Time Frame: Tourist Club mystery

There's frequently an element of detective work when dealing with old photographs.

While the images may survive, the information about what they depict is frequently lost. Sometimes it is never recorded at all.

As with this photograph of a large building under construction by a beach. It comes from the archives of Al Ittihad newspaper, but has neither a date nor a caption. Al Ittihad, our big sister at Abu Dhabi Media, was launched in 1970, so in theory this could be up to 44 years old.

Finding out what does show becomes a process of elimination. The first clue is that the original print was stored in folder marked “Tourist Club”, the leisure facility on the east side of Abu Dhabi that opened in 1973 but closed several years ago.

The second clue is the construction of the new building. In the early years of the building of the capital, multi-storey steel frames were banned by the municipality, apparently because they were consider a fire risk.

Instead, concrete was  preferred, which had the advantage of boosting the local economy. Materials could be quarried locally, in Al Ain, while steel was an expensive import.

In the mid ‘70s, the bar was lifted for the construction of Le Meridien Hotel, a project that was delayed because the steel had to be imported from Canada.

Since Le Meridien was built next to the Tourist Club beach, it is  a good bet that this is what the photo shows, probably from around 1976.

And while the Tourist Club is gone, Le Meridien, which finally opened in 1979,  is still very much in business, a testimony to its steely interior.

*James Langton

Ordinary Virtues: Moral Order in a Divided World by Michael Ignatieff
Harvard University Press

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