By Sana Bagersh
When I first came to the UAE, I was fresh out of university from
the US and eager to get my first job. My parents sent me to Abu
Dhabi to be with my extended Emirati family, where they hoped
I’d be safe, productive and God willing, ready for marriage
in due course.
That was 1985 – a long time ago, right? Well, I stayed with my
Uncle Khalid who was like a father to me, his wife Wafa who
became my confidante, and their wonderful kids Hiba, Ayman and
Hadeel, who are now grown and married. As you might imagine,
I stuck out like a sore thumb from the start…my extended family
often didn’t know quite what to do with me as I struggled to fit
into this country that was my new home.
My first job was as a reporter in Gulf News; I was one of a handful
of Arab female journalists covering hardcore news beats. I
struggled with Arabic, with making sense of Arabian culture (to
the dismay of my quite-conservative family) and occasionally
found myself in trouble culturally, socially and professionally.
I covered the police beat, and yes, it’s true that I accidentally
knocked down a police motorbike with my car while covering a
story! I was assigned to cover the FNC and looked odd as the only
woman in the large parliamentary chamber. I had the privilege to
meet countless newsmakers such as Wilfred Thesiger, Princess
Diana, Prince Charles, Kofi Anan, Nelson Mandela, Benazir Bhutto,
Jacques Chirac, President Bush Sr, Richard Branson and… the
amazing Sheikh Zayed!
I left Abu Dhabi for some years between 1990 and 1997, leaving
to Seattle where I settled down and started a family but soon
returned to Abu Dhabi. I came back to a job as bureau chief of
Gulf News, then Marketing Director at Thuraya… and then became
CEO of BrandMoxie, editor of Tempo, founder of Tamakkan (an
entrepreneurship initiative) and since then have been engaged in
cool community and nation-building work.
I am reminiscing about the past because of the UAE’s National
Day – and its significance to me and my family. I have lived on
three continents, and I have not felt more at home anywhere than
in the UAE, a country that has embraced my family and have
made us only too happy to give back.