As gulf news celebrates its 30th anniversary, we find out what the prominent people in the UAE think about the progress the nation and the newspaper has made

As an avid reader and school teacher, Magrudy's managing director Isobel Abulhoul has devoted her life to ensuring the UAE bookstore chain has a strong focus on education.

Born in Cambridge, England, Abulhoul met her Emirati husband in her home town and first came to Dubai in 1968 to meet her future in-laws.

"It was a completely different world," she recalled. "I remember a small bridge that cost you 25 fils to cross, there was no traffic at all and the beaches were incredible.
"The souq was the heart of Dubai and had an amazing Oriental feel to it."

Building from scratch

Abulhoul was a teacher at a Dubai infants school before Magrudy's was founded by the Abulhoul family in 1975.

Magrudy's started life as an educational toy shop. Though toys were the main product at the time, the company sold books from its inception.

"Because I'm from England I based the look and feel of the store on visits to English bookshops and had my own ideas about what it should look like." The first bookshop was situated where their current Educational Resource Centre is located on the Dubai to Sharjah road.

"Mind you, back then there were only two lanes of traffic and you could pull across and park your car on a sand lot right in front of the bookshop. There were no traffic jams in those days either!" she said. Today there are five major book stores in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi.

Abulhoul recalled what life was like when she first moved to Dubai where people would work in the mornings and work stopped at lunchtime.

"This was great. Everything shut down by 1pm and started again at 4pm. During this time we'd take a siesta, visit family and friends or go shopping - we never had a problem filling up the time."

These days the businesswoman makes a very early start, getting into the office by 7.30am but sometimes manages to revert to her old habits finishing earlier in the day to go have lunch at home.

She has five children, the youngest of whom is about to start university.

Association with Gulf News

The Abulhoul family has had a close association with Gulf News - Abulhoul's husband, prominent UAE businessman Abdullah Abulhoul, founded the newspaper
in 1978.

"I remember the newspaper being printed at the Abulhoul printing press, and I was an avid reader right from the beginning," Abulhoul said.

She remembers Gulf News' first editor Tim Edgar, who came from the Gulf Mirror in Bahrain to help set up Gulf News.

Abulhoul has also enjoyed working with Gulf News' current editor at large and former editor, Francis Matthew, who co-hosted a radio programme on books with her
on Saturdays.

Abulhoul feels people in the UAE are avid readers and the internet has not meant the end for books.

"People are not frightened of reading and use a lot of our fiction and reference books. The Arabic book readership is growing remarkably. When we opened a store in Deira City Centre with an Arabic section, customers made a beeline for these books."

Abulhoul said Dubai has experienced sudden growth in the cultural scene as well.

"When you're living in Dubai it's difficult to realise the pace of change. I don't think any city in the world has matched it."