The Emirates have long inspired visitors to commit their thoughts to paper. From the memoirs of diplomats' wives to out-of-print academic texts, we select notable titles all about the UAE. Words by James Langton.
Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
The classic book from 1959 that details two voyages across the Empty Quarter or Rub Al Khali, and features a notable encounter with Sheikh Zayed in Al Ain.
The Trucial States by Donald Hawley
Published a year before the formation of the UAE. Hawley was a political agent, as the British called their diplomats in the protectorate of the Gulf, and worked closely with Sheikh Rashid of Dubai as he unveiled his ambitions for the emirate.
Looking for Dilmun by Geoffrey Bibby
An enthusiastic (and inexpensive) account of early archaeological digs in the Arabian Gulf during the 1950s and 60s, and includes a section on the ancient structures at Umm Al Nar.
Farewell to Arabia by David Holden
Distinguished foreign correspondent David Holden looks at boomtown Abu Dhabi in the 1960s (Holden was murdered in suspicious circumstances in Cairo in 1977).
From Pearls to Oil by David Heard
Meticulous account of a swashbuckling era in the 1930s when the petroleum industry bargained with the ruling sheikhs for a prize both hoped would bring them wealth.
The Gulf Wife by Jocelyn Henderson
Published in 2014, this details a life largely spent in the region with her husband, Edward Henderson, a British diplomat who witnessed the birth of the UAE and then stayed to create what is now the National Archives.
Keepers of the Golden Shore: A History of the United Arab Emirates by Michael Quentin Morton
An ambitious work that actually covers the country from prehistory to the present day in less than 250 pages. It draws from an extensive range of published sources (including The National’s History Project).
From Raga to Riches: A Story of Abu Dhabi by Mohamed Abduljalil Al Fahim
This best-selling book is so popular it can be bought at motorway service stations and is a passionate account of a childhood in pre-oil Abu Dhabi.