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Monday 02 May ,2016

The National Archives celebrates the signing of its latest publication "In the Heart of the Desert."

The National Archives celebrates the signing of its latest publication "In the Heart of the Desert."

The National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, launched its latest publication, a book entitled (In the Heart of the Desert) at the signature corner of Abu Dhabi’s International Book Fair 2016, in the presence of His Excellency Dr. Abdulla El Reyes, Director General of the National Archives, where the author Michael Quentin Morton signed his book recently published by the National Archives.

For his part, Dr. Abdulla El Reyes presented the audience with a synopsis of the book, clarifying that the history of the U.A.E. especially and that of the Gulf region generally calls for a comprehensive documentation, which is the role of the National Archives of the United Arab Emirates, which maintains a large number of historical documents validating the memory of the nation, and documenting history in detail, and with this gesture the National Archives continues its main role in preserving and documenting the memory of the nation. Dr. El Reyes spoke of the transformation and the quantum leap experienced by the country at the hands of the founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his brothers the founding fathers. The book demonstrates this and proves it through depicting the reality of life in the past with all its hardships.

Dr. El Reyes added: The book (In the Heart of the Desert) is a documentary The National Archives was so keen on publishing due to its accurate portrayal of the reality of life with its various social, political, and economic aspects before the discovery of oil, not only in the U.A.E. but in all the Arab Gulf States.

The Director General of the National Archives congratulated the author and commended him on his tremendous and fruitful effort and on his book which is rich with its information, documents, and historical photos that will in turn enrich the memory of the nation and serve as a great cultural asset for future generations.

Throughout The Heart of the Desert

The book "In the Heart of the Desert," recently published by the National Archives begins with the events of February 1954, when the ships of the Iraq Petroleum Company docked at the harbor.  At that time, the Arabian Peninsula had been of little interest to geologists and remained so until the twenties of the last century.  The first oil discovery was in the Bahraini island of "Awali" in 1932.

The author's father began his expedition across the Middle East in 1945.  He worked with geologists, surveyors, and political liaison officers and enjoyed support from the Iraq Petroleum Company.  After a quarter of a century, Mike continued his father’s journey when he visited the far northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in his capacity as Commander of the Royal Geographical Society Mission to Musandam peninsula.

In April 1970, Mike Morton arrived at "Ras Duqm" coming from Aden, and this is where the book highlights the great challenge facing geological explorations and reveals the desert's ability to capture the hearts of travelers and to attract them to come back again.

The book consists of various chapters the first of which is entitled: "Baba Karkar" in which Mike writes his wife Heather a letter describing the desert and the charm of the prairie during night and day. He also talks about the phenomenon of the presence of gas in "Baba Karkar," evidently the name "Baba Karkar" means "Father of underground rumbling". The place was known for its flaming gases shooting from the earth formations' cracks. These torches that blazed and glowed at night, were among the factors that attracted tourists to Kirkuk.

Initially it was the strategic and commercial interests and not oil that attracted the British towards Iraq when the India Company established a factory in the Port of Basra in 1763. In the twentieth century, the growing need to find oil drove the British interests in the region.  The book describes moment by moment the flow of oil in the “Baba Karkar" region and the tremendous confidence that this left in the hearts of workers, the oil company and its management.

In the Second chapter, titled: "Cold Wind Blows", the author expresses his longing to his native country in Headers Field City famous for its textile industry. Then he recounts a summary of his life, his education, the family he grew up in, his interest in geology, and the jobs he held in the Middle East. Chapter Three “The Holy City" focused on the landmarks of Michael Morton in Palestine and Transjordan. In this chapter, the author draws a clear and detailed portrait of the city of Haifa in Palestine, and the work atmosphere in Transjordan with its ironies and exciting stories that described the course of their lives as they worked in Transjordan under very harsh circumstances.

In the Fourth Chapter, he goes on to describe life among the Bedouins whom he came to know as never changing, and possess the greatness of people who have lived long in the desert. Habits and traditions are the pillars of their lives, their strength derived from their religion, their strong will enables them to cope in their harsh environment, this accords them nobility and earns them respect. Mike collected fossils during his journey in Palestine and Transjordan. He is certain that the division of the desert into countries has greatly affected the Bedouins' life.  In the Fifth Chapter, the author moves to Hadramout and to East Aden Protectorate, where he met Wilfred Thesiger, who was exploring the Arabian Peninsula, then they met a number of Bedouins in Dhofar who accompanied the great traveler as he crossed the Empty Quarter Desert.

The author describes the conditions and nature of Yemen at that time, the flight that took him to Al Makala, and from there to Bombay. He also describes Al Makala’s white buildings, the Palace of Sultan Al Qu'aiti built on the beach, which is the most beautiful building in Al Makala.

Mike goes on to describe the movements of the oil company’s team between the villages and cities of Yemen, and their visit to the tomb of the Prophet Hood then their return to Say’oon, and the warm welcome and generous hospitality they were received with. The Sixth Chapter entitled "Land of Sun and Fire," began by talking about the persons whom Mike accompanied, who were characterized by their boldness and love of adventure. He indicated that the mission passed through Al Muhra, a group of unattached mountains that end at the Arabian Sea.  Mike also describes preparing the caravan of camels that travelled through Al Muhra, and how conditions changed upon crossing Al Muhra borders.  Mike does not stops describing in detail his journey in Yemen, its misfortunes, surprises, happy moments, incidents and situations.

In "Dhofar, ... The Land Protected by God” as the Seventh Chapter is entitled, the author refers to the attention given by oil companies to Dhofar after a long abandonment, and the Sultan's keenness to promote the search for oil in Dhofar.

Mike paid tribute to the blessed land of Dhofar, rich in milk and honey. It was a summer resort for the Sultan with its beautiful weather, in his white castle with its red windows amidst a coconut palm grove.  In Dhofar, the oil company’s mission met Sultan Said bin Taymur, thereafter, the mission’s team prepared to depart as they noted the lack of oil discovery opportunities which is probably non-existent in Dhofar.  In the Eighth Chapter, Mike travels to the Syrian city of Aleppo, where he lived a completely different life than that experienced before; as he enjoyed a social life.

From Aleppo, Mike moves in Chapter Nine to Qatar and Oman, back to the desert, where each tribe’s affairs rely and depend on the personality of its Sheikh.

From Qatar he traveled to Oman then to Buraimi, which was rumored to float on a sea of oil. A quantum leap took place in the mission’s saga with the arrival of a new liaison officer, Edward Henderson, who established good relations with the tribes and particularly with Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who lived in Abu Dhabi. Henderson made good efforts to politically pave the road for the oil companies' operations in the region.

The Tenth Chapter takes place in West Hadramout.  In this region, the mission goes on the road of St. John Phillipe, who headed to Shabwa, and was an adviser to the Saudi monarch.  In this chapter as in other chapters, Mike focused on the political aspects and the relations between tribes.

In his wife Heather’s first trip to the Middle East, Mike paints a clear picture of the tribes and of details of his life with them.

Mike appears as a savvy, well experienced expert in Chapter Twelve, he became the head of the geological team at Limited Oil Concessions Co. (Aden Protectorate). He was entrusted to go on a mission to north Hadramaut, and to Thamoud camp, where the water was scarce in the dreary desert and conserving it was a must.

In Chapter Thirteen, the author goes back to Oman; as the Iraq Petroleum Company was determined to explore the Omani interior in Duqm camp and Jadet Al Harasees. The book continues in Chapter Fifteen the exploration journey of Oman, only to return in Chapter Sixteen to Buraimi. And with resuming oil exploration, the book returns to the Buraimi question, and from Buraimi to Jadet Al Harasees, then to the Jabal Al Akhdar in Oman. In Chapter Seventeen, the author precisely describes the political map of Oman which is divided between the Sultan, the Imam and some of the powers supporting one or the other.

In the Eighteenth Chapter, the author recollects his car trips to Dubai, and pays tribute to the ethics of the desert Arabs who help the needy. He points out that Abu Dhabi was the brightest star and most optimistic and promising potential in discovering oil in its territory after the(Murban) field oil discovery.

Chapter Nineteen follows the oil exploration activity in Musandam Peninsula.  The remaining chapters of the book are loaded with memories of the nature, treatment methods, foods, and the slow paced changes in life in the countries where companies were exploring oil.

The book recounted the memories of the author (In the Heart of the Desert) and the reality of life in the past with a very large number of photos supporting the information in the book.

The book: In the Heart of the Desert.

Publisher: The National Archives, Abu Dhabi, 2016, first edition, 425 pages.