2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

7 years in Dubai

December this year I will be completing my seventh year in Dubai.

Seven years full of memories.

The one thing I cherish the most about my time in Dubai is the space that I feel I have to be what I can be, and the chance to interact and meet people who help me grow and make this place beautiful after you stop noticing the tall buildings and massive shopping malls.

This blog entry will keep on growing for the next few weeks with portraits of people from Dubai, total and random strangers and hopefully friends too.

As I walk around and approach and photograph random strangers I hope my friends will reach out and give me a chance to photograph them and catch up.

I am doing this to show the people of Dubai who are to me is the most amazing aspect of this city and a tribute to friends who have come and go, strangers who touch our lives in one way or another and everyone who make this magical place shine.

I will mainly be photographing on the Dubai Creek side as this is one of my favourite places in the city so if you want to be part of this project, do let me know by filling the bellow contact form and I’ll let you know when my next visit is so you can join me for a walk on the creek side a hot cup of karak¬†tea and personal portrait.

I will be adding photographs to this entry, and sharing #MyDubai until 23rd of December so stay tuned… ūüôā

 

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Faces from Muscat

Last weekend I picked up my camera bag, called my cousin¬†and headed out to the old part of Muscat to walk around and capture some street portraits, special thanks to Dr. Fahad AlKindy for coming along.¬†For¬†people who know me “coming along” translates to holding a boom with a soft box or as is known in photographer circles becoming a “VALS”.

Souk AlThalam “The dark Souk” the common name of this market is such a contradiction, to this place that offers a glimpse to the diverse and bright heritage¬†of the people Oman a history and present that is characterised by tolerance and diversity.

Even with the growing number of tourists visiting the Muttrah Souk, it is still an important local destination for local people from Muscat and the rest of the country. This is where people come to buy a wide verity of goods from spices, perfumes, to jewellery and traditional cloths.

Exploring the Souq is like a treasure hunt, walking around the narrow alleyways lined with the little shops; It is easy to lose yourself for hours moving from one alleyway to another. At the end of this adventure you can take a break and have some traditional milk tea or a cold juice and a sandwich.

 

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Unknown Man from Muscat with a cup of tea

 

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A boy from the Ash Sharqiyah region of Oman visiting the Muttrah Souk with his elder brother

 

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A man from Yemen working and living in Sur visiting the Muttrah Souk

 

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A shop keeper from the Souq taking a break by the water front

 

Colour and Grace by the Dubai Creek

Around 2009 a friend introduced me to a new part of Dubai, this part of the city has been a source of discovery and inspiration ever since.

I frequent the Mina Bazar regularly, and I would even say; this place has contributed to my growth as a photographer. My friend has left Dubai, but I would think of her gift to me every time I went over and walked around this part of Dubai.

After so many years my friend Ashifa visited Dubai and we had a chance to explore the Mina Bazar together again, walking around the textile market then crossing the Dubai Creek on the traditional Abra over to the Spice Souq on Deira side of Dubai and then back to Bur Dubai side again.

As the¬†Friday afternoon sun¬†started cooling down, the area next to the creek started getting more active with weekend visitors of the market and the surrounding cafe’s and gardens.

As I we walked between people through the brutal August humidity occasionally feeling a refreshing breeze the one thing that kept on catching my attention was the ladies in their colourful Saris and Shalwar kameez gracefully standing with their friends and socialising or walking around with their partners or spouse.

Adding an amazing touch of colour and grace to the creek side, at the close of another day of discovery of my favourite part of Dubai.

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More rhythms from Amman

I don’t know if it’s the rolling hills or the magnificent country side, that has heightened my sense of sound; but I keep on picking up rhythms and music everywhere I go from the calls of vendors in the market to the sounds of car horns and the bells hanging from the necks of sheep on the outskirts of the city, I feel that Amman has constant musical beat.

Then I had an opportunity to attend a rehearsal by the Dozan wa Awtar Singers, conducted by an old friend, Nedy Muna, who has been working with the group since it was founded by Shireen Abu Khadar in 2008, now becoming what I think is an integral part of the Amman cultural scene.

As with the rest of the region, the injustice¬†to the people of¬†Gaza have had it’s¬†impact on everyone, bringing people together to try and support and raise awareness about the plight of the women, children and families living there.

The rehearsals I attended were in preparation for an upcoming concert “A Prayer For Gaza Fundraiser” , planned on the 7th and 8th of August.

Listening to the rehearsals, if you happen to be in Amman on these dates I would highly recommend you try and make it, you will be listening to beautiful singing and supporting a worthy cause.

Visit the event Facebook page on for details.

 

Mai rehearsing a solo as of a four voices choir arrangement

Mai rehearsing a solo as of a four voices choir arrangement

Dozan wa Awtar singers rehearsing at the Halim salfiti auditorium.

Dozan wa Awtar singers rehearsing at the Halim salfiti auditorium.

Nemat, rehearsing an Arabic Mawal in preparation for the Prayer for Gaza concert.

Nemat, rehearsing an Arabic Mawal in preparation for the Prayer for Gaza concert.

Poetry

Watani Ant Le

 

Shireen Abu Khadar the founder of the choir leading the rehearsal along side of Nedi Mona the conductor

Shireen Abu Khader the founder of the choir leading the rehearsal along side of Nedy Mona the conductor

 

Samia Ghanom working with the choir on the musical arrangements of the concert

Samia Ghanom working with the choir on the musical arrangements of the concert

 

Notes

Notes

Amman the city with a welcoming rhythm

The last time I was in Amman, was back in 1993 for a short visit to one of my dear friends. Over the years, the houses on the sides of of the hills under a beautiful blue sky and the warmth of it’s people is how I have always visualised this city.

After twenty one years of Amman growing geographically¬†it¬†has retained the warmth of it’s character, and the hospitality¬†of it’s people.

I felt I should start my visit to Amman by visiting what I always felt was the heart of every city; the fruit and vegetable market, the place where real residents of a city converge to for their necessities and to me visual festival of colour and light.

The market welcomes you with it’s sounds and scents before you even actually reach it, with the rhythmic calls of the vendors announcing their prices in improvised and very catchy rhythms.

The welcoming smiles of the people, the smell of fresh fruits and songs of the vendors set the rhythm for me as I started exploring this beautiful country and it’s amazing people.

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Tomato vendor calling for his produce in the old market in Amman, Jordan.

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Banana Seller Calling for his products

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Vegitble vender keeping his products fresh

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Apples and Peaches

Calm in the storm

In our fast paced society, where constant improvement and the next best thing are the prevalent conditions, Abu Mohammed starts his day before sunrise to make a living from a fast disappearing profession using traditional methods in city evolving at break neck speeds.

On a rare stormy Dubai morning, it was still very dark out as I drove on the Sofouh road headed to Jumeirah fishing port. Driving through the sparse rain and looking at the lighting across the horizon, I wasn’t all too sure that I’d be able to achieve what I set out to do, at four in the morning.

I arrived at the Jumairah fishing pier just before Sunrise, to find a busy hub of movement, a bustle of sound, as workers readied their small fishing boats for the day’s work ahead; loading fish traps, fuel tanks and checking engines.

Abu Mohammed arrives at the pier and greets me, with his calm demeanour; a stark contrast to the turbulent weather around him! He asks me if I’m okay with hitting the sea waters in this weather, I nod back in agreement as I double-check that I have spare batteries and memory cards on hand. I jump on the boat and we head out.

 


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Sunrise over cloudy Dubai

 

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The bee’s knee, a taste of Omani honey

Awad AlAwfi greets us with his beaming smile and invites us into the living room of the family house in Wadi Bani Awf. As we walk into the house we could see make-shift shades where the palm tree trunk bee hives are arranged, sheltered from direct sunlight.

We were treated with customary Omani hospitality, served with fruits, followed by dates and coffee as pleasantries and introductions were being exchanged. Awad, sitting next to his uncle, started explaining the traditional Omani bee keeping process; telling us about the different seasons and explaining the quality of honey from each season.

Omani bees are smaller than the typical honey bee, Awad explains to us, and are far less aggressive – a fact I was thinking of as I was standing moments later in my t-shirt and cargo pants, photographing Awad as he was removing honey from one of the hives.

The bees were clearly disturbed and confused by our presence and I felt them bumping into me as they were flying around franticly. I was holding my breath waiting for the inevitable sting that thankfully never came.

As we walked back to the house to extract honey from the wax disks freshly removed from the palm tree trunks, I expressed my surprise that I wasn‚Äôt stung a single time. Awad looks at me smiling and says: ‚ÄúOur bees are calm like we are‚ÄĚ.

Read more about this story in Brownbook magazine issue 45.

Awad AlAwfi opening one of the bee hives looking for honey

Awad AlAwfi opening one of the bee hives looking for honey

Palm tree trunks cut and hollowed out, then stacked.

Palm tree trunks cut and hollowed out, then stacked.

Cutting out disks of natural bee wax containing honey

Cutting out disks of natural bee wax containing honey

Awad holding a fresh disk of bee wax

Awad holding a fresh disk of bee wax

Holding disks of wax before the honey get's extracted from them

Holding disks of wax before the honey get’s extracted from them

The colourful part of the wax disk contains flower pollen

The colourful part of the wax disk contains flower pollen

Collecting honey disks that are naturally produced by bees

Collecting honey disks that are naturally produced by bees

Awad presenting a fresh ball of Omani honey

Awad presenting a fresh ball of Omani honey

 

 

Rose terraces

A view of the village of AlShirejah in AlJabal AlAKhdar “The Green Mountain” in Oman, as the day draws to a close.

Extending from the centre to the bottom left of the first photograph you can clearly see the terrace gardens that roses are grown in amongst many other crops such as Apricots, grapes and Pomegranates.

We spent the morning photographing Abdul Kareem bin Saif AlSuqry as he hand picked roses from the steps, that are then sent to his brother Abdullah  in the village of Seeq to extract traditional Omani rose water.

Rose water and fragrance extraction is a traditional industry AlShereja and surrounding villages that men like the AlSuqri brothers have practiced for more then a millennia; a craft amongst many that are rapidly disappearing in the region.

During the blossom season Abdullah would work around the clock extracting rose water as the sacks full of roses keep on coming in from the gardens every morning; as the roses have to be processed while they are still fresh. Abu Jamal who we met during our last visit to Jabal Akhdar us told stories of his father staying away from his families in his distillery working day and night for up to 8 weeks on a good season.

The process involves heating the roses in special clay ovens to extract the liquid in them, the resulting rose water is then collected and left to settle in large clay pots for at least six weeks before it is bottled and sold. Omani rose water has a wide range of uses from medicinal to culinary and is highly sought after across the region.

Village of AlSherajah in the early evening

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A closer view of the Rose terraces of Jabal AlKhdar

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Abdul Kareem picking roses early in the morning before the scent is evaporated by the sun

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Roses are picked by hand

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Abudllah AlSuqry preparing roses brought to him in the morning

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Abdullah sitting on the distilling wood ovens explaining the process of extracting the rose water with his hand above the covered vents of the ovens.

Abdullah filling fresh flowers into the oven for distillation

Abdullah filling fresh flowers into the oven for distillation

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A view of one of the roads cutting through the mountain

 

Special thanks to my friend Ziyad Alarfaj for all the help and support on this project.

Standing tall

Passing the village of Al Khitaym at the start of the famous W6 balcony walk in Jabl Shams, I spotted Waleed and his brothers working on their home garden.

I greeted them and asked them if I could take a photograph he stepped forward knowing that I was addressing him.

I asked him where he wanted me to photograph him, he walked to the steps and stood there with the shovel still in his hands, unlike most of my subjects I did not have to pose Waleed.

His pride in helping his elder brothers was evident in the way he stood there gently supporting the shovel and looked at the camera with a naturally confident smile.

I did not have to pose Waleed… all I had to do was talk to him and wait for his expressions settled as he posed after answering me before I released the shutter.

 

Omani boy from Al Khitaym village in Jabl Shams  standing proud

Omani boy from Al Khitaym village in Jabl Shams standing proud

 

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