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Top 10 UAE Books

Updated: October 12, 2021
 By Pri

There are many ways to learn about a city. You can take a walking tour, watch a news report, or talk to locals. Another way to learn is by reading books. Luckily, there is an extensive collection of literature on Dubai and the rest of the UAE. In this post, we’ll share our Top 10 UAE Books.

The Emirates by the First Photographers

This outstanding photography book provides a visual history guide of the earliest days of the United Arab Emirates. It covers the country from 1900 to 1962. It encompasses when the region was a collection of independent Sheikhdoms to the discovery of oil. Therefore, it talks about the official founding of the United Arab Emirates. One can see the rapid progress that the country has gone through this book.. The author, William Facey, provides insightful historical context to each of the images. The book’s archivist, Gillian Grant, provides understanding from a photography perspective.

An Amazing Nation


This book provides a detailed yet easy to understand look at the inner workings of the UAE. It touches on topics such as the structure of the federal government, the flora and fauna of the region. It also talks about the demographics of the population and the geography of the coastlines. It’s a great way to get an encyclopaedic look at the different facets that make up the country.

Telling Tales – An Oral History of Dubai

Before Dubai became the glittering metropolis of today, it was once a humble fishing village bordered by great dunes. In this book, BBC Gulf Correspondent Julia Wheeler has collected tales from the early local inhabitants of the UAE. It offers a fascinating look into what everyday life was like for the everyday people of the city. The tales in the book are accompanied by introspective portraits of citizens who have shared their story. This adds a poignant dimension to the book.

Emirati Women: Generations of Change

This book was written by an anthropologist, Jane Bristol-Rhys. She has interviewed three generations of Emirati women. She interviewed the grandmothers who raised their children in the poverty of the UAE’s early days, the middle-aged women who witnessed the biggest changes in the UAE first hand and the young women who grew up surrounded by the wealth of a thriving and oil-rich country. The book provides an insight into the benefits and disadvantages that the changes the UAE has gone through has had on its women. It’s a unique look at the people that some say are the backbone of the country.

The Trucial States

This book was published in 1970, a year before the UAE was officially founded. It was written by Donald Hawley, a British diplomat who was working in the Gulf during that time. He worked closely with the ruling Sheiks as they established the United Arab Emirates. This book provides an inside look at the wheeling and dealing that goes into founding a nation. It is a scintillating read both politically and historically.

My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence

This book was co-authored by the ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. As the man who spearheaded the emirate’s push into the 21st century, and the one credited for diversifying the city’s economy, Sheikh Mohammed has plenty of valuable insights into what it takes to build a strong future. The book is contains recollections from his childhood. It also shows examinations of his feats as a ruler and insight into his personal ethos. This book is a way to get into the mind of a visionary ruler who built an extraordinary city.

From Rags to Riches: A story of Abu Dhabi

Mohammed Al Fahim, the writer of this book, is a UAE businessman. He tells the story of the growth seen in Abu Dhabi from the 1950s to the 1990s. He knew the poverty stricken life of the Bedouins in the harsh climate of the Gulf. Mohammed witnessed the rapid transformation of the emirate into one of the richest places in the world. Al Fahim is very frank in his recollections. He allows readers to get a true glimpse into the past from the perspective of one of the emirate’s own citizens. The book was first published in 1995. This book is now available in multiple languages including English, Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and Urdu.

Dubai: Architecture and Design

Dubai is a city famed for its striking skyscrapers. From the Burj Al Arab, crafted to resemble a sail on the sea, to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the city is one that pushes architecture to its limits. This book provides insight into how these famous buildings were built. It also shows how they have worked to incorporate Middle Eastern culture into their designs. The book encompasses both the traditional architecture of the past. It focused on beating the heat, to the modern architecture of today, which is made to dazzle. While the book speaks on a specialized subject, it is written so even those unfamiliar with the fundamental principals of architecture can enjoy it.

Keepers of the Golden Shore: A History of the United Arab Emirates

This book traces the history of the United Arab Emirates, from pre-history to the present day. From the days of the Ottoman Empire to the struggles of the pre-oil period to the founding of the modern nation, author Michael Quentin Morton provides a clear-cut view of the past that still shapes the Emirates today. Unlike some of the other books on this list, the narrative here is not a personal history but a broader examination. Nevertheless, the book is eminently readable, playing more like an adventure story than a history book.

Uncommon Dubai

Uncommon Dubai, edited by Hind Shoufani, goes beyond the trite and provides a look at the city’s true culture. Shoufani has collected musings, advice and stories from a variety of contributors, both local and expatriate. Together, they combine to showcase the hidden sides of the city. This book is a great purchase for tourists and the beautiful photos make it a great souvenir as well.


There is great power in stories – they can provide illumination in all things. This reading list is just the start of opportunities to learn more about the UAE. We hope you get a chance to check out some of our suggestions on Top 10 UAE Books.

About The Author


Pri is a true believer in the Rule of Three - she lives between Dubai, Bombay and Washington DC, speaks three languages and has 3 kids under 3. She graduated from Connecticut College and has a Masters Degree from New York University. Pri is a licensed Dubai tour guide, travel blogger, art aficionado, foodie and curious to check out all things new in her city. Pri has been part of the Free Tours By Foot team since 2015 and loves to make customized itineraries for her guests.
Updated: October 12th, 2021
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