Abu Dhabi

Oil and Beyond

Part of the Power and Politics in the Gulf series
June 2009 9781850659785 276pp
April 2011 9781849041539 276pp


Abu Dhabi is a new economic superpower that will soon wield enormous influence across both developing and developed worlds. The principal emirate of the United Arab Emirates federation commands over 8 percent of global oil reserves, has nearly $1 trillion in sovereign wealth funds to invest and is busily implementing a thoughtful economic master plan. It has also pumped huge amounts of money into culture, sport and infrastructural development in an attempt to eclipse even its ubiquitous UAE partner—Dubai—as an international household name. Abu Dhabi will host the Formula One Championship decider in 2009, is opening the world’s first Ferrari theme park, has a rapidly expanding airline and is setting up satellite branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. Gulf expert Christopher Davidson’s book charts the emirate’s remarkable trajectory from its origins as an eighteenth-century sheikhdom to its present position on the cusp of preeminence. With regard to Abu Dhabi’s impressive socio-economic development, he offers a frank portrayal of a dynasty’s dramatic survival, demonstrating the newfound resilience of a traditional monarchy in the twenty-first century and its efforts to create a system of ‘tribal capitalism’ that incorporates old political allegiances into modern engines of growth. Finally, he turns his attention to a number of problems that may surface to impede economic development and undermine political stability. These include an enfeebled civil society and invasive media censorship, a seemingly unsolvable labour nationalisation paradox, an underperforming education sector, and increasing federal unrest.


‘Davidson’s book is a tour de force. His presentation of the ruling families and especially of the royal family is detailed, thorough and … accurate. The author introduces an understanding of family politics, which no one has done until now, to the discussion of who’s who in the Emirates. … Altogether, no student, business person, firm or government entity should consider learning about Abu Dhabi and the UAE without reading this book and underlining its key passages. As is the case with all other works by Davidson, the narrative is excellent, the style is highly readable and the information by and large is priceless.’ — International Affairs

‘Davidson’s new book on Abu Dhabi … is a timely and thoughtful contribution to the thus-far scanty literature on the emirate, discussing its “dramatic trajectory” over the past two centuries. … As this highly enjoyable book demonstrates, with the world watching and its people asking questions, Abu Dhabi has everything to play for.’ — Times Higher Education

‘Davidson’s book is likely to see significant sales as academics, journalists, nervous investors or even curious ordinary citizens seek to understand the recent economic drama in the UAE. While all will find Davidson’s text to be both engaging and useful, it is clear that this was not a hastily penned attempt to cash in on high public interest. Davidson’s Abu Dhabi is instead a meticulously researched account of the emirate. … If Davidson’s book is to be measured by its predictive power, it is perhaps already a success. Abu Dhabi’s $10 billion bailout of Dubai last year was hailed as “surprising” and “unexpected,” yet Abu Dhabishows it to be anything but that.’ — Middle East Policy

‘A book well worth reading for those interested in Abu Dhabi and the Gulf states, their fascinating tribal history, the development of the modern petro-state, and the recent adjustment to a modern society.’ — Middle East Journal

‘Davidson’s book gives those new to the political landscape of Abu Dhabi a much needed and detailed insight into the rise of what is now one of the wealthiest states in the world. … His analysis applies to Abu Dhabi and also to the wider Gulf region. In this sense, not only is it recommended reading for interested historians and economists, but also for policy makers and members of the business community who are involved in this complex region.’ — Arab Studies Quarterly

‘As an introduction to the emirate, Davidson’s book provides an excellent overview with a good balance of history and contemporary and future issues. Readers may also gain a greater understanding of the wider Gulf region.’ — Middle East International


Christopher M. Davidson has long-standing research interests in the comparative politics of the Gulf states, and was previously a reader at Durham University and an assistant professor at Zayed University, UAE. His publications include Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success; Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond; After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies; and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.