Anyone who knows me will know how much I love Dubai, which is why it has come as a surprise to many that I have decided to leave.
While most expats cannot wait to bash the place, I openly love this land of the exaggerated. Sure it is tacky, over-the-top and, in many respects, very fake. But at the same time, that’s what makes the place so entertaining. Where else will you find the world’s tallest building, men with the planet’s biggest egos and women with the most cosmetic surgery, all together in one city?
Yes, people love to hate Dubai. But what most people fail to recognise is that this is the land where ANYTHING is possible. Unlike back in Europe, which is on the brink of collapse, dreams can still come true in Dubai. Ambition thrives here – if you want to make something of yourself, you truly can, and that’s what I love about it.
I moved to Dubai when it became apparent that the only type of journalism job I would have been able to get in the UK would have either been on a B2B publication for the farming industry, or making tea at one of the big glossies. I have no interest in farming, and I certainly have no interest in making cups of tea for snooty editors.
I therefore decided to pack my bags and head to Dubai. I arrived in February, 2007; I was 23, fresh faced, and ready to take on the world. After just six weeks of looking for a job, I landed the role of features writer at Gulf News – the country’s bestselling English daily newspaper. While it may not be The Guardian (by any stretch of the imagination), I was excited about the role. It meant that I could finally get experience, form my journalism voice and get my work published. It was a dream come true.
For the past five years, I have worked hard and played even harder. I have also gained everything I can possibly gain career-wise from the UAE. After Gulf News, I took on a copywriting role, adding more strings to the Anastasiou bow. I have also landed many fantastic freelance gigs in the process.
A few months ago, however, I decided it was time to leave the job I’m currently in. I’m no longer learning anything, so I’m certain that it is time to resign. While deciding what to do next, I realised that there are only two publications I would really want to work for in the UAE, and neither is currently recruiting. I therefore found myself at a crossroads – I could either take any other writing job just for the sake of staying in Dubai, or focus on my career, leave the country and look for a new challenge.
I chose the latter option.
The reason I came to Dubai in the first place is because I’m ambitious. I want to make a name for myself. I want to be the best I possibly can be. If I stay here, I won’t be doing my work any justice. So while I still love Dubai very, very much, it’s time to move on. At least for now.
I’m therefore leaving in four weeks time. My plan is to visit the family for a couple of months and then embark on a trip around the world, which will be concluded on my 30th birthday in Cuba next May. I want to write, write, and then write some more, and get a book published. And I’m determined to make this happen.
So, at the age of 29, looking less than fresh faced (but, for what it’s worth, I have cheekbones for the first time in my life!) I’m ready, again, to take on the world and chase after a new set of dreams.
And it’s thanks to Dubai that I can do so.