Literary editors, members of the UK press and some of Khalaf Al Habtoor’s friends were lucky enough to attend a ‘sneak preview’ of the UK book launch of ‘Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor – the Autobiography’ at an intimate event in June on the sidelines of the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup. Joanna Andrews brings you the highlights…
The pre-launch takes place at the Duke’s Pavilion of Guards Polo Club in Windsor. It is a small, informal and intimate gathering where Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor personally addresses his guests, telling them some funny stories from the book, which will hit the UK market in October 2013.
‘Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor – the Autobiography’ recounts his journey through life; from how the man who had very little to his name – became one of the UAE’s most successful businessmen with a large conglomerate under his belt. He started his business from scratch in 1970 and to this day he plays an active and leading role throughout all the Group’s interests (from hotels, cars, real estate, education and publishing).
Al Habtoor, who is dressed the part in a very English-looking grey pin stripe suit, is witty and candid, telling the group of friends and journalists, “God had plans far beyond my wildest imagination.”
In the preface of his book, he writes, “I certainly didn’t predict that not only would I be in a position to ensure my own family never wanted for anything, but that I would have the privilege of being able to offer a helping hand to those less fortunate at home and abroad.” He continues, “I find it shocking that in the 21st century children are still dying from preventable diseases, contaminated water and starvation while millions are deprived of decent education. I believe we all have a duty to help eliminate such evils according to our means.”
He says a lot of his success is not only down to his fierce determination to succeed, but it is about discipline and solid work ethics, “You have to keep moving,” he says. “I believe in honesty, truth and always thinking ahead. Also I don’t understand those who like to party - you have to go to bed early and wake up early to produce.”
The 567-page autobiography, which took two years to write, is full of colourful candid stories about his life. It mentions his meetings with many of the world’s leading and influential figures – and includes a foreword by former US President Jimmy Carter. The book openly shows letters Al Habtoor has penned to world powers including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
It includes his hard hitting views on Middle Eastern politics. East-West relations also feature prominently in the book, including his opinion on the US-led invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he vehemently condemns, “Why are the British and the Americans losing their men and women? For nothing. This is what I want to say, even if sometimes people don’t listen,” he says. “But if I throw these darts I might hit something.”
While the event is mostly lighthearted he takes the opportunity to remind the gathering about serious political events right on his doorstep – particularly Syria, Palestine and Iran – and he raises the subject of Islamophobia which he says is “on the rise.”
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor is a proud Arab and son of the United Arab Emirates, who is committed to making our world a better place. “The book is as much a journey about the United Arab Emirates as it is about me. We have grown together,” he adds.