Join Emirates Woman in celebrating the UAE’s 45th birthday with an evocative gambol through some the country’s lesser-known sights.
The United Arab Emirates may be a relatively young country, but its history is a capacious one with a deep – and multifarious – cultural heritage.
This year marks the UAE’s 45th Union Anniversary and what better way to commemorate one of the most rapidly growing countries in the world than with a selection of powerful and passionate pictures snapped by four of the region’s leading female photographers? A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words. All photographs have been captured through the lens of the new iPhone7 – offering a razor-sharp and neoteric take on the UAE’s legacy.
Forty-five years ago leaders and citizens from across the seven Emirates believed in the power of union and worked together to build a great nation for many generations to come.
Working with Gulf Photo Plus (GPP), Emirati photographers Lamia Gargash, Olla Allouz and Huda Bin Redha, along with Dubai-based Irish photographer Marie-Claire Walsh, are each using their own vision and photographic eye to shed light on some of the country’s unseen gems. Enjoy the tour.
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For Irish photographer Marie-Claire, her move to Dubai four years ago allowed her to enrich her portfolio and connect with the wider UAE photographers’ community.
A member of the @igersduabi team which organises events for Dubai’s Instagram community, Marie-Claire truly appreciates the UAE’s traditions, culture and people and hopes that through her photography she can share with the world what the UAE means to her.
For Marie-Claire National Day is a day of pride. “I love how the UAE National Day brings together all nationalities. It’s a great opportunity for people to take some time to acknowledge how fortunate we are to live in this country. Seeing the flags appear from early November, watching the parade or catching the airshow of the Al Fursan team are some of my highlights every year. Ultimately, it’s about being grateful to be able to call the UAE home.”
One of Marie-Claire’s major sources of inspiration is the Emirati abaya. It’s this admiration that has spurred her on to create a series of #RocktheAbaya photographs. To her, shooting the abaya celebrates the women who wear them; their personality, creativity and style.
“The abaya is a beautiful piece of clothing,” says Marie-Claire. “The unique design and shape makes it very photogenic. For me, the combination of these factors shows that these women are empowered by their abayas and what they represent to them in today’s modern world.”
Huda Bin Redha
Theme: Beyond the Skyscrapers
A lawyer by profession and a photographer at heart, Huda started out taking photos of landscapes and iconic places during her travels. She loves adding a mysterious flavour to her shots by capturing a person’s photo from an angle that doesn’t necessarily reveal the face directly.
Passionate about the culture she learned from her family, for her, National Day is all about unveiling her country’s hidden history and roots. Through the lens of her camera, she wants to take us beyond the tall shiny skyscrapers of modern-day Dubai.
To reflect her passion for historical UAE landmarks, Huda captured iconic sites in Fujairah including Al Badiyah Mosque, which dates all the way back to the 15th century, Bithnah Fort, one of the oldest forts in the UAE as well as old Emirati houses that reflect traditional architecture. “It’s a journey for the people,” says Huda” adding, “I loved the sharpness and clarity of my shots, thanks to the optical and digital zoom features of the iPhone7.”
Ola Allouz graduated with an accounting degree from the UAE University before following her heart and passion by studying photography at the Emirates Fine Arts Society. Since then, her pure dedication to her art has won her a number of international awards and distinctions from around the world and she regularly participates in local and international exhibitions and events.
In pursuing her dream of photography, Ola found herself immensely drawn to street and fashion photography. “In my street photography, I tend to focus a lot on the old part of the Emirates, to portray the soul and the spirit of so many charming places that remind us of our humble beginnings – places that so many of us hold dear.”
To Ola, the UAE National Day is one of the most important times of the year and she endeavours to encapsulate the pride and joy she feels in being an Emirati in her work. Roaming around Dubai, Kalbaa, Sharjah, Ras Al Khamaih and Fujairah looking for “simple, intimate and original” photos, she loved the spontaneity the phone – “her companion” – afforded her.
“There is always something special about each and every country, but what sets apart the UAE is the spirit of the union, its people and the blend between old and new,” Ola enthuses.
Theme: Preserving Once Nostalgia
The first Emirati artist to represent the UAE at the 53rd Venice Biennial in 2009, where she showcased Familial Series, Lamia has a strong sense of National pride. After learning of the relocation of her mum’s favourite destination, Deira’s Fish & Vegetable Market, Lamia opted for a sentimental route, focusing on the authenticity of the old market.
For the American University of Sharjah graduate, who received her Master of Arts in Communication Design from the UK’s Central Saint Martin’s in 2007, National Day is “a joyous occasion to celebrate the UAE’s past achievements and foresight into the optimistic future. There’s a wonderful sense of pride, gratitude and joy that envelops the country around this time of the year. Streets are adorned with beautiful lights and flags. What I love the most is seeing my mother stock up on mini flags at least one month before the big day to distribute to family and friends.”
Deira’s Fish & Vegetable Market has always been a must-visit destination with its cacophony of sights, sounds and, yes, smells.
“The true essence of Dubai is found in these wonderful places. It may be loud, crowded, smelly and raw but it’s a unique experience that will be truly missed.” Lamia adds, “I have always felt a need to document this particular site because of its rawness and soul. Nothing is contrived: it’s so simple, yet so vibrant, noisy, quaint and human.”
“The ability to take clear shots in the market’s low light conditions meant I wasn’t limiting myself to specific lighting settings. The phone afforded me a great sense of freedom and flexibility.”