A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
“Those were the halcyon days. Past tense used deliberately.”
MATTHEW BAXTER-PRIEST reminisces over those long-gone Thursday four o’clock meetings
DO YOU REMEMBER THE ‘QUIET SEASON’? That long-ago fabled part of the year when you would feel justified sauntering into work a little late bit and leaving a slightly larger bit earlier. “It’s the summer” people would casually explain, as others nodded in agreement — well, those who remained in the office having foolishly opted not to take month-long vacations to escape the ‘heat’ or the ‘work lull’, (or essentially go to Mykonos to party with pretty much everyone else on your Instagram feed). Those were the halcyon days. The past tense used very deliberately.
Looking back at 2018, there was no lull. There was no 4pm meeting on a Thursday. There was no client breakfast fortuitously down the other end of town. There was no time to spare. But that is not a bad thing.
Most of us living here in the Gulf are essentially here for work. Yes, there are plenty of other benefits, but professionally there are few places in the world that offer so much opportunity and reward for putting in the long hours and hard graft. Dubai, above all, is a capitalist’s dream.
Twelve years ago on my first day in Dubai, I asked a lady at an information desk where was the one place in town I needed to visit. Where was the “city’s centre”? Confused, she looked at me and replied “do you mean Deira City Centre?” At the time I had no idea what that was, so I jumped in a cab to find out. When I arrived it dawned upon me that perhaps our lines had crossed. It was a shopping mall, not the beating heart of an exciting pseudo-metropolis. As my time here has played out, however, it seems that she may have very well been right.
“In the last 20 years, malls have become a place of personal expression,” says Patrick Bousquet-chavanne, CEO of Emaar Malls. “A place where the youth and the community at large can interact and socialise — as society has become more open.” In ‘The Rise of the Mega Mall’ (p94) we look at the astonishing effect malls have had on the region’s modern culture and how its future may depend on how they adapt as a social good, rather than merely a commercial venture.
Another man who rarely shies away from hard work is our cover star Willem Dafoe (p98). This month the actor plays as Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate and as an Atlantean scientist in DC’S Aquaman, in what will be his 99th and 100th films in a career spanning more than four decades. His chameleon-like ability to adapt continues to evolve to a level where, despite his reputation as the most versatile actor of his generation, it still doesn’t do him justice.
Speaking of adapting and evolving, we continue to dissect those themes in two different ways. ‘One Man’s Land’ (p124) is an exclusive excerpt from adventurer Levison Wood’s new book Arabia, where he circumnavigates the Arabian Peninsula in an attempt to understand the region’s modern identity; while in ‘Suit Yourself ’ (p114) we consider what bleak future lies in wait for the most quintessential of men’s items: the suit. So as you enjoy our month’s labours, I’m off for an important meeting down the other end of town, I promise.