Blast from the past


Blast from the past
THEN AND NOW: (left to right) Luca as a four-year-old on the cover of the magazine almost 40 years ago; the entrepreneur at 42 today

As the WKND magazine evolves yet again, former cover boy Luca Farinella reminisces about how change seems to be the only constant, as always

By Sukayna Kazmi

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Published: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 28 Jun 2019, 2:00 AM

It was one of many sunny days in 1981 when a certain four-year-old was playing in the garden of his apartment building in Dubai with a mysterious box in his hand. The item was a solar-powered music box that he was playing with the help of the sun. A neighbour saw the little boy with his bowl haircut and cheeky smile, gripping the box - no more than the size of his little palms - and decided to snap a picture. That photographer was Ian Bain, then editor of the Khaleej Times' flagship magazine in 1981. As for the picture of the kid? It went on to become the cover of the magazine's 128th issue for a story on the potential of solar power.
Today, the four-year-old is 42. Luca Farinella has come a long way since, as has the WKND magazine. We catch up with him, as he reminisces about life in the UAE and the evolution of both the country and the well-loved magazine over the years.
Luca's connection with Khaleej Times goes back decades and he says he makes sure to update himself with the local news - even though he lives thousands of miles away in Geneva, Switzerland, today. "Almost 40 years ago, Khaleej Times was the only English-language newspaper in the Emirates and I have fond memories of my parents reading it at home. I remember often peering at the photos in the magazine as a child. Since then, I regularly look at the KT website to keep up-to-date with Emirati news - and always pick up a copy when I fly into Dubai or Abu Dhabi," he states.
He laughs as he recalls how his parents reacted when his picture became the cover and how, as a four-year-old, he did not quite grasp the magnitude of being on a national magazine's front cover. "My proud parents bought a ridiculous quantity of that particular magazine and handed them out to family and close friends. To this day, they have one of their 'collection' of my front covers framed in their study."
The Bains were good family friends, with a daughter Luca's age, says the Swiss-born Italian. "Although I don't recall the article, I like to believe the image was symbolic of changes in technology and maybe a metaphor for Dubai's expansion - since a music box is traditional, but a solar panel is modern and respects the environment."
Being on the cover was "big, albeit bittersweet now" for Luca. "I had my five minutes of fame at such a young age, sporting an iconic bowl haircut," he explains. "Given what has become of my hair now, I would happily return to those glory days!"
From attending the Dubai English Speaking School to spending weekends with friends at Al Nasr Leisureland, Dubai is a city full of childhood memories for him. "I can't forget how the Creek was constantly packed with dhows offloading their goods and the constant back-and-forth of abras transporting people. The souk, the smell of the fish market, the iconic clock tower and, of course, Sheikh Zayed Road - which, incredibly, at the time only had two lanes. It also only had two hotels that I can remember: The Intercontinental Hotel and the Sheraton; can you believe that?"
Despite moving to Geneva 15 years ago, starting his own business and a family, Dubai is still a place he can call home. "I feel like a part of Dubai is always with me and a part of me always remained behind in Dubai - something that's confirmed every time I land in the UAE," says the entrepreneur. "I speak three languages fluently; my wife is Swiss of American and Hungarian origin; and I have lived and travelled all over the world. I really think Dubai gave me a foundation where being international and embracing different cultures was normal, which has shaped me fundamentally as a person."
Even though he visits the country every year, the UAE always seems to surprise Luca with its new developments. "I was actually at the 20th birthday celebration party of the Burj Al Arab a few months ago. I remember when they were breaking ground to start building it. Now, we've got The Palm and Burj Khalifa -  it's never-ending."
Over the years, Luca has lived between Dubai, Amsterdam, London and Geneva. He started a Swiss-based private office called V3 Capital Partners that deals with wealth management and has been running for almost 10 years. "I hope to spend a lot more time in the UAE in the coming years. I've seen a strong interest in the work we do and the cost-savings and efficiencies we obtain for our clients. I believe there is space for us in the market, so I'm currently working on expanding my business in the region."
On a lighter note, we asked if he thinks he'll ever make a magazine cover again. "If WKND ever needs someone to be on the cover, feel free to call me!" he jokes. "It's been 40 years since the last, so I'm thinking, when I'm 80, I could be like, "Hey, WKND, want to do an update?"

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