In a hotel drawing room in west London last year, a stately Beiruti matriarch — dressed in fur and dripping in diamonds — took a sip of her tea and looked me warily up and down. It had been 47 years since Randa al-Banna was married off to Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum of Dubai as a 16-year-old ingénue, but she was still afraid of him.

“Darling,” she said, drawing on an e-cigarette. “Let me tell you. This is a very dangerous man. He is very, very powerful. No one can stop him getting what he wants.”

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