In 1962, Abu Dhabi's burgeoning expat community needed somewhere to let off steam. Yet the small town's social scene was rather thin on the ground at the time.
The Club (formally The British Club) was the answer, starting from a small building with a windtower and overseen by a committee of expatriates led by Colonel Hugh Boustead, a British government agent to Abu Dhabi. The venue has now become a key spot in the city, with 4,500 members from the wider community. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in March.
The Club has produced a commemorative hardback volume for the occasion, including photographs from throughout its history and setting the venue in the context of the country's growth. It has also commissioned five UAE-based artists to respond to this context, and the results are included in The Club At 50.
Julia Ibbini has overlaid a patchwork of fabric prints, photographs of the founding rulers and illustrations of the city's blossoming urban landscape to create a motif reflecting its many cultural collisions.
The watercolour painter Andrew Field has produced a scene from The Club's beachfront. To capture the midday haze of Abu Dhabi's searing heat, Field has "scratched and scraped" at the image. "To the point where the fluidity of the landscape flows across the canvas, texturing the composition until it reads like Braille."
The rest of the publication's colour comes from the testimonies of members, both former and current, about their experiences in one of the most quintessentially expatriate environments: trying to keep glamorous nightwear dust-free in the long drive out to The Club; the amateur dramatic society, whose audacious production of a satire of the way the western media was treating the Gulf War saw its principal playwrights temporarily barred.
As the UAE has risen to its position as an international destination, that close-knit world of the expatriate community has faded. The Club is, to some extent, an emblem of that disappearing time and this book its record.
From / The National