Ian Fairservice


Our father, Ian Fairservice, started the UAE's first English language magazine, What's On, in 1979. He had arrived two years earlier as an assistant manager in a new five-star hotel,
but when he realized that the country had no print media and very little radio and TV, he gave up his job to become the country's first independent English language publisher.

"The only existing print media was called the Recorder Daily News Bulletin, which was run off on a Roneo [mimeograph] machine, stapled together and sold at the traffic lights. It contained day-old news lifted directly from the Reuters bulletin," My father explained. "If I wanted to advertise the hotel, I'd have to make 5,000 copies of my leaflet, drive to Sharjah, which was a long way on not very well made-up roads, and then pay for them to staple the leaflets into the "Bulletin." That was the only English language print media that existed in 1978."

Together with his partner Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, who is now the Minister of State for Finance, my father's business has grown into one of the most successful media companies in the region. In 1986 the Motivate book division was established and had more than 250 titles in print, by authors such as H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai), Sir Wilfred Thesiger, Noor Ali Rashid and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) to name just a few.

The Motivate Media Group has long since diversified into Digital and print media, with other activities such as events, content production and cinema advertising.

From a family perspective, we were exposed to some of the most interesting and inspiring of the region's trailblazers from a very early age. Three siblings and I were born and grew up in the ever-changing landscape of the Emirates and witnessed its growth along with our own. The most notable memory I have of my father's authors was the many times that Sir Wilfred Thesiger stayed with us in our family home in Umm Sequim.

My father had long been a fan of Sir Wilfred and met him at an exhibition of his photography sponsored by the British Council in 1989; "I asked him what, if anything, remained unfulfilled for him, and he said that he had always dreamt that one day the very Arabs who he had written about in his most famous book "Arabian Sands" would one day be able to read it in their language," My Dad explained.
This first meeting blossomed into a friendship and professional relationship, which secured the worldwide rights to publish Thesiger's books in Arabic and English. During this time, Motivate published twelve of Sir Wilfred's books, starting with the Arabic edition of Arabian Sands – fulfilling Thesiger's dream.

During his stays at our Villa, Sir Wilfred would be invited to dine with Sheikhs and other VIP's. On three occasions, my father accompanied him to visit Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE. They got to explore the exotic animals on his private Sir Bani Yas sanctuary and rub shoulders with the most powerful men and woman of the region. But in the mind of a young schoolgirl in Dubai, I could see that Wilfred was at his happiest while eating at home with us and telling incredible stories of days gone by.

He would become an adopted grandfather to us all and we quickly learnt to leave him in the piece while he napped in the lounge, or we might receive a playful tap with his walking stick! He told us of hunting trips in Africa and his time in the army, but he also instilled in me the passion for photography that I have to this day.

One day I hope that my father writes a book about all the incredible things he has seen during his time in the UAE. As a mother to two boys born here in Dubai, I feel that it will be our home forever - I would love my sons to understand how much has changed since their grandfather arrived in the 1970s. I couldn't be more proud of all that he has achieved and grateful for the phenomenal life we have all been given here.

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