In November 1982, we were commissioned to make a new version of the film on the United Arab Emirates.
I took cameraman Tony Mander and his assistant Rob Taylor and Soundman David Jones, while Osman and Siqseq, once again, went in from Cairo.
We were booked into the Khalidia Palace Hotel by the Ministry of Information, probably because it was the cheapest. The first night in the hotel was a nightmare. On arrival, I went up to my room to have a wash and brush up. There was no hot water.
We had dinner in the hotel. After dinner, I went off to bed. Now, I wanted a shower and I went into the bathroom to find that the hot water was on again. The shower was one of those where you have two taps on top of the bath head where you can mix hot and cold water through the bath tap and then divert the water to the shower head.
Water went everywhere. This was because the shower head was pointing towards the wall. I switched the water down into the bath and took the shower head in my hands with a view to turning it around so that it faced the bath. It could not be done, somehow the shower head could not be attached to the wall fitting while facing towards the bath.
I was obliged to sit in the bath and hold the shower in my hand and shower myself.
Eventually, I got into bed. About two o’clock in the morning, a noise woke me up. I was on the top floor of the hotel and it was as if there was a three-ton truck on the roof revving its engine. It went on for half an hour. I went off to sleep again and then I was awakened once more with a sound of furious scraping against metal and then some screams and animal noises.
This went on for two hours. When I woke up, the scene from the balcony was beautiful and I decided to go out on to the balcony to have a good look. The partition between the room and the balcony was one large pair of patio doors. The door opened from my left to my right, so I held the door handle in my right hand and pulled open the door. The handle came away in my hand.
I was not in a raging temper and went down stairs to ask the reception what the hell was going on. I did not even bother to talk about the bathroom, I just kept my enquiries to the three-ton truck and the animal noises.
The three-ton truck was the motor driving the pump that replenished the water tank which happened to be above my room. The animal noises was caused by the hotel cats, who seemed to have access to the air-conditioning system, chasing the resident hotel rats around the system. Most of this action seems to have taken place in the Air-conditioning vents in my room.
As our crew were in a row of rooms, they all had suffered, albeit to a lesser degree. From the nights mayhem.
I had to go to the Ministry of Information, so I asked Tony to go into town to see if he could find a decent hotel.
When I got back to the hotel, I was greeted by Tony Mander who announced that he had got us all booked in to the Centre Hotel. I was so confident that he would find a place, that I had packed my bags.
Off we went and settled in at the Centre Hotel. It was much more modern that the Khalidia Palace. It had a fine bar and a Happy Hour. Our itinerary allowed that, whenever we were in Abu Dhabi town, we could attend at the appropriate time.
Whenever we got there, we would find, at the end of the bar, a local dressed in dish-dash and headgear. He would be there when we arrived and he would be there when we left. Well, there was one exception when we saw him carted out by his entourage and taken home. In front of him would be a tumbler full of single malt whisky, which was kept topped up by the barman.
This sort of behaviour was against the law both for the local, to be drinking in public, and for the barman to serve him. At one time, the bar in the Sheraton was closed down for a few days when they had breached this law.
We were told that the authorities did not mind foreigners having a drink, but, if found drunk in public, they could issue an expulsion order and have the offender on the next flight out, after paying an £800 fine.
On the other hand, it was interesting that the Emirates government allowed ex-patriot residents to have an allocation of alcohol at duty free prices. The allowance would be enough to hold an outrageous party every week.
The draconian law did not really affect us, since we would only be drinking in the hotel we were staying at, and, in any case, we had to get up the next morning and work. The Centre Hotel was ideal for us. It had a first class restaurant where, in the evenings there would be a cabaret. Usually, they were “turns” from the U.K. who would do a circuit of Hotels in the Middle East. Usually, we drank white French wine. The red did not seem to travel very well. It was here that I was introduced to the lemon sorbet served between the entrée and the main course. I thought it was a good idea.
We went off to Al Ain by the Buraimi Oasis. Al Ain had been showered with money by Sheik Zayed and it was showing. There was an enormous improvement in facilities from when we were there some years before.
On the first night at the Hilton, we were offered dinner, in the form of a barbeque, on the terrace. The food was mainly to be prepared on the terrace by the head chef who was German. There is no doubt he was brilliant and produced some wonderful dishes to accompany the barbeque-grilled stalwarts of steak, burgers, lamb chops and sausages.
There was an impressive array of starters. We had the choice of Garlic Bread, the garlic spread on Ciabatta bread slices. There were spicy meat balls, Brie Parcels, which were like Dolmades, with the contents exchanged for Brie Cheese and almonds. There were Spare Ribs, Lamb Kebabs, with Red Onion Salsa, and Tomato and Anchovy on Ciabatta slices.
These were followed by the main dishes. There were skewers with chunks of lamb, sausages, bacon and kidneys mixed with tomatoes and bay leaves.
Something I had never come across before was Ham Mini pizzas with brie and mango. These were small pizzas topped with smoked ham, diced Brie, chopped cherry tomatoes and seasoning.
The main attraction was Rack of Lamb which had been marinated and cooked in spices and herbs giving off an aroma that I had not previously experienced.
Here is a recipe:
Rack of lamb should be cooked rare, or at most medium rare. The recipe is for a rack weighing about one kilo.
You need the following ingredients:
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
First, rub rack of lamb all over with a mixture of rosemary, thyme, and garlic. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Place it in a thick plastic bag with olive oil. Spread the oil around so that it coats the lamb all over. After squeezing out as much air as you can from the bag, firmly seal the bag. Leave the bag of lamb in the refrigerator overnight If you want, place in the refrigerator overnight. The meat needs to be at room temperature so as to cook evenly. For this reason, the meat should be removed from the refrigerator an hour or two before cooking. Remove the meat from the bag.
Preheat the oven to 200 Centigrade. Score the fat, by making sharp shallow cuts through the fat, spaced about 2 centimetres apart. Sprinkle the rack all over with salt and pepper. Place the lamb rack bone side down on the pan in the middle of the oven. Wrap the exposed ribs in foil to prevent them from burning.
Roast at 200C for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to150C. Cook for a further 7-15 minutes. Using a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat 50C if you want it rare or 60C for medium rare.
Remove the meat from the oven, cover with foil and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
Cut lamb chops away from the rack by slicing between the bones. Serve 2-3 chops per person. Of course, you may need to cook more than one rack of lamb.
It was a great feast and almost the entire clientele of the hotel were on the terrace that night and we all had a wonderful time.