Ian Fairservice charts the 44 year history of the UAE’s first English lifestyle magazine…

In June 1979, Dubai was a very different place. There were no soaring skyscrapers, no seven-lane Sheikh Zayed Road highway, no fleets of police supercars, zero Balearic-boho beach clubs and the world’s tallest building was still just a twinkle in its architect’s eye. But there was one very familiar social landmark already in place. In June 1979, the very first issue of What’s On was printed. The UAE’s first English language lifestyle magazine was born out of a drive to provide residents with the latest news and happenings from across the city. In the 44 years that have followed, What’s On has expanded into events, digital and social media, it’s grown to cover Abu Dhabi, and launched in Saudi Arabia. But fundamentally, it remains the same: an essential, boredom-busting part of everyday life for residents. What’s On serves up the inside story on the city’s big events, the food and drink scene, music, arts, fitness, well-being and much, much more.

To celebrate 44 years of What’s On, we sat down with the founder, managing partner and group editor, Ian Fairservice, to chart his rise from humble beginnings as a hotelier, to the man at the helm of a multi-dimensional media house.


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We’re thrilled to announce that this episode preludes the launch of our first podcast, What’s On: Reborn, a series that shares the stories of some of the region’s biggest and best homegrown entrepreneurs. Uncovering how the city has provided them with opportunities and the tools to reinvent themselves, what mechanisms and machinations have contributed to their success, and why nobody does it quite like Dubai. We’re investigating what brought these luminaries here, how they got to where they are, and what’s still to come, What’s On: Reborn is a celebration of tastemakers and thought leaders with fascinating stories to tell.

The series will launch this July.