Arabia in the 1960s - still a land of desert, nomadic tribes, falcons and gazelles. And Abu Dhabi, perched on the Gulf Coast, was a poor fishing community. Barely forty years on, it is the richest city on earth, with major stakes in Western economies. And if the extraordinarily ambitious plans for the capital of the United Arab Emirates succeed, its future impact will be global.
Jo Tatchell's family arrived in Abu Dhabi in 1974 when there were only a few thousand inhabitants. She left as a young adult in the nineties, choosing personal freedom over a life of comfort and ease. But in recent years, as Abu Dhabi has become ever more significant on the world stage, she has returned to get behind the headlines and see how the city is changing for herself.
In this illuminating portrait, she shows Abu Dhabi past and present through the eyes of its people - from sheikhs to Indian immigrants, housewives to ex-pats - as well as her own. Tales of traditional Bedu hospitality and of expeditions into the desert mingle with accounts of hair-raising decadence and double standards, as she reveals a society and culture almost derailed by sudden, extreme wealth. And yet, as she discovers, Abu Dhabi is about to change again. Its rulers have a grand vision of a cultural bridge between Islam and the West, which might just transform our world.