Out of the Middle East
Kamal Shair's book is a classic rags to riches story: the village boy, who with determination and education, achieves business success, wealth, more wealth, and then influence and power. What makes it unusual is that it emanates from the Arab world. Rarely among Arabs have individuals from thoroughly modest backgrounds, with no access to links, networks or connections become truly global commercial players. Shair was a small-town boy in what was then Transjordan who dragged himself through school (his mother was illiterate), moved to college in Beirut, then sailed off to America (Michigan and Yale) and returned to the Middle East to create a multinational corporate empire engaged in trade, construction and manufacturing. He did not follow the usual pattern of patronage and favours, but rather applied a fresh kind of ethic in an environment with an loosely-structured business ethic. In the process he lived through and witnessed at first hand and at close quarters some of the most dramatic events of the modern Arab world. This is quite an extraordinary tale and a very original prism through which to look at the turbulent post-World War II history of the Middle East. At the same time we see the growth, despite all the odds, of one of the world’s great engineering and business enterprises in a narrative of epic and inspirational proportions.