Breaking cultural Taboos at Egypt’s First Tattoo Convention

 

I had the privilege of spending around three weeks in Cairo last December working on the editorial desk and helping to plan television output for the day. It was the first time I was bound to a desk-job and I absolutely loved it, but I made a promise to myself to spend my weekends wisely figuring out places and people to photograph.

During my time there, tattoo artists in Egypt decided to meet and host the first Egyptian tattoo convention. In a country where tattoos are still quite taboo, surprisingly the parlors are quite loosely regulated. Tatoo artists have been operating since before the revolution, but now took the opportunity to bring the art form out into the open.

Many Muslims consider tattoos to be forbidden under Islamic law. Coptic Christians meanwhile, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have long had an association with the art.

Around 100 people turned out for the event, less than what the organizers had hoped for, although many saw it as a small step to raising awareness about the art form in a largely conservative society.

2013 – Year in Pictures

The mad scramble during assignment days leaves very little room for reflection and introspection. I’ve therefore decided to take a little bit of time in the past week to curate a gallery of the quieter photographic moments that have occurred in 2013. These photographs don’t necessarily represent the most exciting assignments in the past year, but these people’s stories have continued to resonate with me well past my allocated time with them. Nonetheless it’s important as a photographer to visualise tangible underlying photographic patterns in my work, especially when it’s displayed in an online gallery in chronological order. Here’s to 2014 – it’s time to push narrative and technical boundaries even further – Happy New Year.

Eid Camping in Dibba

Dibba, a quaint little town on the eastern coast, attracts hundreds of visitors, mostly families, during Eid and National Day celebrations.

For many years UAE residents and Emiratis used to pitch their tents along the beach, waking up to salty fresh ocean air mixed with the familiar scents of cardamom, saffron and coffee brewing in tents.  In recent years, however, Dibba Municipality has banned tents on the beach because of excessive litter, and suggested that visitors camp instead in the open space near by.

Despite this new regulation, hundreds of local families flocked to the area for Eid, among them Yaqoub Al Jasmi, his wife Zahra Al Balooshi and their extended family. For the past three years the 16-strong family and six of their domestic staff have driven down from Dubai to mark celebratory occasions in the open air. There is ample room to roam, run and drive their dune buggies yet still maintain their privacy within the confines of their campsite, which is no doubt why this place retains its popularity year after year.

– See more at: http://blogs.thenational.ae/photography/national-view/eid-camping-in-dibba-by-razan-alzayani#sthash.2kyRzTKT.dpuf

Kumzar

Our little fishing boat turned a corner and the village of Kumzar revealed itself to us in the most cinematic manner. Only a few hours from Dubai’s metropolis and I was approaching a tiny village hugged by mountains, peppered and preceded by modest blue fishing boats anchored along the bay. Hundreds of small fluttering Omani flags hung from red ropes that, when I squinted, created red, green and white lines that connected the rooftops to one another.

Other than processing the initial time-warp feeling as I began to walk around, what struck me the most was the oddity of knowing I was in Oman yet hearing a language spoken around me that wasn’t Arabic. I had never heard anything like it and found it difficult to isolate the Arabic words in their sentences. But the locals were quick to welcome us, and spoke to us so proudly of their heritage and their unique language. Although almost all residents have access to internet and satellite television, this town has no paved roads, and most Kumzaris seemed to prefer to relax by the water or outside their homes to socialise with their neighbors in their free time. The children had also made toys and instruments created out of left-over scraps of wood or buckets – tangible testaments that this would not be a playstation generation.

Having partially grown up in the Gulf my aim was to capture that nostalgic 1950′s Arabian Gulf era that I personally felt still existed in the village. More importantly, as a photographer and observer of cultures, I truly cherished the trust and accessibility the Kumzari women unquestionably gave me, knowing that they would probably never see the photos unless I made the long journey back there to show them.

– See more at: http://blogs.thenational.ae/photography/national-view/kumzar-by-razan-alzayani#sthash.agXpo54E.dpuf