How 1999's 'Life in Sunny Dubai' posters are making a comeback
Illustrator Russ North has begun printing new editions of the much-loved wall decoration
Twenty years ago it was the must-have decoration to hang on the wall of your UAE villa or apartment. An illustrated map of the city whose title perfectly summed up the mood: Life in sunny Dubai.
Today, copies of the original poster are both collectors items and a treasured memory of time in the Emirates. And the good news is that there is still more life in sunny Dubai.
The 3D illustration is the work of Russ North, who arrived in the country in 1979 at the age of 22 with a job offer from an advertising agency in Sharjah.
After moving on to the listing’s magazine What’s On as art director, Mr North, from Essex, a county east of London, eventually decided to go freelance with an idea for a souvenir poster for residents and the growing tourist market.
There was no Google, no Street View. I was literally driving around and drawing block by block, section by section
Creating the first Dubai poster was no easy task in the 1990s. He worked on it for six months. “There was no Google, no Street View. I was literally driving around and drawing block by block, section by section,” he remembers.
News of his work reached Dubai Municipality, who officially commissioned the poster in 1999 with a print run of 30,000 in English and 20,000 in Arabic.
Shrewdly, Mr North then reached a deal with Dubai to handle the sales and distribution rights the following year, with a company he set up in Media City.
Originally hand drawn, the poster went through at least three changes before Mr North left the UAE in 2015. “They were building quicker than I could draw,” he says.
Today he lives in Thailand, in countryside outside the coastal city of Pattaya, but continues to work on his illustrations, which now include London, and shortly, Paris.
Advances in technology mean these new posters can viewed on his website, CityViewMaps, and are fully interactive.
But Mr North has not forgotten Dubai, and has created new editions from Thailand, even though he is now 5,000 kilometres away.
For those who want to remember their time in the Emirate, there is what he calls a “nostalgia” version, highlighting the 36 years he spent in the UAE and what he calls “the 75 leading places to remember and colourful characters.”
The original map has also been completely reworked to the city as it is now.
He is also working on a third map with a different perspective, viewing the city from Jebel Ali towards Deira, taking in new landmarks like Expo 2020, Al Maktoum International Airport and the cluster of theme parks along the Sheikh Zayed Road.
Like Dubai, the updated version of the 1999 original is also changed almost beyond recognition. It includes the Burj Khalifa, of course, but also the Eye of Dubai on Bluewaters Island and the Dubai Canal, both of which opened after he left.
The illustrations are also highly detailed, down to a tiny QE2, now a floating hotel moored in Mina Rashid.
Mr North describes his style as “larger than life” meaning that while all the landmarks are included, it is not possible to draw every villa and apartment block.
“My work is as accurate as possible but with artistic licence,” he says. “With today's technology I can work from anywhere as long as I get a good internet line.”
Sadly, he currently has no plans to update or republish a similar illustration he made of Abu Dhabi, feeling that he is just not familiar enough with the capital to do it properly.
The new maps are printed on high quality paper in London, with a new option to have then personalised for small extra charge, a refinement made possible thanks to computer technology that makes it easy to insert a workplace, home address or favourite nightspot.
He is currently updating his website to include them, but says anyone interested can place an order through his email, email@example.com.
The appeal of the posters, he says, is simple. “It brings back memories and puts a smile on your face," he said.
Updated: June 28, 2020 10:49 AM