The planning of the recording made for the
UAE government of The Holy Qu'ran in Arabic & English
and undertaken at the studios of EMI Greece in 1977

The completed boxed presentation set was issued in London by Conifer Records in 1979 on 54 cassettes in a magnificent case and accompanied by a copy of The Holy Qu'ran alongside Marmaduke Pickthall's famous English translation of the meanings of The Holy Qu'ran (photos below).

The planning of this recording began with an unforeseen meeting in the foyer of the Cairo Hilton in the summer of 1976 between John Deacon, then Sales Director of EMI Greece, and the late Denys Johnson-Davies, Britain's leading Arabic scholar, translator, author, barrister and close collaborator of the late Dr. Ezzedine Ibrahim, Cultural Adviser to the President of the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi.

We had met previously but on this occasion Denys introduced a casual remark to the effect that an American had approached Sheikh Sultan (ruler of the Emirate state of Sharjah) with the proposal that he should produce a first-ever recording of the complete Holy Qu'ran, in both Arabic and English, for the UAE government and destined for muslims whose mother-tongue was not arabic.  When Denys let it be known that this producer had proposed that he would undertake this production for a price of some €2m (whereas my own quick calculation indicated that such could be accomplished for less than £250,000), I realised that something had to be done as soon as possible to divert this business towards EMI Greece - then the natural home for such projects !

Denys understood me at once and further discussions took place which led to an encounter being arranged for the early Spring of 1977 in the UAE between Dr. Ezzedine Ibrahim, Denys and myself and, most embarrassingly, with the aforesaid American who now realised he was about to be replaced. The American and myself were confined to a modest Sharjah hotel (dry) for over a week - at the whim of our hosts - whilst waiting to be summoned to a major government meeting under the UAE President to take place in Abu Dhabi and where a decision would be made as to the UAE government's approval and involvement.

On the appointed day, accompanied by the American, I set out by car along the coast to the hotel in Abu Dhabi where the meeting was planned to take place and where Denys and Dr. Ezzedine were waiting. Not understanding a word of what was going on around me I was given a seat at the huge conference table (with the ubiquitous glass of orange juice) and listened.  I have no recollection of the time that passed but the moment came when Denys lent towards me and said, "You've got it !".

The atmosphere with the American was extremely tense as he turned and left the meeting.

Further discussions took place in order to arrange for the recordings to be made at the EMI Studios in Athens and I was informed that the English narration would be done by the eminent British polar explorer and actor Duncan Carse (who will be remembered, by some of my generation, as the Dick Barton of the BBC's Home Service !).

Shortly before the recordings were planned to begin the UAE management suddenly announced that since Duncan Carse was not a muslim he could not be allowed to narrate these texts and, at very short notice, a British muslim, Old Carthusian Charles Le Gai Eaton, (biographical details : ) was engaged to make the recording and joined the arabic narrator Sheikh Abdul Bari Muhammad in Athens.

The recording accomplished, the tapes were removed to the UAE for editing. Not long afterwards Johnson-Davies and Dr. Ezzedine arrived in London and summoned me to the Carlton Tower Hotel (where orange juice was served !). I was informed that the government of the UAE had decided that as they didn't "know" EMI, but that they "knew" me, and thus they preferred that the enormous task of seeing this project through manufacture, printing and box-making was to be allocated to me - which meant my own company, Conifer Records.

And so it was that the materials were prepared for the cassettes to be manufactured in Gloucestershire with the boxes being made by one of the leading companies in the field of the packaging of top quality cosmetics where I encountered, upon visiting the company in East London, that their MD and owner had been a school contemporary of mine at Charterhouse - the late Anthony Boord - whose company later carried out the complex assembly packaging with great skill ! The publishers of the Pickthall book (Allen & Unwin) supplied the 2000 copies for the initial (and only) manufacturing run. At the end of the operation Anthony gave me a wonderful lunch at The Connaught.

The huge lorry, engaged to transport these 2002 sets, spent the last night at the WEA (Warners) factory at West Drayton (as I had been unable to obtain insurance cover !) before being taken to Heathrow to be loaded aboard a specially chartered Boeing 707 to Abu Dhabi arranged by the UAE embassy in London.

We know that Sheikh Yamani, then Saudi Oil Minister, received a set but it is not known what happened to the stock which I heard spent a long time abandoned in the corner of an Abu Dhabi airport warehouse .... as Denys remarked, sadly .... "they'd passed on to the next venture ... ".

Following my appointment at EMI Arabia (Dubai) in 1995 I drew up a very carefully worded and very diplomatic approach to the palace at Sharjah to seek to discuss a possible re-issue of this recording on CD. We should remember that the recording had after all been directed toward muslims, whose mother tongues were not arabic, but we never even had the courtesy of a reply to this approach ... nor even an acknowledgement ..... oh, well..... !

It does remain a matter of personal regret that the very considerable costs of this extraordinary project - as well as the sincere and significant efforts of so many people - were all apparently discarded on a casual and unexplained whim ???

In the summer 2021 my own copy of this set was donated to the Sound Archive of the British Library (British Museum) along with all the supporting correspondence.

John G. Deacon

[ Historical footnote : After all these years I can see in retrospect that in managing to set up this project virtually on my own, and without any assistance from the international management of EMI, it was very clear, even as early as 1980, that EMI's senior managerial weaknesses were already starting to damage the company. Soon after my returm to UK in May 1977 where I was to set up my own business (Conifer Records) this project followed me.  My successor at EMI Greece was from the sugar trade (!!) and fitted the then chairman's view that the company did not require "musically motived executives" (nor even public school boys !) but would be seeking professional businesmen who would, to use the words of the then Personel Director, .... ".. be taught music" ! This disastrous policy confirms that when a creative business like music or publishing is taken over by accountants and/or venture capitalists that it would, very soon after, fail .... as happened in this instance. ].

      John Deacon, who produced this unique recording for the
     UAE government has donated his own copy to the 
       Sound Archive of the British Libary (British Museum)