Salmon Fishing in the Yemen derives much of its charm as a novel from the patent implausibility of its plot. The recent film version, by all accounts, rather seems to miss the boat — though the Yemen tourism board in London claims to have been "inundated" by inquiries from British holidaymakers. Tourists would do well to heed the current Foreign Office advice: don't go to Yemen, even with your own armed guards; if you're there already, leave at once — although direct flights to London were suspended more than two years ago because of bomb plots; don't expect us to help if you are kidnapped, trafficked or murdered. And, of course, there's no salmon fishing in Yemen.
Would Playing Soccer in the Desert make an equally implausible sequel? Clearly not, because the Gulf state of Qatar has been chosen to stage the 2022 Fifa World Cup, in temperatures approaching 50°C. It's not just five climate-controlled stadiums that Qatar has to design and build over the next decade. It's the huge infrastructure needed to support them, transport links including a new metro and brand new cities where there were not even tents before.
Visiting the capital, you get the feeling that this soaring ambition is well within Qatar's grasp. Vast areas of Doha are given over to construction sites. With oil and gas revenues giving its people the highest per capita income in the world, Qatar has imported armies of guest-workers to build its future.
One of those guest-workers is Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who retires in September as president of the UK Supreme Court. He has accepted an invitation to succeed Lord Woolf as president of the Qatar International Court. "I'm sure he'll be suitably insulted," one envious lawyer murmured to me, referring to the fiction that barristers are "insulted" by the offer of a fee for their services and "very insulted" by the offer of a large fee.
Staffed mainly by commercial barristers, legal academics and retired judges from the UK, the Qatar court operates according to common law principles, reassuring foreign contractors that their disputes will be decided by tribunals in which they can have confidence. The court has mandatory jurisdiction over disputes involving companies and institutions registered at the Qatar Financial Centre and can hear cases by agreement from anywhere in the world. Though the judges are part-time and can sit, where appropriate, without leaving home, the court's chief executive, Bob Musgrove, moved to Qatar with his wife in 2010 after 25 years service in the civil justice system of England and Wales.