UAE Web of Life

Tracking Websites, E-groups, Blogs and Forums in the United Arab Emirates

SecretDubai – UAE’s first blogger celebrity

Posted by advaitin on April 4, 2006

SecretDubai – UAE’s first blogger (http://secretdubai.blogspot.com) celebrity
and the creator of UAE’s first blogger’s forum (http://uaecommunity.blogspot.com).

1) Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your educational and work background?

I am a UK expat, I work in media in Dubai and I have a university degree.

2) What inspired you to start blogging which ultimately culminated in
the UAE Community of bloggers – the UAE’s first?

Before coming here I did some travelling, this was a few years ago pre blogs, but post email. I used to keep in touch with friends and family via a group newsletter that I sent out about my travels. When I eventually settled for a while, I posted all these letters on a
website, like a homepage – they formed a kind of diary.

Then a couple more years I was on the move agan – to the UAE. After a few months I wanted to record my experiences again. By this time blogging was around, so I chose that way to do it. It really was mainly for me by this stage, to record my own experiences of the UAE. Only later on after migrating from LiveJournal to Blogspot did it
really get noticed.

3) Can you share your experience of what it was like when your blog
was blocked ( another UAE first🙂 and all the media focus that
ensued?

It was very terrifying, because I was overseas, and it was hard to keep tabs on what was going on. It was also bewildering, because the “offending” poem was never intended to mock local people, it was specifically targeted at expats and the odd language of the Khaleej
Times.

The media focus was startling, as was the huge amount of support, even from people that didn’t always like my blog, but respected my right to write it. I made a couple of lasting friendships during those times. The support was overwhelming, and moving.

Getting unblocked was a kind of miracle: the biggest relief ever. Not because it meant that people could access my site again, but because it meant a higher power found nothing offensive or illegal about the blog. Which was a kind of vindication, almost a seal of
approval.

I had always been aware that the UAE authorities could trace my activities or those of any other internet user, so I had always exercised self-censorship, and continue to do so.

4) What are your future plans for the UAE Community forum?

Nothing. It keeps going by itself now, which is brilliant. It means when I eventually leave this place, as like most expats I won’t be around forever, it will hopefully continue and go from strength to strength. There’s already an Arabic version, which sadly I can’t
understand a word of!

5) Any interesting tid-bits and happenings that you can share from the forum?

I think its coolest feature is the fact that people who would almost certainly never belong to the same groups or clubs in the UAE regularly interact there as members. It could so easily have got hijacked by one particular group, and been just euro expats ranting for example, but it hasn’t. It really doesn’t matter if one is local, European, Asian or even bidoon. It’s for UAE bloggers: it transcends age, gender, nationality, religion, class.

Very little moderation has ever gone on – it just hasn’t really been needed there. So far, it’s all fairly civilised!
6) What are your other interests and hobbies?

Reading, the internet, RPG computer games, food. I don’t watch terrestrial or satellite TV at all – my TV is used solely for DVDs and console gaming – but I occasionally download stuff I want to watch, like South Park. Amazingly given this list of absolute vegetativity I
am not (yet) the size of Jabba the Hutt.

7) What are your favourite books, music, movies, celebrities and inspiring personalities?

Favourite Books (can I have two?):
– The Man In The Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie
– Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh

Favourite Music: Pet Shop Boys

Movies: Saved! starring Mandy Moore

Celebrities: Sean Bean

Inspiring Personalities: Sheikh Zayed

8) What is your motto or philosophy of life that you would like to share with our readers?

You only have one life. Don’t waste it in bitterness, cruelty, intolerance or hatred.

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