In November of 2012, I went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE to research the setting for The Sheikh’s Last Seduction. It was my first trip to the Middle East, so I knew it would be a grand adventure, especially since I could be shown around by a childhood friend who is now living there.
After a fourteen-hour flight from Seattle over the North Pole (!) and down over Russia and Iran (!), I arrived in Dubai. I was immediately overwhelmed by humid heat – -but also dazzled by the modernity and glamour of the city, and the friendly people and culture that was so respectful of families and older people. The first thing we did that afternoon was check out the view from the viewing deck of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world – yup, the one Tom Cruise climbed in Mission Impossible 4.
You can see one side of the mirrored building on the right, then a few of the city’s skyscrapers below, the modern highway, and the Persian Gulf at top.
We stayed a couple days at a hotel near one of the huge malls of Dubai, a setting I used when, in the book, Sharif, the Emir of the fictional nearby country of Makhtar, forces Irene to go shopping against her will. (Yes, I know, it’s cruel of him.) Like Irene, I was overwhelmed by all the shops and luxury goods on offer at the mall, and ended up buying only candy and little touristy gifts, like baklava and a canvas tote bag that has “Dubai” written all over it.
At the mall, I was in awe to see an enormous fish tank as big as a department store.
The next day, my friend and I went for high tea at the most famous hotel in Dubai, the “sailboat” hotel that is to many a symbol of the city – the Burj Al Arab. Here is a view from the windows of the restaurant. You can see the man-made islands in the distance as the sun sets over the Persian Gulf. The islands have been created into the image of a palm tree.
Here I am, drinking tea and scones (of all things) in Dubai.
“Hammam” or the Turkish bath is a can’t-be-missed experience. We went to a spa in a very luxurious hotel, the One & Only Royal Mirage. My experience of hammam was very like Irene’s in the book. Like her, I’d forgotten my glasses, so I couldn’t see a darn thing, which made it all more disorienting to be naked in a shadowy room, smacked with water, have my skin sloughed off by the bath attendant, and etc. (Although in my case, no sheikh showed up in the middle of it.)
I of course couldn’t get pictures of the inside of the baths, but even the waiting area outside was gorgeous. Here’s a pic:
The next day, we drove down from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, where she had an apartment. About an hour south of Dubai on a modern highway, Abu Dhabi rises abruptly out of the desert.
In The Sheikh’s Last Seduction, Irene and Sharif’s car trip to Dubai was inspired by this. The highway is flawless, the desert is vast and beautiful. And all the road signs are in two languages, Arabic and (very convenient for us!) English. At the gas stations, you can buy the same kinds of things. Skittles, for instance – only the back of the wrapper is written in Arabic.
Here’s a picture through the car window. To the upper left, you can see the skyscrapers of far-off Abu Dhabi.
The view looking out from my friend’s apartment in Abu Dhabi.
A lovely meal from the simple downstairs restaurant in her building. I think this cost like forty dirhams (ten dollars). A nice change from how expensive everything was at the resort hotels. I loved it all.
As you’d expect, alcoholic drinks were not really available, except at the resort hotels. But I fell in love with this fizzy strawberry soda. Just looking at the label still makes me happy.
Here’s one place where alcohol definitely WAS served – Friday morning boozy brunch at the British Club. For about sixty dollars there was a nice buffet and all the mimosas that you wanted. Sharif and Irene briefly visit this club so his sister can visit a friend from boarding school.
Check out the view of Abu Dhabi from the deck of the British Club…
After a few days in Abu Dhabi, we returned to Dubai, and went to another enormous mall beyond imagining – the Mall of the Emirates. Check out the famous indoor ski slope – inside the mall! The scene where Sharif takes Irene shopping was directly inspired by this.
After a hard day’s shopping, my friend and I recovered from all the hard touring by spending the last two days of my trip by relaxing at the Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort. It was right in the center of Dubai, but with an enormous private white-sand beach and pools right on the Persian Gulf, beneath the wide blue sky.
Standing at the pool area, if you looked one way, you’d see the beach…
And if you turned your head and looked the other way, you’d see the hotel, with the skyscrapers of Dubai towering directly behind it.
I spent my last day in Dubai dreaming up the story for The Sheikh’s Last Seduction, as I sat in a beach chair facing the Persian Gulf, peacefully watching the yachts float by.
Here is the view of that last sunset, from my hotel room.
I am so grateful I had the chance to visit the United Arab Emirates. I was tremendously inspired, and love the book that came out of it – I think the most emotional story I’ve ever written.
Have you ever traveled to a place you never dreamed you’d go, and found it more exotic (or beautiful, or glamorous) than you’d ever imagined?
Wishing you the best, wherever your dreams take you…
About The Sheikh’s Last Seduction:
Famous last words…
When Sheikh Sharif offers Irene Taylor more money as chaperone to his sister than she’s ever made before, she can’t refuse—finally she’ll safeguard her family. Irene may be innocent, but she knows the trail of destruction playboys like Sharif leave behind, and will resist his skilled seduction….
Sharif excels at everything he does—especially in the bedroom! His engagement hasn’t yet been announced and he’ll enjoy his freedom until then. Starting with the beguiling Irene—she’s the ideal final challenge before he embarks on a life of duty.
But sometimes even the plans of a sheikh go awry!