One thing I didn’t realise before moving to the Middle East was just how inspiring the region was going to be to me - both as a business woman and as a producer. Having spent some time here before my move, I already knew that there was a rich culture and a great deal of innovation, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer abundance of creativity that lay within it.
It goes without saying that tech advances such as Instagram have helped tremendously in opening the Middle East up to the rest of the world. These mediums have offered a platform for local creatives to tell their own stories and reach a global audience, as well as shape their futures (and thereby the future of the whole area), in ways that would otherwise not have been possible in such a short space of time.
Huda Kattan, for example, left a job in finance to build a beauty empire, amassing a huge following through social media, and is now the CEO of her own exceptionally successful beauty line. Diala Makki, alongside a career as a TV host, has brought the Middle East to the international fashion scene and continues to inspire people all over the world on Dubai TV. In addition, Saudi designer Arwa al Banawi, who communicates the Arab culture through her designs for the empowered woman, has gained massive global prominence through street-style stars, as well as in the most high-profile international publications around.
But it’s not just through social media that the Arab world is harnessing its creativity. The Dubai Future Foundation, for example, has been built to promote partnerships across a multitude of sectors - including the creative world. The Museum of the Future, which opens in 2020, investigates the role technology will have in enhancing our bodies and minds, as well as how it will affect us sociologically.
Another promising initiative is Palmwood - a collaboration with IDEO that aims to improve society by building the creative capabilities of people within the UAE. Through its interactive space in Area 2071, the first of its kind in the region, Palmwood opens up new conversations about what is possible through design, encouraging people to dream, ask questions and flex their creative muscles.
The Middle East also offers the kind of opportunities for ex-pat creatives that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. There’s an open-mindedness that feels entirely fresh. New ideas are not only supported, but encouraged. Everything feels more collaborative. And because of that, ground-breaking concepts, initiatives, and projects are all able to take hold and thrive. In that way, the Middle East itself is a hub for creators. It provides room for passion and exploration. As someone who has made movies and created content both in the east and the west, I’ve experienced that first hand. Here, I feel as though I have the space and mobility needed to share experiences from my perspective.
Whenever I leave the Middle East, I forget that despite how much attention Arab nations have garnered as leaders, the rest of the world has yet to truly discover the artistry, innovation, and richness that comprises this region. As a producer, I want to tell these incredible stories and share them with people who are not from here. I’m so excited to help make the Arab story one that is both globally inspiring and familiar. The more the Arab world opens up and shares itself, the more people will fall in love with all it has to offer.
From the October 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia