Photography tour explores Dubai’s oldest streets

This Ramadan, Gulf Photo Plus and Frying Pan Adventures are offering tours of Dubai’s oldest streets.

Dubai perhaps isn’t a city that is explored so much as experienced; most of its attractions are plotted, purpose-built and presented on a beautifully prepared plate. Massive skyscrapers, man-made islands, seven-star hotels and celebrity-branded restaurants are all amazing because a team of experts have ensured they are amazing – and all with valet parking. Nothing wrong with that, of course, as 12 million-plus tourists will attest to every year.

There are, though, pockets of the city that are fascinating precisely because they aren’t pre-packaged. The alleyways of the Naif district, for instance, which are nestled in the western fringes of Deira near the Fish Market, are packed with the kind of chaotic jumble one would expect in the Middle East – and whose sights, sounds and daily routines are largely unchanged from the earliest days of the Emirates.

In Ramadan, Gulf Photo Plus and Frying Pan Adventures are leading tours of the area, enabling photographers – professional and amateur – to share the atmosphere of the Holy Month with the people who live and work here. Imraan Dudhia, workshop manager and instructor at Gulf Photo Plus, told ShortList what to expect.

What is the thinking behind this?
We started it last year thinking it was a wonderful opportunity for some “cultural immersion”, to enable people to see a part of Dubai they wouldn’t normally see.

Why this particular district?
Naif has a lot of character, it’s a very “real” part of the city. The community is mainly made up of people from South Asia, so Pakistanis, Afghans, Bengalis and Indians, and at sunset during Ramadan, everyone gets together to break their fast. In the district’s narrow streets, they hold communal iftars, with plastic sheets stretched over the floor and volunteers from the local mosques handing out more than 3,000 meals every day during the month.

What will people see on the tour?
Hopefully the generosity, humility and unity of the people here; we begin the tour about an hour before sunset, so they can get a sense of the build-up, and we encourage the group to meet and interact with the people here, learn what Ramadan means to them.

It must be important that the local people don’t feel on display, though…  they’re not exhibits.
Very. It’s something we’re aware of. Everyone who leads the tours is either born or raised in Dubai and the people in the Naif are our neighbours and friends. Almost everyone is welcoming, and happy to talk and even take selfies themselves! They see it as a chance to share their culture with people who don’t always visit this neighbourhood.

What’s the photography element?
We will be going through some basic techniques, how to shoot in these light levels, composition, that kind of thing. But it’s not just for experienced photographers with expensive kit. People can some with point-and-shoot cameras or even just their phones.

As Frying Pan Adventures are involved, what’s on the menu?
We end up in an Afghani restaurant. It’s a chance to reflect on the tour and also savour some excellent, authentic food.

Unseen Trail: Discover the Spirit of Ramadan
When: June 11, 5.30pm
Price: AED595 per person

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