With its stunning cover, contrasting the architectural details of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with the elemental sand which is its underpinning, Denise Roig’s collection of interconnected stories opens a vibrantly exotic and alien world to English-speaking readers. Illustrating the disparities of social life within the United Arab Emirates as lived by those who make up its oil-rich economy, these stories highlight universal themes within domestic circumstances which every reader will be able to appreciate: a pastry chef from Egypt, so poor he has to sleep inside a flour bag, wants to present a special gift to the sheikh he admires and who employs him; a Filipina servant woman begs to borrow a cellphone from a neighbor woman in order to escape her abusive circumstances; a doctor delivers the baby of a fourteen-year-old girl, who has no idea what is happening to her; a limo driver voluntarily takes the obnoxious son of his employer to see an experimental “green city” where both learn an important lesson; a newcomer to Abu Dhabi endangers the status quo by “overpaying” her help; an Anglican priest, a Catholic bishop, and a sheikh meet to discuss how to bring the country into the twenty-first century in terms of its thinking. These are just a few of the characters who come and go and sometimes overlap within stories illustrating the contrasts between the lives of the sheikhs and those of their help, and the foreign professionals who live in the middle.
Category Archive for 'United Arab Emirates'
Irish author Joseph O’Neill, a citizen of the world, was born in Cork, Ireland, lived in Mozambique as a toddler, in Turkey (his mother’s place of birth) till he reached school age, and in Iran, the Netherlands, and England (where he attended college and then practiced law for ten years), before moving to New York City, where he has lived for the past fifteen years. Perceptive and particularly attuned to cultural differences and their ironies as a result of his own upbringing, O’Neill writes a darkly comic novel set in Dubai, creating an unnamed narrator whose real first name, never mentioned because he hates it, begins with the letter X. In an unusual twist, this main character is a man so lacking in personality that he himself also resembles an X. A lawyer who for nine years lived with Jenn, a co-worker, X is now single, with almost no resources, emotional or financial. The breakup, coming as it did when he and Jenn were in their mid-thirties, was toxic, her revenge leaving him with few funds, no apartment, no friends among their mutual acquaintances and fellow employees, and virtually no prospects for a better life. Public scorn and denigration, perhaps engineered by Jenn, are widespread on the internet’s social media, and even Facebook provides no refuge for him.