Photographs, Images and Pictures of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE
Things not to photograph in Dubai and UAE: aircraft (OK at airshows and exhibitions), airports, army and military buildings and areas, palaces belonging to rulers (and probably houses belonging to anyone else with more wasta than you), consulates and embassies, police stations, military buildings, people without their permission (especially women and especially Emirati women), sea ports. We're not certain about government offices but we'd avoid them also. Even photographing hotels in Abu Dhabi seems to attract attention from the police according to some anecdotal stories. And just to overstate the obvious, don't take photos of signs which say "Photography not permitted" (or similar). At least one tourist has ended up in jail for doing that.
The Empty Quarter deserves a mention we think. It's an art gallery in Dubai specialising in fine art photographs. Not always of Dubai or the UAE, but sometimes. Location is in the DIFC Gate Village. Definitely worth a visit if you like that sort of thing. And there is a handful of other art galleries and showrooms in the same area.
- Art galleries in Dubai and the UAE - most art galleries are shops selling art, and it's a bit random whether or not they'll let you take photos. Some can be a bit fussy about it. Ask for permission if you're not sure, or find out by taking photos until someone tells you to stop. It might take longer for them to click (pun intended) if you switch off the flash and shutter noise and are quiet about it.
- Dubai Airport - usually airports are restricted areas for photography but if you look like you're taking photos of friends then you'll probably get away with it. Don't take photos anywhere near customs, immigration, passport control though. Taking photos from inside a plane of an airport might be restricted but you'll probably get away with that too.
- Dubai Metro - apparently ok to take photos in or of the metro but not of people without their permission. Security guards might get in a snot about you taking photos (or maybe it was just a bad day for the guy that told us off - we said yessirnosirthreebagsfullsir and scurried off).
- Museums in Dubai and the UAE - usually unrestricted.
- Shops and shopping malls in Dubai - taking photos inside shopping centers and shops seems to be ok if you're taking photos of friends, but not if you're just taking photos of shops and shopping centers - depends a bit on the mood of the security guard or shop owner watching you. It is more common for shops to have restrictions than shopping centers.
Tips for taking photographs in Dubai and UAE
Most photographers will probably know this stuff anyway but a few basic things ...
- Winter is much better than summer for taking photographs outdoors in Dubai and the UAE - there is much less haze and dust. The summer heat and humidity is not so good for photographic equipment (as well as being unpleasant for the photographer) although early mornings can sometimes be tolerable enough.
- Early mornings are much better than afternoons or evenings for reduced interference from haze and dust in the UAE when taking photos outside.
- Summer humidity sometimes drops off late at night so consider going out at midnight or later if you're in the UAE in summer and want night photos of pretty lights and stuff. June and July are better than August and September.
- Try to avoid using a flash when taking photos inside or at night, unless it's for a close up shot of a person or group of people somewhere dark. If you have a camera with an automatic flash, try to find the setting which forces it to remain off. And then always take at least 2 or 3 photos of the same thing - blurry photos due to camera shake might not be obvious until you see them on the computer. Most people can't hold a camera steady at shutter speeds slower than 1/60 of a second but Optical Stabilization can compensate for this at speeds down to 1/10 or 1/5 of a second and sometimes even slower as long as you don't use the zoom. Camera shake is amplified when zooming in.
- A tripod is a bit of a pain to carry around but if you want to take good photos at night, it is definitely worth considering. At least consider a mini-tripod which you put on a table, a car, a rock, the ground, etc. Switch off the car engine if you're using the car as a stable camera base - motor vibrations will make photos blurry.
Dubai photo websites
There are many websites with good photos of Dubai (or claiming to have the best photos of Dubai). One common subject is architecture photos of Dubai - the city is a bit of a showcase for fascinating and unusual designs (including a twisted tower under development in 2006, Zaha Hadid's Dancing Towers, and the Dubai Opera House).
Some Dubai photo websites with photographs of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and other emirates in the UAE are (links open in a new window):
- abudhabidailyphoto.blogspot.com - Adu Dhabi Daily photos, just like Dubai Daily Photos blog, but for AbuDhabi (offline? Try auhgal.blogspot.com?)
- www.cimx.de/panoramen/dubai/ - a handful of 360 panoramic images of Dubai - click on one and use mouse to spin it around and get dizzy. Clever. Can you see your toes?
- www.cedricdelsaux.com - The Dark Lens - The Dubai Invasion. Collection of photos of Dubai with a Star Wars theme. Brilliant! Spot the Star Wars characters and machinery in each one. By Cédric Delsaux, displayed in The Empty Quarter art gallery at DIFC from 08-31 December 2009. Website is awkward to navigate though. Choose language, click on the forward (>) button a few times (4 when we last checked) to get a list of works, then click on The Dark Lens heading to get thumbnails of his photos. Many other websites have copies of his images in an easier to navigate format. Unknown if with M. Delsaux's permission or not.
- www.dubai-fotos.de - superb photographs and images of a variety of subjects in Dubai.
- www.dubaiasitusedtobe.com - has a collection of links to pages with old photos of Dubai. Fascinating.
- dubaidailyphoto.blogspot.com - Dubai Daily Photos - blog with a new photo of Dubai every day (stopped August 2007?).
- imresolt.blogspot.com - Imre Solt construction photos of Dubai, a decent collection. There's also a website at www.imredubai.com but inexplicably, is blocked in the UAE.
- martin.becka.pagesperso-orange.fr - must be the coolest collection of Dubai photos we've ever seen, well, except for maybe the Star Wars ones. Photos use a technique called Waxed Paper Negative (no, we don't know what it is either, but we're looking for the WPN setting on our digital cameras). To find them, navigate to Photographies >> Dubai pos.
- www.pbase.com/bmcmorrow/dubaimain - Brian McMorrow - great collection of online Dubai photo albums.
- www.picturedubai.com - our Dubai and UAE photo collections.
- rakphotoblog.blogspot.com - Ras Al Khaima (RAK) daily photos (roughly), started in July 2009?
- www.theemptyquarter.com - The Empty Quarter art gallery website, with images of past and present photographic exhibitions.
And of course you can always search for Dubai pictures on the Google image search at images.google.com, or www.gettyimages.com (one of the largest and well known image banks for stock photographs worldwide, if not the largest).
Photography and Camera Clubs and societies in the UAE
- American University of Sharjah (AUS) Photography Club - club for American University Sharjah students and teachers.
- Arab Photographers' Union - more of a press members and journalists club than amateur photography society (APU HQ is at the Dubai Press Club).
- Camera Club of Dubai (CCD) - what it says. No website though. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DWTC Photography - club for members of the Dubai World Trade Center.
- Emirates Photography Club - might mean Emirates Airlines Photo Club, or one of the UAE Photo Clubs (one English, one Arabic).
- Emirates Airlines and Emirates Group Photography Club (EGPC).
- Lightform International Filipino Photographers Guild (LIFPG) (LFPG) - Filipino photography club in Abu Dhabi.
- Lightsource Filipino Photographers - Filipino photography club in Abu Dhabi.
- The UAE Photo Club - a meetup.com group. Infrequent meetings. Website at www.meetup.com/UAE-Photo-Club/
- UAE Photo - online photo and camera club with large readership (website in English) - the best place to start for English speaking visitors and residents interested in photography.
- UAE Photography Club, Sharjah.
- UAE Photos - another online photography club, in Arabic this time.
- UOWD Photography Club - club for University of Wollongong Dubai students and lecturers.
UAE universities and UAE colleges often have some sort of photography and camera club, also some of the schools in the UAE, but usually only for students and staff.
Warning, be careful taking photos in the UAE ...
Don't make the mistake of assuming you can take photos of whatever you like in the UAE and talk your way out of it if you get caught. Planespotters especially seem to be at risk of detention, and birdwatchers should also tread carefully. The UK Foreign Office warns tourists that "Hobbies like bird watching and plane spotting, may be misunderstood ..."
Ambassadors and Consul-Generals taking photos of their own embassies or consulates are probably ok; and diplomatic immunity should protect them if taking photos of mission buildings belonging to other countries.
The penalty for taking illegal photos in the UAE is reportedly a fine of up to AED 5,000, and/or a prison sentence of 1-3 months [not confirmed]. Minimum fine is apparently AED 500 but one case was reported in 2011 in which the defendant was fined AED 300.
Some examples ...
- 03 Mar 2015 (The Guardian): Three British men were arrested near Fujairah Airport on 21 February 2015, accused of "breaching national security", and imprisoned. They are planespotters who were reportedly taking notes, not photos. The report gave some conflicting information, also saying they were arrested on 22 February 2015 in Dubai (Fujairah and Dubai are different cities in the UAE).
- Nov 2014: An American visitor to Abu Dhabi was arrested and jailed on 21 Oct 2014 after taking photographs in a restricted area (some reports said the embassy area), but was apparently prevented from contacting anyone until 29 Oct 2014. He was in Abu Dhabi as one of the speakers at a conference on Creative Thinking. First reported 02 Nov 2014? The Daily Mail said on 04 Nov 2014 that he "... he innocently took a picture of sign banning photography", which sounded incongruent.
- Update 19 Nov 2014: He was found not guilty in a court hearing on 17 Nov 2014, and released the next day. A fine of AED 500 was imposed, and waived.
- Update 19 Jan 2015 (CNN): Apparently he had been warned once while walking around not took take photos in that area, and after the warning took a photo of the no photography sign, which resulted in his arrest and detention.
- 03 Feb 2014 (NL Times): Three Dutch planespotters were arrested in Fujairah in January 2014 and accused of espionage for taking photographs of "forbidden objects in restricted areas". Update: They were sentenced to 54 days in jail and released in March 2014.
- 07 May 2012: 7 Days reported 3 people were arrested, spent a night in jail, and fined AED 200 each, for taking photos of Abu Dhabi foreign embassies. The court case was on 06 May 2012, and one of the cases dated back 3 months. At the time of the arrest, the detainees had their passports and cameras confiscated, meaning they were stuck in the UAE waiting for their case to come up. The husband of one of the photographers was included in the suspect list (and also spent a night in jail), even though he apparently did not take any photos. The report said It is illegal in the UAE to photograph embassies.
- 02 Jan 2012: Three men went on trial for taking photos of the Qatari Embassy in Abu Dhabi, but claimed they were taking photos of the Capital Gate tower, located near the embassy. Two of the defendants also claimed they didn't take any photos at all. The case was adjourned.
- Nov (?) 2011: A visitor to the UAE was fined AED 300 for taking photos of the General Armed Forces HQ in Abu Dhabi. He said he was taking photos of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which is nearby.
- 2011 (?): A visitor from Korea was fined AED 500 for taking photos of the Syrian and Iranian embassies in Abu Dhabi. Unknown what he claimed to be taking photos of.
- 27 Jan 2011: Two expat residents from Bangladesh appeared in court for taking photos of the Yas Marina race track on Yas Island. Unknown why they were singled out from the thousands of visitors who take photos of the circuit every year.
- Nov or Dec (?) 2010: An Iranian tourist in Abu Dhabi was sentenced to a month in jail for taking photos of or near the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, near the Emirates Palace Hotel. His jail sentence was added to the 3 months he already spent in jail since his arrest.
- 2010 (?): A Japanese man was arrested for taking photographs at the Khalifa Industrial Zone in Taweelah, Abu Dhabi. He was reportedly charged with taking photos of "electrical machines and equipment." Court case result unknown.
- 2009 (?): An expat resident was arrested after taking photos near the Sheikh Khalifa Bridge in Abu Dhabi, and charged with taking photos of military installations. He said he was taking a photo of the sunset.
Last update Friday 13-Mar-2015