x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Time Frame: across an ocean, a memento of home is always welcome

In the entertainment-starved wilderness of the desert, the men of Seismic Party 5 no doubt gave To Paris, With Love a better reception than movie critics.

Courtesy John Vale
Courtesy John Vale

To Paris With Love opened in the spring of 1955. It is fair to assume that its Abu Dhabi premiere took place some while later.

The New York Times was not impressed with the romantic comedy, calling Alec Guinness' performance "perhaps the most pallid and listless he has ever turned in".

In the entertainment-starved wilderness of the desert, the men of Seismic Party 5 no doubt gave it a better reception. This photograph shows a camp worker holding what was that evening's main attraction. It was taken by John Vale, who worked in the oil exploration business in the 1950s and 1960s.

By 1955, the hunt was on for oil both onshore and offshore and would end with major discoveries in both areas three years later.

Seismic Party 5 was operating in the Tarif area, looking for evidence of both oil and water. When on the move, accommodation was mostly in tents, but the base camp also included huts with at least some of the comforts of home, including a bar and a screening room.

Home was many thousands of miles away, with the prospectors counting the days to their leave, and reunions with wives, children and loved ones. Until then, To Paris With Love, "pallid" as it was, was a brief reminder of a world they had left behind.

Time Frame is a series that opens a window into the nation's past. Readers are invited to make contributions to yourpics@thenational.ae