Hugo Berger meets the Emirati author Sultan Saeed Sultan Al Darmaki, who's just released his first book, a collection of his thoughts and observations called Leave the Birds Alone
The Emirati businessman Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki was propelled on his way to becoming an author by one especially interminable World of Warcraft (WoW) session with his friend Mohamed Al Jneibi.
Their characters wandered into a dungeon, only to be confronted with some deadly birds.
"I was shouting at my friend to leave the birds alone," Al Darmaki animatedly recalls. "Then Mohamed started singing 'leave the birds alone' to the tune of Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone.
"This incident has stuck with me all these years, so I decided to name my first book after it."
The publication is Leave the Birds Alone, a compendium of his aphorisms collected from his years of musing over the human condition.
Published in a glossy tome, with each saying colourfully illustrated on its own page, his gems of wisdom include: "Don't say your life is peachy as others may be looking to make a cobbler out of it."
Or perhaps: "Animals are lucky. They don't have to worry about keeping up with the latest fashion. All they have to worry about is becoming the latest fashion."
As the owner of the Al Darmaki Group, which counts World of Furniture, Atlas Travel and the Baby Fashion store as its subsidiaries, the author is most noted as a businessman in Abu Dhabi.
But he refuses to be pigeonholed, and dabbles in writing and photography on the side. He is also a prodigious traveller, and it was during an overseas trip that he began to note down his wry observations.
"Wherever I would go, I would just go and sit in a coffee shop with a small notepad and my coffee and just watch all the hustle and bustle go by," he says.
Then last year, with the assistance of illustrator Mark De Castro, Al Darmaki collated some of his more poignant jottings into a book.
Thus far, the author says he's been thrilled with the reaction from readers. "Some people just lose themselves in laughter. Then I know these are the ones who got my message and who read between the lines," he says. "There are some people who say they feel enlightened. Then you have to accept that a few just won't get what you're saying."
He admits that while there is profundity in some of his aphorisms, the book's main aim is to amuse its readers.
"I don't say this book will change your life or this book is going to help you become a millionaire, rapper, cowboy, space jumper or whatever," he says. "But I would say this book doesn't insult intelligence or flatter stupidity. It's just me sharing my thoughts."
He also hopes that the work will add to the UAE's canon of home-grown literature as well as inspire his peers to start penning their own books.
"I want the UAE to be remembered as not only the place with the biggest mall, the biggest buildings, the biggest cars and all that. The real thing I want us to be known for is two things: the brightest minds and the biggest hearts."
But most of all, he want to produce a book that transcends cultural and national boundaries.
"It doesn't matter where you're from. My book talks about things that go on through every person's life - things that we can or cannot cope with, or comprehend or even care about," he states.
And this global perspective is another interpretation of the book's title. "Maybe Leave the Birds Alone doesn't mean anything at all. It confuses people. It's a puzzle," he says. "But maybe it's a metaphor. When you look at the big picture, I describe it as being like a sky. It's clear, you see how things connect and you see the vastness of it.
"Then you have some flocks of birds coming along and they distract your mind from looking at the big picture. So maybe it means don't get distracted by the mundane or the mediocre."
Or, to quote one of his aphorisms: "It is better to keep your eyes on the surroundings than on the prize."