“I never planned to launch a magazine…”

When I moved to Dubai in 1978, I had accepted a position as an assistant manager at the city’s second five-star hotel, which had just opened. Although I had never been to Dubai before, my deep-rooted interest in the Middle East was enough to have me board a one-way flight.

But I realised after a short time that there was almost no media in the UAE. And as such, nowhere to promote the hotel and its restaurants, nightclub, and roster of live acts. So I gave up my job in 1979 to create a platform where hotels, restaurants, and event organisers could promote what they were doing. And so the first English language magazine, aptly named What’s On, was born in June.

In the beginning, I was helped by a couple of dear friends, Brian and Daphne Adams. We put the first few issues together in their Design Studio office using a pot of cow gum and cold metal galleys from the printer. I wrote much of the early issues myself, including a food column, What’s On Eats Out, which continued for the next 15 years.

On the decks during my Dune Beat Disco days

To fund the magazine in those initial years, we relied heavily on the Dune Beat Disco, a mobile discotheque that I brought across from the UK. We played all over the emirates, so it made sense to also have a regular back page feature called The Dune Beat Trail, which covered the events, as well as sharing some of the month’s most popular records. For issue one, that included Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Tragedy by the Bee Gees, and Village People’s dance-floor filling, YMCA.

As an ode to the Dune Beat Disco, you’ll find our playlist of 45 epic tracks that chart the years of What’s On, here.