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A Diamond in the Desert

3.31  ·  Rating Details ·  121 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
Jo Tatchell first arrived in the city of Abu Dhabi as a child in 1974, when the discovery of oil was quickly turning a small fishing town into a growing international community. More than thirty years later, change has reached breakneck pace: Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is becoming a dizzying metropolis of ten-lane highways and overlapping languages ...more
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Published October 5th 2010 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lori
May 03, 2012 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting look at the history of Abu Dhabi, progress and development, and a peek into the murky enigmatic world of the locals. Writing is smart, clear, and concise and Tatchell presents a balanced view of AD. Part of the interest of the book is recognizing landmarks and familiar situations she writes about. A couple of disturbing stories about bizarre parties and a boating accident, all of which add to the expat feeling of never being able to understand what really goes on here (and maybe ...more
Brenda
May 22, 2011 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever been to, lived in, are considering living in or simply want to know more about the UAE and more specifically its capital - Abu Dhabi - you must read this book. After spending almost a year in AD, I was both excited and relieved to find a book that mirrored my conflicting sentiments about that place almost exactly. It is definitely a clear and intriguing account of the opposites and hidden agendas / hopes that encapsulate the somewhat deceptive wealth and ambition of Abu Dhabi. I w ...more
Karen
Jun 03, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-the-world
This was a great introduction for me about the City of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Jo Tatchell grew up in Abu Dhabi in the 70s and 80s when the country was just starting to grow. Her father managed the British company Spinneys, that served the needs of the oil prospectors. Jo went back to Abu Dhabi when she heard that the government wanted to build a national art museum, like the Guggenheim or the Louvre.

What the author saw astounded her. Abu Dhabi had gone from a small desert town t
...more
Lindsey
Jun 15, 2010 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this. A great perspective from someone who spent part of her childhood in Abu Dhabi in the 70's, and has been there on and off since. The book was prompted by all the changes noted during her last trip there, which she made after being absent for about 10 years. Very current, very relevant.
Kristien
Sep 09, 2012 Kristien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Must read for anyone living in the UAE and wanting to get under the skin of first impression. So much is unsaid or understood (not by the majority of expats though) and then there is this eye opener with its unique perspective of journalist and early resident of the history. So many modern mysteries explained by history, loved it!
Mary ellen
This book was a decent read if you are interested in the history of Abu Dhabi. Some of the bits are negative, some positive. I learned a great deal from reading about the place I live. It helped me to make sense of many things.
Chris
When I saw this book and where it was about (Abu Dhabi, UAE) I was excited. Further delving made me even more excited. It seemed myself and the author, Jo Tatchell, had quite a bit in common. Jo was born in 1971. I was born in 1970. She moved to Abu Dhabi around 1975. I moved to Abu Dhabi in 1980. Jo went to the local English speaking school, Al Khubairat. I also went to Al Khubairat. And we both went to boarding school. We may even have met whilst at school in Abu Dhabi and not known it!

Ever si
...more
Louise
Dec 09, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
Jo Tatchell is uniquely qualified to write this book. She not only straddles two cultures, but also two eras in Abu Dhabi. Her father's work brought this British family there in the 1970's and 1980's. In her young years she experienced an Abu Dhabi way of life that had more in common with its culture 1000 years ago than that of today.

The world's thirst for oil has created a wealth and population explosion in this emirate. In the past 40 years the native population has become dwarfed in numbers b
...more
Elisabeth Khan
May 15, 2016 Elisabeth Khan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the timeline of Abu Dhabi history, this book is a follow-up to M.A. Fahim's excellent eyewitness account, "From Rags to Riches."
Author Jo Tatchell revisits the country where she had arrived as a child in 1974 and spent her formative years. She is in an excellent place to compare the "then" and the "now" (meaning circa 2008), having absorbed a lot of fascinating information about the early days of the oil boom from her father, who managed Spinneys, the first supermarket catering to expats. She
...more
Heather
Nov 01, 2010 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Heather by: NPR
The author provides a unique view of Abu Dhabi's development from her own perspective, as a Brit having spent many years there growing up while her father managed a major grocery chain, and from that of her family's friends and contacts who remained there. She ties stories from 'early' Abu Dhabi in with the current reality and pace of change. She also tries to predict, having observed this new society spring from quite different historical origins, where it will go next and where it needs to go ...more
Janette
Feb 03, 2013 Janette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ficton, kindle
I read this book during a first time trip to Abu Dhabi. I completely enjoyed the story and the storytelling. It enriched my visit immensely with local insights into a city that has both an impressive and bewildering history to my Western ways. The book captures colorful insights into the culture as the author revisits her childhood growing up there. Because of this book, my tourist visits to coastline and desert sands had a depth of appreciation for my surroundings that would otherwise have been ...more
Asmaa
Dec 29, 2013 Asmaa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very engaging, critical and a piece of writing that offers a deep synthesis of the Abu Dhabian hidden contradictory realities.

I bet that Tatchell's personal stand as an English journalist protected her freedom of press and expression. Yet, a local publication of a similar critical tone would never have a chance to circulate around the country, simply because nobody wants to hear the bad news for the sake of maintaining the national brand!

Abu Dhabi is certainly developing, but it is a kind of d
...more
Rachel
Jul 16, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am slow to read nonfiction, but this book held my attention the entire time. Tatchell has a gift for creating suspense even in a memoir. Of course it helps that I have lived here for many years. It was like reading gossip about old acquaintances. Occasional inaccuracies grated. For example, a burka in the UAE is not a cloth face covering, but a shiny mask that looks like it is made of metal (but is actually a weird paper or leather thing). I'm surprised the author was able to get away with the ...more
John
I began this book with the audio edition, but switched to print as I just wasn't getting into the story, even though the narrator was doing a pretty good job of reading the material. Doing that enabled me to skim more easily, though the material never became much more interesting.

Two stars would be unfair, as it's a well written book, that tells the intended story. Unfortunately, four stars would indicate the book is more interesting than I found it. Perhaps, the problem was that she spent so mu
...more
Christy
It's a good read for someone living in or coming to live in AD. I wonder if I would have learned more if I had read it when I came, or if I would have just read some of the passages (think panther) and found them impossible. Now having been here, I can see it. Tatchell provides a perspective that most expats simply can't get: she has the history and the family background that lets her speak with the Emiratis. I found it a valuable read thought not really a gripping one.
Jaclynn
Dec 15, 2014 Jaclynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative but not dry. The author includes so many personal memories and personal touches to the story, it's a history lesson and a bit of a memoir rolled into one. I am going to the UAE for the first time in a few weeks and wanted to learn more about the people, their history and the development of this amazing city. This book provides all that and positive and negative insights from an outsiders perspective.
George Huner
Sep 14, 2011 George Huner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot about Abu Dhabi from this book, a place I was barely aware of before my son and his wife moved there. A place of immense contrast and change. I hope to visit sometime in the next year.
Melissa Henderson
Aug 25, 2011 Melissa Henderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone who's visited the UAE, this book offers an interesting, first-hand historical perspective of the area before the thriving metropolis and the societal problems that come along with newfound privilege.
Joan
Aug 18, 2011 Joan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A history of Abu Dhabi- a commercialized (and luxurious) city in the Arab Emirates. Jo Tatchell explores the "story behind the headlines," since she lived there.
Cyndi
Feb 18, 2011 Cyndi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book extremely interesting. It gave another perspective on several questions I've had about the area and it's history.
Krystyn
Apr 19, 2012 Krystyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fascinating.
Ann
Jun 07, 2012 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


A good book on Abu Dhabi. A bit of history and a bit of culture. Some parts seemed a bit far fetched to me but you never know here.
James
Mar 18, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being an expat in Abu Dhabi, I enjoyed this book. It was written from a good point of view as the author lived in Abu Dhabi many years before and returned seeing the changes that had happened.
Karin
Nov 20, 2012 Karin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


When you live in Abu Dhabi it is a really interesting book as you can relate to most of the things in the book.
Christopher
Feb 16, 2015 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Excellent book for any Western visit Abu Dhabi. Interesting stories and well-written. Dated in that Abu Dhabi is changing so fast, although, rapid change is a theme to the book.
Dlmrose
Dlmrose rated it liked it
Oct 27, 2011
Britney
Britney rated it really liked it
Jan 26, 2016
Kara Ouellette
Kara Ouellette rated it it was amazing
Feb 15, 2014
Aedan Lake
Aedan Lake rated it liked it
Oct 08, 2011
Alan Cordova
Alan Cordova rated it it was ok
Nov 22, 2010
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