As part of The Huntr’s larger #ThePeopleOfTheUAE storytelling series, this month we bring five fresh faces who all share one common theme: They are creative go-getters. Join us as we present the second edition of our special segment – #TheCreativesOfTheUAE.
And if you love reading the stories of people living and working in the UAE get excited because #ThePeopleOfTheUAE series will be back and bigger and better than ever, next month. Stay tuned…
Keith Dallison, Film Editor/Actor/Musician
58-year-old, Dubai-based, British model, actor, and musician, Keith Dallison goes by many names — Ki, Kid, Keith, and a couple of others he’d rather not share. Every day he wakes up at 6am and does his morning exercise, followed by doing “whatever I need to do that day — from voice-overs, auditions, video editing, modelling, and acting.” However, he did not come to Dubai for those things — 17 years ago, Keith came to Dubai to work as a film editor.
Seeing the city grow, he speaks lovingly about the changes he’s witnessed in Dubai, but “the one thing that keeps me here is the diversity of its people and how we all get along.” Like many, he feels that Dubai is an easy place to live but can also be quite challenging because of rising expenses. He shares: “In general, I think a modern culture is starting to grow in Dubai. While cultures are cultivated in many years, it’s also the diversity of people from many cultures that are going to create ‘culture’ in this city.”
He prefers to avoid the city’s gigantic commercial malls and considers Alserkal Avenue and its many coffee shops (including The Huntr’s favourite Nightjar Coffee) as his top places to hangout. He likes to play music and his friends get together to jam in different establishments where open mic nights are available. “My perfect 24 hours would be to able to play freely with like-minded musicians – maybe with coffee or wine.” Keith recently acted alongside American superstar Kate Hudson for the Visit Dubai project #astorytakesflight – watch it here.
Find Keith on Instagram @kidallison
Emma Walsh, Creative Director
If you live in the UAE, chances are that you are familiar with Namshi. And for every item you purchase under the influence of their ads online and offline, their creative team smiles and whispers “we did a great job.” That creative team is spearheaded by Emma Walsh – a creative director from the UK, whose portfolio is filled with impressive work including projects for the likes of Marks & Spencer, Monica Vinader, and Fitflop. Relocating to Dubai with her husband in October 2017 to be at the helm of Namshi’s creative pursuits, Emma says that Dubai “creatively gives me a lot of opportunities to explore big and small ideas because everyone seems expandable,” compared to the no’s she’d received whilst being in London. One of her notable achievements in the last few years was Namshi’s #WeAreNamshi campaign, which put the first woman on a billboard in Saudi Arabia.
Working in Dubai is quite different to working in London and one of Emma’s challenges is finding people to work with harmoniously in order to produce creative content. While her ‘black book’ of contacts is still developing, she says that “when you scratch the surface, there are loads of creatives here — from studios, photographers, and artists alike — people that I’ve never worked in London.” Inspiration and motivation can be found anywhere and Emma says that she is inspired by the idea that “if they have built this city in 30 years, I can finish this project.” Collectively, personal growth is something that creatives crave and long for and while it does not come easy, the city helps her do many of her ‘firsts’, too.
Aside from boundless opportunities, personal growth, and cultural diversity, Emma says that “the sun – obviously” is one of her favourite things about the city. For leisure, “I go to Old Dubai a lot — I ride the abra, walk to Meena Bazaar — because it reminds me that I live in a foreign country.” She also spends a lot of time at the beach with her family on her days off. Before coming to Dubai, she had never tried Lebanese food and now it’s her favourite with “Café Bateel” being her “go-to breakfast place.” She also frequents Mexican restaurant, Tortuga in Madinat Jumeirah for its Pisco Sours.
On continuing her creative journey in the UAE, she reminisces about her first month of being here — “When we left the UK we told our friends and family that we were only going to be in Dubai for two years. But on the first month, I realised that we were going to be here for much longer…”
Krista Leiann, Creative Producer
There is so much we can say about the creative culture in Dubai and how it is moving to a direction that the industry can be proud of, but we usually forget to credit the ones that collect the individual talents all together — the producers. Born and raised in Canada, Krista moved to Dubai almost five years ago to manage the talent department of a modelling agency. Now eagerly working at an Al Quoz-based creative studio, she works with a team of photographers and videographers. “My favourite thing about my job is working with my team and definitely the process. When a client comes and brings a concept, I can sit down with my team and work towards bringing an idea to life.”
“The coolest thing about Dubai is that it offers opportunities that we would never have back home. Brands are more accessible, for example — a model comes to Dubai and she can walk for Chanel, or be featured in Vogue Arabia. You can really build your career and portfolio here,” says Krista on opportunities that come with living in the UAE. With a smile, she reflects on how boujee the lifestyle can be here, too: “I live in an amazing building in DIFC with a beautiful pool and a view of the Burj Khalifa. Every time I come down, I think it’s too good to be true.”
Plus – being in the UAE makes it easy to travel to many interesting places, “One of the reasons I moved to Dubai was because it was so much closer to the rest of the world than Canada so I travel a lot now.” When she’s not at the studio, she is somewhere around the world enjoying music festivals (she’s been to Coachella 13 times and counting) and different cuisines and cultures.
Living in Dubai for half a decade, one important thing she learned about being in a city that is so multicultural and diverse is “to be kind to people.” She’s also compiling an awesome list of go-to restaurants and loves Dampa in Deira, the Japanese restaurant Bentoya in DIFC, Muchachas in Al Safa, and Yui for ramen in d3.
Find Krista on Instagram @thespicegirlsgeneration
Ismail Noor, Photographer
Six years ago Ismail traveled from Pakistan to Dubai and followed his creative calling. Starting his career in the industry as an account manager for an advertising agency, he eventually focused on becoming the person behind the camera. From photographing the architectural landscape of Dubai to documenting art installations of prolific artists and museums such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, he has watched the city grow throw his lens.
“I had to quit my advertising job because of a very toxic work environment in 2016. At that time, it felt like everything was falling apart. However, when I look back, I’m glad it happened, otherwise I would have still been in that environment and would have never taken photography professionally.” He believes that accepting yourself is an essential part of growth and true happiness because “you don’t need to fake it anymore.” While understanding life is a long process, over time he wants “to be able to do something bigger and meaningful, beyond myself.”
On a lighter note, Ismail enjoys the safety and security of the city and lists “Al Ustad Special Kebab in the Al Fahidi area, Karachi Darbar, and Sultan Dubai Falafel” as his favourite hidden gems. He also likes “The ‘double down’ at Freedom Pizza, knaffeh from Feras Aldiyafa Sweets, and Lime Tree Cafe’s carrot cake.” More of a homebody than a social butterfly type of person, he enjoys playing music and FIFA18 on his PlayStation at home. When asked, “What do you wish UAE had, that it doesn’t?” he answered, “the provision to live here permanently, maybe.”
Find Ismail on Instagram @ismailnoor
Nour Nouralla, Architect
“I’m actually Syrian-America, thus the Arabic name and semi-American accent,” muses Dubai-based architect and photographer Nour. Born in Damascus, Syria but raised in New York, Nour has been always been an architect but is currently “expanding my horizons beyond buildings and think critically, from an architectural perspective and applying it to different things like designing human experience — digital, spatial, or otherwise — and I’m also trying to get photography in to the mix.”
For 4 years, Nour has been based out of Dubai but working in Sharjah. “I like to move and travel a lot, and the one thing that I haven’t found anywhere else that I love about the UAE is that it’s a hub where you can travel to 20 different countries in 4 hours.” In the last couple of years, she has traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, Tanzania, Poland, Turkey, Jordan, India and more.
“I have a bit of a thing for deals and coupons and in my free time I look through The Entertainer, Zomato Gold, and Groupon,” and when in Dubai, Nour frequents Alserkal Avenue for its galleries and cafes. On nights that she wants to party and unwind, she makes sure to visit bars that “offer free drinks on ladies night – because this city is not the cheapest place to live.” She notes her favourite bars are in Tecom – “Barbary, Lock Stock and Barrel, and the Belgian Beer Cafe.” And her perfect day in Dubai would start off with a really good Arabic breakfast in Sarouja in JBR, followed by an adventure in Old Dubai and spend the rest of the afternoon/night at “a nice outdoor bar like The Irish Village.”
Find Nour on Instagram at @nournouralla
Photography and interviews by Augustine Paredes exclusively for The Huntr
Are you interested in being spotlighted for The Huntr’s #ThePeopleOfTheUAE series? Drop us a line at email@example.com with the subject line “#ThePeopleOfTheUAE Pick Me!’ and tell us your story.