh Dr Sultan recalls the first six years of both his stewardship of Sharjah and as part of the leadership of a fledgling nation.

This includes being entrusted with settling constitutional and territorial disputes as well as putting plans and policies in place to build Sharjah's economy.

The book also recalls official trips abroad, including a memorable visit to Chicago where he met champion boxer Muhammad Ali and families from the city’s African-American Muslim community.

3. ‘Under the Flag of Occupation’ (2014)

'Under the Flag of Occupation' is part of Sheikh Dr Sultan's greater goal of preserving the UAE's history and heritage.

This book is a history of Sharjah under British rule. Sheikh Dr Sultan’s extensive research included travelling to the British Library in London to examine documents on official policies related to the emirate.

The work also sheds light on some of the tribes residing in Sharjah, such as Al Haul, who originated in the Arabian Peninsula between Syria and Iraq.

In an interview published on his official website, Sheikh Dr Sultan said the book is part of his greater goal of preserving the UAE's history and heritage.

"One who is aware of the conditions of the old ages has added years to his life,” he said.

4. 'The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf’ (1986)

'The Myth of Arab Piracy in the Gulf' covers the political landscape of the Arabian Gulf in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Sharjah Ruler challenges the convention that British imperial expansionism in the Gulf in the early 18th century was undertaken to tackle Arab piracy.

Sheikh Dr Sultan argues the perceived threat, orchestrated by the East India Company, was down to its determination to remain in the region and forge trade ties with India at the expense of Gulf traders.

Forensically argued, the book is split into five chapters beginning with outlining the political landscape of the Arabian Gulf in the 18th century, to the British military campaign against the Qawasim tribe in 1819 and the resulting General Maritime Treaty of 1820.

The latter led to the establishment of the British protectorate over the Trucial States which endured until the UAE's formation in 1971.

5. ‘Bibi Fatima and the King's Sons’ (2018)

The novel 'Bibi Fatima and the King's Sons' (2018) features characters from royalty to those on society's margins.

The novel is a historical tale that follows an ambitious young woman living in the last throes of the Portuguese occupation of the Kingdom of Hormuz.

Launched by Sheikh Dr Sultan at the 2018 Frankfurt International Book Fair, he said the novel aimed to provide an insight into a turbulent period in the 16th century, with an expansive cast of characters from royalty to those living on society's margins.

6. ‘The White Shaikh' (1996)

'The White Shaikh' (1996) follows the life of an American who becomes a respected leader in the local community in Dhofar, Oman.

Sheikh Dr Sultan's keen interest in Omani history is displayed with plenty of published studies to his name. The White Shaikh brings that knowledge to the historical fiction genre.

Set in the early 19th century, this story follows the life of Abdullah Bin Aqeel from the Omani region of Dhofar. Dubbed The White Shaikh, the American goes on to become a successful sea merchant and respected leader of the local community.

7. ‘Deep-Seated Malice’ (2004)

'Deep-Seated Malice’ (2004) is a novel set in 16th-century Khor Fakkan, about the resistance staged by local tribes against colonising Portuguese troops.

The historical novel partly inspired 2020's UAE film Khorfakkan. Set in the 16th century in Khor Fakkan, a city located in the east coast of the UAE, the work chronicles the resistance staged by local tribes against colonising Portuguese troops led by Commander Afonso de Albuquerque.

The latter is an indomitable enemy who participates in the North African crusades and whose career ambition is to divert the course of the Nile River in order to leave Egypt barren.

8. 'Tale of a City' (2017)

'Tale of a City' (2017) looks at how Sharjah evolved from humble beginnings to the cultural hub of today.

This epic two-part history series on Sharjah tells the story of how the emirate evolved from its humble beginnings to the cultural hub that it is today.

The book looks back at key periods of the emirate's history including hosting an Allied Forces airbase in the Second World War, battling a smallpox outbreak in the 1930s and hosting landmark cultural events and festivals over the course of four decades.

9. ‘The Journals of David Seton in the Gulf 1800–1809’ (1994)

'The Journals of David Seton in the Gulf 1800-1809' throws light on the beginnings of British influence in the Arabian Gulf.

Sheikh Dr Sultan found the diaries of the British official, who lived in the Gulf in the early 1800s, at the British Library in London.

In addition to correcting factual errors, which he puts down to clerical errors at the time, Sheikh Dr Sultan arranged the work chronologically, with an introduction before each of the five chapters.

The end result is an illuminating look at the "beginnings of British influence in the Arabian Gulf and British involvement in local affairs".

10. ‘Nimrod’ (2008)

'Nimrod' is a play on leadership and building societies based on equality and justice.

The play is based on the life of Nimrod, the ruler of Babylon who is mentioned in the Quran and Bible.

Sheikh Dr Sultan used the story to provide social commentary on the meaning of leadership today and the need to build societies based on equality and justice.

The play was performed at the Moscow International Book Fair in 2019 and starred leading Emirati actor Ahmed Al Jasmi as the title character.

This article was originally published on June 17, 2021.

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