It was September 2002 when I first set foot in Dubai. Almost 20 years have passed and I’m still in awe of the Emirates and its array of achievements, progress and success stories. I’ve constantly said throughout the years, to myself and others, how lucky I am to have witnessed and experienced many of the UAE’s historical milestones. Slowly but surely, I watched Abu Dhabi and Dubai position themselves as cities of the world, welcoming almost 200 nationalities to envision and plan their future. The multinationalism of the city drew me in, complimenting the way that I was brought up and exposed to diverse cultures and nationalities.
As a third culture kid, I grew up in Vienna, London and Bahrain before graduating with a BA in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in 2002. I was ready to embrace professional life with only one place in mind— the UAE. I only ever experienced it as a child, during a summer or two. I had fond memories walking along the corniche— my favourite ones being when my cousins and I would produce make-shift rods with rope and safety pins to catch fish. The walks we would take to the nearby park, where we would spend hours on the swings laughing, without a care in the world.
With a versatile major in communications under my belt, I enjoyed many roles across a variety of industries. My experience includes positions in major multinational telecommunication companies, such as Siemens and Nokia. More notably, my more recent role was a team member of a start-up for the debut Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009. Organising and hosting the first-ever race in the Emirates was a proud moment for the country and further fueled my passion for the exciting world of motorsports. This was just one of many historic milestones I was honoured to be a part of.
During my F1 stint in Abu Dhabi, I had the opportunity to connect with my late Uncle Adnan Al Pachachi, a well-renowned and respected Iraqi diplomat and politician. For decades, he held many political ranks and was one of the late Sheikh Zayed’s closest advisors for many years. It was a proud moment when I discovered his plea to invite the UAE to be a part of the UN. Raising the first UAE flag outside the country was mainly due to his diplomatic efforts and will forever be remembered in history books. I would frequently visit his home in the Capital and admire the many photos and captured historic moments on his shelves and walls. He would captivate me with stories and conversations between himself, global figures and world leaders. His eyes would light up as soon as he mentioned the late Sheikh Zayed. His kindness, generosity and humility are traits he remembered fondly about one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
My current role in the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority allows me to connect with, enable and empower the cultural and creative sectors. From artists and performers to cultural entities/business owners and content creators, our primary goal is to make Dubai a top global cultural destination and Creative City by 2025. As a creative myself, it’s exciting to be part of a team that shapes policies that will make life easier for other creatives to choose Dubai as a place where they can live, work, learn and play.
Another milestone I’m incredibly proud to be a part of is the launch of Dubai’s first-of-its-kind golden cultural visa, eligible for individuals working within or servicing the cultural and creative industries in the Emirate. Issuing 10-year golden visas for those who have positive contributions to the cultural sector, encouraging them to make or keep Dubai as their home is not only rewarding but highly satisfying, knowing that each of these individuals has contributed significantly to enriching the cultural and creative fabric of the city. This means we will be witnessing a further boom in the next 50 years.
The vision of making Dubai a safe, happy and best city to live and work in amongst expats is even stronger today, thanks to the government’s extraordinary leadership, laws and initiatives. I can’t help but feel proud when I remember the difficult yet best decision I made as a fresh graduate, to make Dubai my home, not knowing anyone except the person who hired me. It launched my career and inspired me to start my own business, ‘we.raq’ – an initiative dedicated to promoting the culture and heritage of my country, Iraq, to the Iraqi diaspora that reside in the UAE and beyond.
The constant urge to enhance and enrich one’s understanding of the Emirates – its past, present and future – inspired me to share the story of my own country. Having grown up in multiple cities around the world except my own, I felt a disconnect with Iraq, and felt the urge to pay homage and shed light on its history. I began to highlight its unique dialect and colourful culture through vintage stamps, photos and typography that express common Iraqi phrases. What once started as a passion project has fast become a core part of my life and a thriving business, thanks to the ‘go-getter’ spirit of my city, my home – Dubai.
This article is part of the “The UAE’s 50” series, featuring stories and journeys of people who call the UAE home. You can share your personal stories in the UAE via www.UAEYearOf.ae