Paris to Dubai: my 2015 EMEA to MENA journey ✈

2015 was a year of transition and growth.

Last year I decided to step out of my comfort zone — something that’s not always easy to do — in order to grow as a person and discover new possibilities.

Leaving behind a country and region I was familiar with since my university days (Paris, as well as France and Europe in general) to move to a new city (Dubai, UAE) was both a challenging and rewarding experience.

My Paris to Dubai journey:

As a writer and marketing strategist (how I make my living besides French-to-English translation), I knew that I needed to grow in order to reach the goal I set for myself (continuing my life and career in Dubai and the MENA region).

It was time to transition from what I was always comfortable doing (gladly taking a seat behind the scenes and promoting many other people) to something I chose not to do before (be in the spotlight).

From this:

Translating to English the good advice shared in French at the classic 2014 HUB Institute Future of Mobility event in Paris. Thanks to Emmanuel Vivier for the photo.

to this:

Some Californian Creativity talks held in EMEA (Paris, Tunis and Dubai) in 2015. The background image is a beach in my home Los Ángeles, California, also featured with my travel photos at

Though I only made three public speaking appearances in my hometown Los Ángeles, California in 2013 and 2012 (as well as two in Paris in 2014) and even turned down another LA speaking opportunity in 2012, I realized that 2015 was the year when I needed to make a change.

I credit two great marketing executives— and more importantly, great people — in Paris who I have looked up to as mentors; their encouragement and positive feedback in late 2014 after seeing my presentation on social media storytelling changed my perspective. When these experts told me that my presentation was excellent, I knew it was time to start embracing public speaking opportunities revolving around topics I specialize in.

When life sends you signals, you have to follow your intuition…
So I took the feedback I got from wise people and ran with it in 2015: speaking in one webinar in Paris in February (my first webinar where I spoke in French) and public presentations in Africa (Tunis in February) and the Middle East (Dubai in May and December).

Looking back, I can say I’m glad to go from what I always preferred (talking to just one person or a few people) to speaking to rooms full of people.

I encourage everyone reading this to go outside of your comfort zone and do whatever you avoided doing before; you’ll reap the benefit of growing.

Local Language

As a French-to-English translator who has enjoyed studying French since childhood and got used to it playing a big role in my life, I knew that in 2015 I would also have to make another adjustment: change my usual language choice and social media/writing strategy. It was time to move away from my usual Parisian lingo and use the language, and even local dialect, of the United Arab Emirates.

From this:

To this:

Along the way, one of the best memories of 2015 took place in February in Tunis: speaking to a room full of Tunisians in their own dialect of Arabic while wearing a shirt with their own flag on it to show my appreciation of their culture. The words of one of my late, great heroes (Nelson Mandela) say it best.

Tunis talk. Video available at and below. Tunisian shirt available at Maghreb Shirt:

Dynamic December

The end of this story is about the end of 2015 and is a useful read for those who expect that Dubai is just full of malls and extravagance. It is also a reply to those who ask me “so, how is Dubai?”

Dubai is much more than just somewhere to shop at, it is a place where you can be inspired and encouraged to pursue your dreams.

This city has some of the best international conferences you can find anywhere, as well as interesting local and regional cultural events.

Some of my favorite memories in Dubai during the last month of 2015 involved meeting individuals I have looked up to for years and was in contact with via social media, as well as other inspirational people.

Dima Khatib (a poet and journalist who speaks eight languages and is my living proof that it is possible to speak a wide range of languages fluently. As an international journalist she has opened my eyes to what is going on around the world through her tweets in Arabic, French, Spanish and English.)

Steve “Woz” Wozniak (It goes without saying; this is one of the two people named Steve that you can thank for any Apple product you have benefited from. What I appreciated the most about Woz was his humility; despite all of his accomplishments his personality was down-to-earth and reflected his generous mentality as a philanthropist.

Besides the chance to discuss our mutual love for our one and only home, California, another highlight of this night was learning how individual thinking took Woz far in life. You can discover how this mentality helped Wozfrom his childhood days as a 13-year-old inventor of a computer until nowby clicking the link for the Gulf News feature story in my tweet below.)

Waleed Ali Al Ziady (Meeting Waleed, a native of Sana’a, Yemen, provided a chance to learn more about two of the most unique civilizations in the history of the Red Sea region and the world, Yemen and Ethiopia.

In addition to telling me about his travels in cities like the capitals of both countries, Sana’a and Addis Ababa, Waleed also made even more cultural discovery possible through the screening of the 2016 Oscar-nominated Jordanian film Theeb and a series of other Jordanian cultural events he co-organized at the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation. They were eventually followed by another classic event on January 19. When you see someone maintain a positive composure throughout a long week of events, despite all of the challenges that are present around them, you stay motivated to do the same.)

Abdellah Aboulharjan (This wasn’t my first time meeting Abdellah, but it was a chance to bring in the New Year while remembering what has been important in my past (social entrepreneurship…and Paris) by spending time with a long-time social entrepreneur who shares my strong interest in improving the world .

Along with the opportunity to discuss the cultures in some of our favorite cities, Paris, Mantes-La-Jolie and Marrakesh, this night was a reminder that any journey presents opportunities to surround yourself with people you can learn from.)

Thanks to Ashoka Fellow Abdellah Aboulharjan for the photo.

Looking back on 2015, I can say that no matter where you travel, you can always find reminders of your home (and second home).

As I look forward to 2016 in Dubai, I wish you the best of luck with your journey.

“La vida vale la pena. Sigan, mis hijos, porque la vida es bonita…”

Thanks to Kabul Wazir Mir for this photo of me looking at the old Dubai and new Dubai.

Elias Kamal Jabbe is a Communications Consultant, writer and translator from Los Angeles who is passionate about sharing Californian Creativity.

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Elías Jabbe ( #CaliCreativity) Founder Californian Creativity Course for Online Storytelling (Pre-order for 2022 #CaliCreativity Course now open at