The boatyard near Maktoum bridge in the 1960s. Courtesy Michael Hamilton-Clark
The boatyard near Maktoum bridge in the 1960s. Courtesy Michael Hamilton-Clark

Former expat donates snapshot of UAE history to the Emirates

DUBAI // Seventy-one-year-old Michael Hamilton-Clark and his wife Renee remember a time when life in the Emirates was much, much simpler. The couple, who are now retired and living in British Columbia in Canada, have been living here on and off for more than 40 years.

"It was just a different life back then but I have to say it was fun," he says, smiling. "One had to improvise a bit. We had motorcars and we had to do the repairs on them. You couldn't just take it to the garage. If things went wrong, you had to just deal with it."

But not everything was so easy. One of their more memorable times came when the UAE withdrew the Indian Gulf rupee after it was devalued by India in the late 1960s. Its replacement, the Qatar Dubai riyal, took three weeks to enter circulation, forcing everyone to buy and sell things on a bartering system.

The retired British engineer first moved to the UAE as a newlywed in 1965, after being offered a job as site engineer on the original road between Dubai and Sharjah.

He remained with his French wife Renee, a teacher, in Dubai for six years, during which time they had two sons, Stephan and Edward.

The family left in 1971, but their love affair with the region spanned the next four decades and included further stints living in the Emirates.

"The Middle East is our home from home," Renee says. "We fell in love with it and we come back every year. It's a fascinating part of the world and because we've been here before we always feel comfortable."

The couple, who just celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary, are now back in Dubai to present a series of photographs at The Majlis Gallery which Mr Hamilton-Clark took with his camera between 1965 and 1971.

The black and white series show how Dubai used to be, before any of the main roads and buildings were built.

Several of the photographs show the Deira side of the creek which has little more than a few low-rise buildings and scores of dhows and abras.

"I'm an inveterate shutterbug," he smiles. "Things that took my fancy, I took pictures of. At the time things looked very different.

"A few years ago my son Stephan, who lives here, was at a party and he was saying what it was like back then. They said to him 'it was never like that'. He told them he could prove it and asked for the photos. I sent them to him, and it escalated from there.

"If you look at photographs today, you see it has gone from nothing to everything.

"There were no roads. In Dubai there was perhaps 20km of surfaced roads. In Sharjah and Ajman, there was nothing. And the route to Ras Al Khaimah was to drive up the beach or the dunes."

Before moving to the UAE Mr Hamilton-Clark, from Kent, England, was part of the design team for the Maktoum Bridge in 1961 so already knew a little about the country.

Nothing, however, prepared them for some the quirks of life that went along with living here.

Shopping, for example, was something of a hit-and-miss exercise. Much of the time the two main supermarkets - Spinneys and the Gulf Supermarket - wouldn't stock what they needed, but the shopkeepers were always happy to try and find it.

"I had heard of Milton for disinfecting baby bottles," recalls Renee. "There wasn't any here, but I had heard about it so I spoke to Hiro and he said 'don't worry, we will get it', and they did."

The Hiro Renee refers to is Hiro Jashanmal, who managed the first Jashanmal store in Dubai from 1958, two years after it opened.

"He was that sort of man, he was so nice. It was different back then. At Christmas time, Mr Reynold at the Gulf Supermarket got all his customers a box of chocolates. That's how many of us there were. If that happened now the shop would be bankrupt!"

The couple's first son Stephan was born in 1966 and their second, Edward, in 1969, both at Al Maktoum Hospital, which became the first in the emirate when it opened in 1951.

Stephan was only the eighth British birth registered at the embassy. "Having my children here didn't seem that extraordinary," Renee laughs. "The doctor was very good, the hospital was very good. I didn't think anything of it at the time."

The family lived in a small bungalow in Deira and designed all their own furniture as there were no ready-made goods.

"It's tricky, we had to guess how tall a bed needed to be, and how wide, things one hadn't thought about before," Mr Hamilton-Clark remembers. "It was things like that that made life interesting. The carpenters were excellent. They still are around here."

There was no television in the late 1960s so Mr Hamilton-Clark found another way to entertain their children. He had one of the few projectors in the country so would use it to screen children's cartoons like Tom and Jerry and Wacky Races at children's birthday parties.

"Life was whatever you made it," Renee says. "It could be as miserable as you made it, or as fun as you made it."

But by 1971 the family decided to return to the UK as their children were approaching school age and at the time there were no adequate schools to send them to.

If they had had the vision of Sheikh Rashid, they say, the would never have left.

Over the next 30 years they returned to the Middle East intermittently. Mr Hamilton-Clark spent two years in Oman, until 1984, and almost a decade in Abu Dhabi.

He was involved in the initial design of the road which winds up Jebel Hafeet, in Al Ain, and was also the site engineer for the dredging of the Umm Al Nar Channel in the capital.

He was also involved in the complicated process of building a proper harbour in Salalah, Oman.

"There was a war going on in Yemen, they were landing stuff in the surf break but you can't bring armoured cars and artillery ships in that way so they needed to build a harbour in a hurry.

"I volunteered, but what I didn't quite realise was it really was a war zone and people really were being shot at. It was certainly an interesting job!"

With their eldest son Stephan now living in Dubai with his own family, the retired couple visit at least once a year.

"Once you have the sand between you toes, you never really get rid of it," he says. "From a personal point of view, and maybe a selfish one, the work that I was engaged in was interesting, original work, it wasn't extensions, it was putting things where they hadn't been before. We had a lot of problem solving to do.

"But I think for all of us, the life was such an experience."

For information or to purchase the Yesteryear Photos of Dubai 1965 - 1971, contact The Majlis Gallery in Dubai.

The 15 players selected

Muzzamil Afridi, Rahman Gul, Rizwan Haider (Dezo Devils); Shahbaz Ahmed, Suneth Sampath (Glory Gladiators); Waqas Gohar, Jamshaid Butt, Shadab Ahamed (Ganga Fighters); Ali Abid, Ayaz Butt, Ghulam Farid, JD Mahesh Kumara (Hiranni Heros); Inam Faried, Mausif Khan, Ashok Kumar (Texas Titans


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2



Company name:

Started: June 2013

Founder: Alex Tchablakian

Based: Dubai

Industry: e-commerce

Initial investment: Dh10 million

Investors: Self-funded

Total customers: 300,000 unique customers every month

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”


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Huddersfield: Stankovic (43')

The years Ramadan fell in May





Forced Deportations

While the Lebanese government has deported a number of refugees back to Syria since 2011, the latest round is the first en-mass campaign of its kind, say the Access Center for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization which monitors the conditions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“In the past, the Lebanese General Security was responsible for the forced deportation operations of refugees, after forcing them to sign papers stating that they wished to return to Syria of their own free will. Now, the Lebanese army, specifically military intelligence, is responsible for the security operation,” said Mohammad Hasan, head of ACHR.
In just the first four months of 2023 the number of forced deportations is nearly double that of the entirety of 2022.

Since the beginning of 2023, ACHR has reported 407 forced deportations – 200 of which occurred in April alone.

In comparison, just 154 people were forcfully deported in 2022.


Instances of violence against Syrian refugees are not uncommon.

Just last month, security camera footage of men violently attacking and stabbing an employee at a mini-market went viral. The store’s employees had engaged in a verbal altercation with the men who had come to enforce an order to shutter shops, following the announcement of a municipal curfew for Syrian refugees.
“They thought they were Syrian,” said the mayor of the Nahr el Bared municipality, Charbel Bou Raad, of the attackers.
It later emerged the beaten employees were Lebanese. But the video was an exemplary instance of violence at a time when anti-Syrian rhetoric is particularly heated as Lebanese politicians call for the return of Syrian refugees to Syria.

How to wear a kandura


  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester


  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying

6.30pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round-3 Group 1 (PA) | US$95,000 | (Dirt) 2,000m
7.05pm: Meydan Classic Listed (TB) ) | $175,000) | (Turf) 1,600m
7.40pm: Handicap (TB) ) | $135,000 ) | (D) 1,600m
8.15pm: Nad Al Sheba Trophy Group 3 (TB) ) | $300,000) | (T) 2,810m
8.50pm: Curlin Handicap Listed (TB)) | $160,000) | (D) 2,000m
9.25pm: Handicap (TB)) | $175,000) | (T) 1,400m
10pm: Handicap (TB) ) | $135,000 ) | (T) 2,000m

Motori Profile

Date started: March 2020

Co-founder/CEO: Ahmed Eissa

Based: UAE, Abu Dhabi

Sector: Insurance Sector

Size: 50 full-time employees (Inside and Outside UAE)

Stage: Seed stage and seeking Series A round of financing 

Investors: Safe City Group


Director: Spike Lee

Starring: John David Washington; Adam Driver 

Five stars


Company name: Co Chocolat

Started: 2017

Founders: Iman and Luchie Suguitan

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Food

Funding: $1 million-plus

Investors: Fahad bin Juma, self-funding, family and friends

The Breadwinner

Director: Nora Twomey

Starring: Saara Chaudry,  Soma Chhaya,  Laara Sadiq 

Three stars

Getting there

Given its remote location, getting to Borneo can feel daunting even for the most seasoned traveller. But you can fly directly from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan and Sepilok is only half an hour away by taxi. Sandakan has plenty of accommodation options, while Sepilok has a few nature lodges close to the main attractions.


Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Our legal advisor

Ahmad El Sayed is Senior Associate at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Commercial litigator who has assisted clients with overseas judgments before UAE courts. His specialties are cases related to banking, real estate, shareholder disputes, company liquidations and criminal matters as well as employment related litigation. 

Education: Sagesse University, Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005.

Abu Dhabi GP schedule

Friday: First practice - 1pm; Second practice - 5pm

Saturday: Final practice - 2pm; Qualifying - 5pm

Sunday: Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (55 laps) - 5.10pm


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More from Armen Sarkissian
The specs: 2018 BMW R nineT Scrambler

Price, base / as tested Dh57,000

Engine 1,170cc air/oil-cooled flat twin four-stroke engine

Transmission Six-speed gearbox

Power 110hp) @ 7,750rpm

Torque 116Nm @ 6,000rpm

Fuel economy, combined 5.3L / 100km

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Company Profile

Company name: myZoi
Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
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