This is Sheikh Zayed, the beloved ruler of Abu Dhabi Emirate from 1966 on, when he deposed his brother Shakhbut, probably with British connivance, and President of the UAE from 1971 until his death in 2004. When I lived there, from 1993 to 1998 and again from 2000 to 2003, portraits of Zayed, almost always grinning, wearing sunglasses, and looking youthful (he was born in 1918) with his black beard, were ubiquitous. He was often seen mounted on a white charger. In “Stoning the Devil”, Badria, who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, wonders briefly if God looks like Sheikh Zayed, as she doubts both heavenly and earthly justice. However, in the eight years I lived in the country, I never heard a local say anything critical of the President, and most Emiratis clearly adored and venerated him, frequently referring to him as their father. In fact, the historical record shows him to have been an unusually wise and generous ruler. He used the vast oil revenues of the country to bring universal health care, universal free education, including for women–he believed that women must play an important part in the country’s development, and encouraged them to study and work–as well as economic infrastructure. He began the process of ‘greening’ the desert–though that may have some unforeseen ecological consequences. He allowed religions other than Islam to practice their faiths, as long as they did not proselytise. It’s true that by western standards he was not a democratic ruler, but on the other hand, any Emirati could visit him in his majlis, or council, any week, and speak to him in person, so there was a form of direct consultation only possible in a very small population. Some westerners have criticized him for continuing to allow camel racing, which employed child jockeys from countries like Sudan and Pakistan, and others have argued that his rule was absolute, but the fact is that by the standards of the Middle East he was extraordinarily tolerant, generous, and progressive. He was also personally charming, according to everyone who met him, and Wilfred Thesiger, the last of the great English “Victorian” explorers, who mapped much of Arabia for the oil companies in the late forties and early fifties, said that he could ride and shoot like a Bedouin–a great compliment. I have met a Bedouin man of his generation who knew him, an illiterate man who nevertheless had great dignity and self-confidence, like most elderly Arabs (compare them to the elderly in the west, who are treated as fools and often behave apologetically!), and this man regarded Zayed as a hero and the true founder of the nation.