Book Review ~ From Rags to Riches by Mohammed Al-Fahim

August 21st, 2012

The one book that all residents of the UAE should read is From Rags to Riches by Mohammed Al-Fahim. The subtitle is A Story of Abu Dhabi, but because Abu Dhabi is the capital, the book reads like the story of the UAE.

First published in 1995, the book is part history and part memoir. Al-Fahim recounts his childhood, the hardships his family endured and his experiences in the UAE from the 1950s onward. This is all woven with the history of the UAE and its dramatic transformation from a tribal society to a modern nation.

The book is full of fascinating anecdotes about life in the UAE before the discovery of oil. Al-Fahim explains that as a child, the kandura had no pockets because they had nothing to put in them. He recounts traveling by camel from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi and describes the treacherous job of pearl diving. He gives insights into why Sheikh Zayed is so revered by his people. Interestingly, Al-Fahim discusses how the British exploited the UAE and why he has forgiven them.

The book was ghostwritten by Susan Macaulay. She visited my book club some years ago and told us how she conducted a series of interviews with Mr. Al-Fahim, recorded his words and turned them into a cohesive story.

In short, this book provides illuminating insights into the history and culture of the United Arab Emirates. The book is sold all over the UAE in various languages, and I recommend it to all expats living here.

Question: Have you read from Rags to Riches? What are your thoughts on the book?

  1. August 21st, 2012 at 14:43 | #1

    A much needed book, considering that most of the foreigners (myself included) know the UAE for what it is now. As much as I love the historical parts of the UAE, I never really got a chance to learn how it all started. Thank you for suggesting this book, Holly, I look forward to reading it.

    Just wondering, if a car takes about an hour from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi, how long would it take on camelback?:)

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      August 24th, 2012 at 19:08 | #2

      Hi Adriana, Thanks for the comment. Regarding the camel trek from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi: the author describes this trek from his childhood as long and difficult. If I remember correctly, the journey took days & on one such trip both of his grandparents died and were buried on the way. It was a life of hardship at that time. Please let me know what you think of the book.

  2. Hannah
    December 29th, 2013 at 13:33 | #3

    Hi Holly,

    I was just googling for a history book on the UAE and your blog post came up. I then saw your face and realised it was Holly that I met a few weeks back at brunch with the girls. Thanks for your recommendation, the book is now on order and I look forward to reading it and maybe meeting you again! And your blog looks great.


    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      January 4th, 2014 at 19:06 | #4

      Hey Hannah! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment. I hope you enjoy that book. I did! Hope to see you again. All the best, Holly

  3. March 29th, 2014 at 00:27 | #5

    Looks like an interesting book–thanks for the recommendation. I always enjoy rags-to-riches stories! I will tweet the link to this post of yours.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      April 11th, 2014 at 17:41 | #6

      Thanks for reading, Maureen!

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