His Highness Dr Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi of Sharjah was last week fêted at a grand dinner held – unusually – amid the splendour of the British Library, where, over the years, he has spent a good deal of time researching the many books he has written. The occasion was preceded by a special tour of the BL, conducted by Dame Lynne Brindley, its CEO.
The occasion marked the UK publication by Bloomsbury of HH's autobiography, published originally in Arabic by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing. Introducing his esteemed author, CEO Nigel Newton said the book offered "a unique historical and political insight into the tensions between the emerging Gulf States and the British administration in the 1950s and 1960s. But it's also a very warm-hearted story, which charts your own personal and political development until your selection as Ruler of Sharjah. I commend it to everyone and urge you to pick up a copy as you leave this evening. This is no anodyne statesman's memoir and it contains many enthralling stories, including when Sharjah took its stand on Suez."
Newton recalled "a chance encounter, across the table from a man wearing a white dish-dasha at a breakfast in honour of the Arab nations at the London Book Fair three years ago. When I asked if he had flown in that morning for the book fair he replied that he had woken up at his home in East Sussex… It was only later that I discovered that this warm and welcoming fellow man of Sussex was, in fact, the Ruler of Sharjah." His daughter, Sheikha Bodour – now, with Kalimat, one of the region's most successful and innovative children's publishers – had in fact spent time working in Bloomsbury's children's department.
Replying to the speech in front of an audience that included many of the British's book trade's most respected figures, including the LBF's Alistair Burtenshaw, Pearson's Lynette Owen, the PA's Trade and International Director Emma House, and historian Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at the Historic Royal Palaces, Dr Sultan thanked Newton and his colleagues for what he called "this exquisite edition", praising the "meticulous" editing and the translation work of Andy Smart. The era he writes about was always "vivid in my memory. I used to recall it for my wife and children, who pleaded with me to preserve the details for others to read."