“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.

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