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Geekfest Abu Dhabi – the NOT Dubai edition

Posted on 04-03-2011

This post was written for MEGamers.com – to view the article and pics, go here. Also for a spectacular writeup by @hishamwyne go here and a post at the fabulous Mich Cafe can be found here.



The word should now be familiar to anyone in Dubai who’s on Twitter or Facebook. The UN-organized event attracts a sizeable crowd each time, as geeks and regular folk alike congregate to network, attend talks, munch on some excellent food, and generally take way too many pictures. So when Geekfest’s founding father Alexander McNabb and tbreak decided to bring Geekfest to Abu Dhabi this weekend, we didn’t quite realize what we were getting ourselves into.

Being somewhat of a Geekfest veteran, I naturally wanted to be part of this momentous occasion, and tagged along. Myself and a few other elite twitterati boarded the newly-christened “Geekfest bus” and headed over to the twofour54 premises, the site of the first ever Geekfest Abu Dhabi. Upon arriving, we were ushered into the building and in a Geekfest first, were asked to hand over IDs to gain guest-passes into the building (I had to refrain from decorating my pass with glitter and other shiny things).

We were one of the first few people to arrive at the twofour54 auditorium, so we sauntered past Alexander (who was attempting to get onto the wi-fi and failing miserably – har har) to the tables in the corner where we were treated to some fantastic pizza and some freshly brewed push-button coffee. As time ticked by more people started showing up, they all had one thing in common – a gaze of utter bewilderment and an expression that clearly read “What on earth is going on here?” There were so many times when people came up to me and asked me things like “What is the agenda?” “What time does it end?” or something similar. The beauty of Geekfest is that it’s supposed to be UN-organized (as opposed to dis-organized as Alexander clearly pointed out) so it essentially starts when it does, and ends when you want it to. It was great to see quite a number

After the crowds had settled in their seats, the GeekTalks began. First up was Alexander McNabb who talked about how Geekfest came to be, and discussed how its success has spread to other cities such as Cairo and Beirut. Geekfest has become a life force in itself but has still managed to retain its UN-organized attitude and community feel. Our next speaker was Nayla Al Khaja, who passionately talked about making films as well as the hurdles of censorship in the region. Her talk was insightful and hilarious at times, and was great fun to listen to. Next up was Mark Makhoul, the blogger behind popular Kuwait blog 248am, who joined us via Skype to talk about being sued by Benihana Kuwait. While I won’t ramble on about the specific details of our discussion, it was interesting to finally hear from the man himself about all the media frenzy that has surrounded his case. Finally, we heard from Ali Alsaloom, the man behind Ask-ali.com He had the crowd in stitches of laughter as he narrated some of the misconceptions that some visitors have had when coming to the country (including asking if a visa is needed to go from Abu Dhabi to Dubai). His talk was funny yet had some important points to take home, and we were glad to have him attend.

As with GeekFest Dubai, we had our little corner for gaming, and EA Middle East were on hand showing off the gorgeous Crysis 2 for people to take a shot at, so a very big thank you to them. Huge thanks of course to twofour54 for providing us with a space to call our own, and of course a huge thank you to our speakers and everyone who attended – we couldn’t have done it without you all.

See you at the next #Geekfest!

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