“From Rags to Riches – The Story of Abu Dhabi”, written by Mohammad Al-Fahim, is an interesting insight into the story of the commercially and traditionally rich culture of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The book is a deeply moving, well-structured account of the noteworthy conversion of an impecunious, desert, and tribal population into the prosperous and modern state it is now. The black gold, i.e. the oil of the Gulf, was the initial spark for this miracle. The development was further enriched and cultivated by the vision set for Abu Dhabi, to be leading in several aspects, including economics, politics, and business. The leaders of business and politics, especially Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, who ruled Abu Dhabi for a long time and is also the president of United Arab Emirates, was another reason behind its mounting success.
The detailed personal account, as given by Al-Fahim, is the revelation of the world in the West which was left behind by the people who were obligated to dwell in the place. The reality cannot be simply covered by the demographical statistics. The tourists/visitors of Abu Dhabi are struck and amazed by the views of the breathtaking skyscrapers, seaside scenes, landscapes, and broad avenues – they will find this story much more fascinating and amusing once they discover how the nation was able to recover and progress from the 1960’s. “From Rags to Riches” is an apt description of the people and the society of the historic capital city: Abu Dhabi.
The enthralling story of the rapid, yet perilous, change is witnessed and narrated to the readers via the eyes of the little imaginative and ambitious boy. This young man is now listed amongst the most admired civic and business leaders of Abu Dhabi. Al-Fahim did not have the privilege to get a formal education; neither is he a professional writer nor is he a trained historian. However, he has thoroughly practiced the apt and skillfulness of an excellent and professional writer, and took the advice and help of expert researchers to present and reflect the parallel histories of his family along with the recount of modern Abu Dhabi.
The life of Al-Fahim and his family has forever been closely related to that of Sheik Zayed’s. When he was a kid, he spent several summers at the palace of Sheikh Zayed, his wife, and their son, named Khalifa. Abduljalil, Al-Fahim’s father, is to this day, the closest personal advisor and friend of Sheik Zayed. He has also accompanied the Sheikh on many travels.
The author of the novel recalls that when he was little (in the years 1940’s and 1950’s), the clay or the mud houses of his neighbors and family were agonizingly hot most of the time during the year. The house did not have any indoor sanitary rooms or plumbing. The people literary wore rags and were barefooted at all times. The vehicles were absent from the roads. Camel, the ship of the desert, was the only means to commute. Quran was the only book available to read, both for children and adults, and nobody knew how to write.
This novel is an excellent recall of the historical events with the inclusion of an autobiography. The narration will intrigue the professionals and businessman who have always wanted to work in or with the Gulf region, as they will learn a lot about their rich culture.