Summer is almost upon us with its scorching temperatures and humidity that makes our hair look like a cloud of unruly mess, which means we will start spending more time indoors. That is not always a bad things considering we can now invest our time in just relaxing and taking things slowly without FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) eating us alive. I suggest we use this pause for some quality reading. Just some nice old-school pastime of snuggling on the couch with the AC on its lowest and an adventure in our hands. Reading and connecting to Dubai because there are great fiction books out there set right here!
Indeed, what can be better than coming across your favorite coffee shop or a secret beach spot in a novel? When you read that an aspiring socialite lives in Discovery Gardens, you nod understandingly because she would never be able to afford that fancy car if she lived on the Palm. The New York Times said that the number of serious literary novels that take for their setting the desert city of Dubai could be numbered on a hand’s digits, with the thumb, ring finger and pinkie unused.
This list of more than one fiction book set in Dubai will prove them wrong.
Understanding the character’s environment and background makes you relate to their struggles and adventures, that’s why it is so exciting to read a fiction book set in Dubai, or at least having some Dubai adventures. Time to get lazy and indulge in some light Dubai reading. UncoverDubai found seven great books that were set in Dubai and which you are guaranteed to fall in love with. And to make it even more interesting, I will give away an amazing ficbook set in Dubai! Just follow this link and you have a chance to get a free book! a Rafflecopter giveaway
1. Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati.
This was such an unexpected discovery of mine in the city where everything is polished to perfection that I cannot help but rank this book Number One in the list. The book is anything but politically-correct and I read the whole 300 pages in just a few days. The book started as an anonymous blog, which went completely dead after the book was published. You can have a look at the blog here.
We don’t know (and probably will never find out) who is hiding behind the pen name and who Ameera really is. Is she a British-Emirati femme fatale that leads a double life as a respectful traditional obedient young woman during the day and a hot sexy seductress at night? Or is Ameera a shy Indian girl with a deep dark secret? We will never know but the book is very Dubai, with a setting against a backdrop of luxury hotels and man-made islands, night clubs, Maseratis and Birkins, as well as a mix of locals and expats: some looking for a wealthy husband, others trying to start a new life in a place where no one knows who you are. Desperate in Dubai is an ultimate fiction book set in Dubai and it tells the tale of four not-so-desperate women as they struggle to find truth, love, and themselves.
2. Expat by Debbie Duggan
The author of this book is not hiding her identity. Au contraire, she is a proud English teacher in an international school in Dubai and she managed to put her observations of expat lifestyle into a thrilling novel. Her a little bit exaggerated portrayal of Dubai brings extravagant lifestyles into the reader’s world. Expats and their maids, cheating husbands and their mistresses, beautiful and mysterious Russian women, and bored abandoned memsahibs jostle with fragrant abaya-clad Emirati women and, behind the scenes, men on the make.
The plot is full of twists and keeps you on your toes till the end. The ending, by the way, is really unexpected! This fiction book set in Dubai is a tale of courage and intrigues and you are destined to love it!
3. Dubai Tales and The Wink of the Mona Lisa by Mohammad Al Murr.
These are two books of short stories – charming, funny and reflective, and Roald Dahl-esque in the tales’ surprising twists. Dubai-born Al Murr is one of the most prominent writers from the Emirates. He has published more than a dozen volumes of short stories, and these are two collections that have been translated into English. Dubai tales are charming and different, some you might skip, some will make you reflect on the futility of life (a man on a long flight to Dubai strikes up a conversation with the matron sitting next to him and returns from the restroom to find she has died), and some will make you laugh out loud.
Dubai tales and the Wink of Mona Lisa is one of the most thoughtful and reflective collections and a great read for anyone who is looking for a good fiction book set in Dubai.
4. Rigged by Ben Mezrich
A New York Times best-selling author from New Jersey is behind this get-rich-quick story of a young Italian-American kid who finds himself in the money-hungry world of oil exchange. After heading to Dubai, he meets a young Muslim and sets out on a mission to transform the oil trading industry.
Soon our hero finds himself living the glitzy life in the gold-lined hotel palaces of Dubai and on private yachts in Monte Carlo, teeming with girls flown in by Saudi sheikhs, and making deals in the dangerous back alleys of Beijing. But that’s only the beginning. Taken under the wing of another young gun and partnering with a mysterious young Muslim, the kid embarks on a dangerous adventure to revolutionize the oil trading industry—and, along with it, the world. The fiction book is not entirely set in Dubai but the change of decorations add some intensity to the plot.
You can buy Rigged in Magrudy online bookstore.
5. The Sand Fish by Maha Gargash
This excellent debut novel of an Emirati writer is set is in the UAE, in the 1950s. The author Maha Gargash is a documentary filmmaker, directing films about the older, disappearing cultures of the Arabian Gulf and her filmmaking experiences have definitely enriched the story, making it more authentic.
The story centers around 17 year old Noora, a Bedouin living in the mountains. Her mother has recently died and her father lost his mind. Her younger brother marries her off to an old and rich pearl merchant she has never met. Living a long sea voyage away from her ancestral home, Noora becomes the third wife of a man much older than her father. When she learns that none of the other wives have given him children, it becomes clear what Noora’s purpose is.
The book gives nice insights into the life of the Emirates of the pre-oil period with the focus on local traditions and values. Try taking off your prejudices and Western stereotypes and diving into this story with a fresh mind. You can buy the book in Kinokuniya bookstore.
6. Camels Love Dubai by Stephen Wilkins
This is the second Dubai-based book from British former resident Stephen Wilkins (his first, Dubai Creek, tells the story of a London expat). This time, the story focuses on a young Sri Lankan boy, Mohan, who manages to convince a rich man to foster him after his family is lost during a tsunami of December 2004.
Mohan suffers from regular nightmares about the death of his best friend Bimal, whom he believes he could have saved from drowning. Whilst staying at a shelter run by the Red Cross, Mohan manages to befriend a wealthy man from Dubai into fostering him, and he soon finds himself living in the man’s home with his seven other children.
Mohan’s story is told in two parts: first, as a ten-year-old living in Sri Lanka, and then as a seventeen-year-old just starting his first year at university in Dubai. Mohan finds it impossible not to enjoy his life in Dubai and yet he frequently finds himself questioning whether God has forgiven him for what he had allowed to happen to Bimal or whether God is continuing to test and punish him.
Camels Love Dubai is an excellent piece of fiction set in Dubai and it gives a wonderful insight into the realities of teen life in contemporary Dubai. The city provides an exotic backdrop for exploring various social and cultural issues that currently exist in the region.
7. The Dog by Joseph O’Neill
Joseph O’Neill boldly entered Dubai literary scene with The Dog, a compact and dense exploration Dubai dark side, all Western journalists are always so happy to scavenge on, but unlike the hungry journalists, he realizes it in a brilliant way. The narrator is a lost and tormented New York lawyer working in Dubai for a family of demented Lebanese billionaires named Batros. This fiction book set in Dubai is different from the other books on this list, and I will now tell you why.
The Dog is narrated in a deliberately pedantic and exasperated voice as its hero takes up dubious employment — through old school contacts — with the appalling Sandro Batros, for whom he acts as a shadowy legal frontman while simultaneously mentoring the tycoon’s spoilt and deeply disturbed 15-year-old son, Alain.
O’Neil’s urbane postmodern writing is both sardonic and sad, yet there was no escape from the increasingly foul funk of it. At its best, he echoes a combination of Kafka, Thomas Pynchon, and even George Orwell. Indeed, it is must-read for everyone who understand the subtleties of strong narratives and who will not be fooled by sarcasm and kafka-esque dog-house the narrator voluntarily put himself into.
Do you have favorite books set in your favorite locations? Share them with us in the comments!