Sail Magazine gives Emiratis chance to launch writing career
There was something about the shopkeeper that stuck with Abdulla Al Wahedi.
“I had never met him before,” says the 39-year-old columnist for Sail Magazine, an English publication written solely by Emiratis.
”The first thing he said was ‘This store is a museum. Dubai doesn’t have anything like this any more’. Dubai has grown up so fast. He was so excited about his little grocery store and it inspired me to write a piece about him.”
The article that the native of Ras Al Khaimah penned was his first for Sail Magazine and his first as a published writer.
Mr Al Wahedi, who works as an electrical engineer in facilities management, had written about his memories of his hometown on his Instagram account, but he was not confident about his ability to write for the public. About eight months later, he was given his own column called “Emirati Reflections”.
The Dubai-based publication, which focuses on community and cultural matters, was launched in 2010 by Iman Ben Chaibah, 30, an Emirati. It is published online monthly and annually in print.
“I have always been in love with reading and writing,” says Ms Chaibah, a native of Dubai. She is a former IT manager for Emaar Properties.
“That is something I have done since I was a kid. Starting the magazine was a way to get more people to write and to be read because I knew that a couple of my friends wrote, but all their writing was personal.”
She chose to publish in English to reach more readers, a strategy that is paying off because more than a third of its readers live outside the UAE.
“The majority of the population in the UAE are English speakers. They do not speak Arabic,” says Ms Chaibah.
“I used to run into people a lot at events and they would always say ‘We don’t know how Emiratis really think because they end up writing in Arabic, so we don’t really know how they are’.
“A lot of the youths love to write in English, but they haven’t had a platform or place where they can get published.”
The magazine attracts between 10,000 and 15,000 online readers a month. About 60 per cent of the readers are in the UAE, and Emiratis comprise about 60 per cent of them. Readers in Britain, the US and Canada respectively make up 10 per cent each (30 per cent in all), with the remainder spread across the Middle East and the Far East.
However, Sail Magazine has yet to achieve a healthy profit.
Ms Chaibah says that the magazine’s revenues are barely sustaining it, “and we’re always looking for more advertisers and content sponsors to grow further”.
In response to requests from expatriates and foreigners who wanted their articles to be published, the magazine started a section called “By the Masses”.
In the past year, the magazine has expanded into publishing books, releasing four so far this year – a children’s book, a business and self-help title, a collection of poetry and a short novel.
Many of its 21 volunteer contributors have been involved since the start. Ms Chaibah knew some of them – such as Mr Al Wahedi – personally before the magazine was launched, but she also finds contributors by using sites such as Upwork, a freelancing website.
Aida Al Busaidy is the magazine’s developmental editor, and her job is to critique the writers’ work and help to develop their style.
“Sometimes I don’t have any comments, but that is very rare because usually I do have many comments, but they are meant to be very constructive comments. We aim to help them grow as writers,” says Ms Al Busaidy, 32, a native of Dubai who works as a senior communications manager for Dubai Tourism.
She says that Sail Magazine offers Emiratis a good opportunity to write, and readers the chance to enjoy their talent.
“Even the writers themselves don’t know how talented they are,” says Ms Al Busaidy.
She says that Mr Al Wahedi is among these writers, even though he often gets good feedback on his articles.
“The fact that they gave me the opportunity to write is really appreciated. I look up to Iman for what she has done, and from time to time I thank her for the opportunity,” says Mr Al Wahedi.
“If one day I become a writer, it is all because of Sail Magazine.”
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