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

Hissa Hilal’s Poem Against Extremism

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Hissa Hilal, right after she made news headlines all over the world through the Abu Dhabi TV Show, Million’s Poet.

The people of the Arabian Gulf have a deeply rooted century-old tradition and a love for reciting poetry. In an effort to revive this beautiful art, The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage launched a reality TV show (very much like American Idol) named Million’s Poet.  Poets compete from all over the Gulf region, writing and reciting various forms of bedouin and arab poetry. The winner of the show receives 1 Million Dirhams.

Hissa Hilal, a Saudi housewife, stood up on a podium and recited a poem in front of millions of viewers. This poem openly attacked a Saudi cleric for his “ad hoc” fatwas; naturally the poem instantly sparked controversy in Saudi Arabia. Some viewers praised her for her courage, but some also criticized her for speaking publicly and “attacking Islam”. Hissa also received death threats.

As the show is shot in Abu Dhabi, we managed to get Hissa to come into our studio to recite the poem herself.  She’s definitely one of the bravest more inspiring and warmest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Talking to her firsthand, I could see the hope she had for positive reform in her country.

If you’re wondering how those dreamy shots came to be, some shots in this video were shot with lensbaby on a Canon 5DMKII.