I went back to work about six months ago, mainly to ensure I didn’t go round the bend looking after the littleboys full-time. As luck would have it, we live just 20 minutes away from a place called Dubai Media City (there are cities within the city for everything here – Internet City, Knowledge City, Studio City, Healthcare City, Sports City, even Endurance City, which I thought might be for very, very fit people, but is, in fact, where horse marathons are held).
Dubai Media City (DMC) is one of the region’s largest media hubs, with more than 84 towers and writers, journalists and TV presenters from around the world. Ten years old, DMC is the product of Sheikh Mo’s belief that if you “Build it … they will come.” And so they did. In their hordes. DMC grew from 99 firms in 2001 to more than 1,400 multinational media businesses today – lured by commercial benefits such as a 50-year tax exemption.
BBC World, CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg and MBC are just some of the media companies that have set up shop in Dubai Media City. Publications such as The Times and The Sunday Times went further by publishing international editions in the Middle East and there’s a whole host of magazines, from Time Out Dubai to Middle East versions of Rolling Stone, Grazia and Cosmopolitan.
And this is all despite the fact that the UAE has been ranked 86th in the world for press freedom, according to the Reporters Without Borders 2010 report. When a caricature of Dubai’s ruler floundering in a sea of debt was published in a well-known British broadsheet, the paper was banned from sale in the emirate and a highly critical article in its sister publication a few days later was blanked out in copies available in Dubai (press freedom in DMC is actually less controlled than elsewhere in Dubai and the UAE).
My own little patch of DMC is a tower at least 30 storeys high, from which Emap (who I used to work for in London!) publishes a business magazine called MEED. Each morning, I queue for the lift with people of all nationalities and ride up to the 20th floor where Emap Middle East has its offices. The view is amazing and if I’m lucky I get a window seat.
I’m working as a sub editor, covering busy periods and holiday, but as staff numbers were slashed in the recession, I seem to be there a lot. It’s been a steep learning curve, getting to grips with new technology (amazing how things move on the moment you turn your back to have kids), but mostly because the subject matter is not my natural territory. You know those stories on the business pages of newspapers that you skip over to get to the lifestyle section. Well, now I find myself subbing them. Islamic finance, petrochemicals, oil and gas… who knew!
A good thing – apart from the new iPhone I bought so I could do that scrolly thing everyone does in the lift – is I can actually have the occasional conversation with my husband about the economy rather than the kids’ latest school/mealtime/toilet incident. I could even tell you a thing or two about the political uprisings that have been taking place in the region recently. It’s all a far cry from the wedding magazines I worked on in the US.
Logistically, it’s a challenge, but this is made easier by having Catherine the Great, my wonderful wife at home. And, of course, DH, whose erratic flying schedule means he’s actually at home a lot. He’s stepped up to the childcare challenge magnificently – though every now and then I hear him sounding like me, with comments such as: ‘I’ve been with the kids for three days now,’ and the best one, ‘, ‘Do I have to do everything around here?’
A few other projects have popped up – this morning, for instance, I was working on a start-up magazine for the showbiz industry called Variety Arabia. But I’m learning that everytime a new job comes along I need to weigh up what it’s going to add to my life: a whole lot of extra stress/lots of new handbags/new contacts. It’s a fine line between satisfying my passion for writing and editing and not plunging our daily lives into deeper chaos. The boys are still so little and growing so fast and, this afternoon – as I tried in vain to stop LB running round our compound pool with his watering can watering everyone’s towels – I truly appreciated that time spent with the kids is precious.