Emirates Diaries: From Sheikhs to Shakespeare

Peter Clark was a romantic. He did not want to be sent to Abu Dhabi in 1988 to run the British Council in the United Arab Emirates, a country which he felt was brash, consumerist and lacking in history. He preferred established countries, steeped in history with ruins and antique architecture. Cover illustration by Chess Heward .

In ebook and paperback.


Emirates Diaries: From Sheikhs to Shakespeare tells the story of how Peter came to love the Emirates and its people. He got to know Abu Dhabi sheikhs and Dubai merchants and people at every level of society. The country was on the cusp of enormous economic expansion and this book is an affectionate picture of the Emirates when it was still like a chain of large informal villages. The people of the United Arab Emirates were aware of their good fortune and were, he found, open, generous and innovative. Clark arranged for the explorer Wilfred Thesiger to return to the country he had celebrated before it became oil-rich. Thanks to Peter, Thesiger met up with his old companions who had accompanied him in crossing the Empty Quarter 40 years earlier. Peter embedded himself in the local cultural scene and translated stories by Dubai’s best known writer, Muhammad al-Murr. Emirates Diaries tells of opera in Ras Al Khaimah, how Shakespeare was brought to large audiences of young people, how to organise a royal visit, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease among the oryx in the Al Ain zoo, the culture of camel racing and an unpaid bill left by Margaret Thatcher. The diaries sparkle with mischievous humour and acute observation. This book is a prequel to Peter Clark’s Damascus Diaries: Life under the Assads, described by The Economist as ‘quirky, digressive and indiscreet’.

Additional information

Dimensions 19.8 × 13 cm



26 September 2017

1 review for Emirates Diaries: From Sheikhs to Shakespeare

  1. Henry Hogger, Asian Affairs

    To one familiar with the country in the 1980s, it is nostalgic to read the accounts of meetings with some of the more memorable characters of the local and British expatriate communities. The author’s fascination with the personalities and their connection – well-suitedto a society that sets such store by personal relationships – adds to the entertainment value.

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