Say what you like about the luxury hotels of the Gulf: they do know how to lay on a proper breakfast buffet. One morning, in Abu Dhabi, I was gathering my usual hybrid artery-clogging spread – scrambled eggs, turkey “bacon” and grilled mushrooms on one side; labneh, zatar and flatbreads on the other – when a curious sight hovered into view. This particular hotel occupies the upper storeys of a high-rise block – one of dozens now – that shoots up near the immense halls of the National Exhibition Centre. It has a Guinness World record-verified idiosyncrasy: an 18-degree tilt from the vertical that begins half-way up. No hotel in the world leans further. Why? Search me.

This morning, a stiff breeze was blowing from the Persian Gulf. It often does, with a welcome cooling effect. Outside the restaurant windows, though, half a dozen human figures swung perilously in the gale as they inched down the building. External window-cleaning at 150 metres can never count as a relaxing job. Factor in the fitful wind, and the world-beating angle, and the breakfast browsers witnessed a heart-stopping spectacle. The suspended toilers tried to combat both gravity and gusts. They had to clutch onto the steel exo-skeleton of the tower in order to polish each massive pane. Every now and then, one of the workers would fall back to the perpendicular, swinging in the wind mid-air, before a colleague hauled him back to find a grip on the glass-and-steel wall.

The rest of this article is only available to subscribers.

Access our entire archive of 350+ articles from the world's leading writers on Islam.
Only £3.30/month, cancel anytime.

Already subscribed? Log in here.

Not convinced? Read this: why should I subscribe to Critical Muslim?


Elsewhere on Critical Muslim: