x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Time Frame: The Club in 1969

The French photographer Alain Saint-Hilaire captured this image of The Club in Abu Dhabi two years after it moved from its original location 500 metres away.

Alain Saint-Hilaire
Alain Saint-Hilaire

The Club – never the British Club, despite a popular misconception – was created 50 years ago on land donated by the then Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Shakhbut bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

It started in modest surroundings; the former guesthouse of the British political agency, known locally as "Henderson's Folly" after Edward Henderson, a BP official who later worked for the UK Foreign Office and ordered its construction in 1949.

By 1967, it was clear that Henderson's Folly was inadequate to the needs of the city's growing expatriate population, and a new club was constructed around 500 metres away on land gifted by the new Ruler, Sheikh Zayed. This image, taken by the French photographer Alain Saint-Hilaire, shows what had been achieved two years later. Membership passed the 200 mark in 1969, making it a big year for The Club. A multinational community were to be treated later in the year to a performance from the clarinettist Acker Bilk, then at the height of his Strangers on the Shore fame.

Later that year, the first amateur dramatic performance took place, of The Boyfriend. Prizes in the Christmas raffle included a free flight from Middle East Airlines, whose beach umbrellas were a prominent feature around the compound.

The entrance has since moved and many more facilities have been added over the years, including a new swimming pool, several restaurants and a gym. To the members, young and old, however, it remains simply The Club.

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