Castles in the Sand

A City Planner in Abu Dhabi


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About the Book

Abu Dhabi—an obscure Middle Eastern principality that happens to be the richest city in the world. This book tells the story of Abu Dhabi’s ambitions to transform itself from a sleepy sheikhdom into a thriving international metropolis and a hub of business and leisure. It traces Abu Dhabi’s boom years from 2009 to 2011 from the perspective of a Westerner working for the Urban Planning Council, the government agency that planned and coordinated all of the massive development activity. Castles in the Sand explores the drastic changes in Abu Dhabi’s built environment, where entire islands are forested with skyscrapers and billions of dollars in infrastructure are spent on a whim—while recounting the disorienting experience of an outsider encountering a society in which foreigners outnumber locals nine to one and modernity clashes head-on with centuries of embedded tradition. General readers will find a broad introduction to Abu Dhabi, and architects and planners will gain a firsthand glimpse inside an unprecedented experiment in city-building.

About the Author(s)

The late Michael Cameron Dempsey was an urban planner who worked in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Cameron Dempsey

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, maps, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7760-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1319-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Prologue 3
One. Origins 7
Two. Ready, Fire, Aim 17
Three. The Mean Streets 28
Four. Nanny State 38
Five. Into the Desert 47
Six. Proletarians, Unite! 58
Seven. A Higher Power 68
Eight. Back to Nature 75
Nine. The Short Arm of the Law 85
Ten. Faulty Towers 95
Eleven. Nadir 107
Twelve. Greener Grass 116
Thirteen. Only Sheikh! 124
Fourteen. Grand Designs 135
Fifteen. Lonely Hearts Need Not Apply 143
Sixteen. Cracks in the Façade 153
Seventeen. Guests Behaving Badly 163
Eighteen. The Calm Before the Storm 172
Nineteen. End of the Road 180
Epilogue 187
A Note About the Author 193
Chapter Notes 195
Bibliography 205
Index 20

Book Reviews & Awards

“After reading Mr. Dempsey’s book, I feel as I have been t[o Abu Dhabi] simply by having read the book. This is a testament to Dempsey’s narrative skills…a pleasure to read”—Against the Grain