Questions About Street Photography in Dubai, UAE

Discussion in 'Travel' started by crowdspotting, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. I will be spending a few weeks in Dubai in March 2011, and would like to know what the generally accepted norms are for making photographs or people in the street and other public places.

    My photographs are usually of crowds, and I use a wide-format Noblex, which is an odd-looking device but has the advantage of avoiding that "pro" look that can raise suspicion in some cities. Generally I go unnoticed.
    About Dubai, I am wondering:
    • Are there are any laws that I should know about, regarding public photography
    • Are there are customs or cultural considerations (for example, is shooting a particular subject considered "rude?" Must I ask before making a photograph of a person?)
    • Are there are security concerns about theft, etc. (beyond using common sense)
    • Are there any places that are universally off-limits to photography?
    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Jeff Phillips
    Signature URL removed. Not allowed per Terms of Use.
  2. You will be in a different country where the laws are not what you are accustomed to. In addition to civil law, you may also be subject to religious law - which can be even more restrictive. Therefore, you need to be much more reserved than you would be at home.
    Some of the more obvious rules are:
    - Always ask before photographing someone.
    - Never photograph women or children.
    - There will be restrictions on photography in some areas - the airport, and any military facilities, for example.
  3. Hi. Definitely a very good place to snap few shots. As far as the laws and the custom considerations you should not have any problems as long as you obey them.
  4. Louie's suggestions are sensible. In addition to asking for permission, offering somebody a couple bucks never hurts, either. I love to photograph in places where everybody has a price (and that price is LOW).
    To be extra cautious, check with the US State Department and a UAE embassy or consulate before you leave. I you see a policeman in your shooting area, ask in advance if you are allowed to shoot in that location. My experience is that cops appreciate it if you ask them before they have to approach you and give you a hard time. Usually it's not problem, and if they complain, move on to greener pastures.
    Above all, be careful. A British couple in Dubai was jailed for several weeks last year for public displays of affection. Anything can happen to you if some local disapproves of your actions, so be direct, friendly, cooperative, and treat everyone with a LOT of respect.
  5. I have a home in Dubai, though now I'm currently residing in Turkey. Photographing in Dubai is very relaxed. You can photograph without worries just about anywhere (malls, airports, mosques, etc). Police don't see photographers as a threat in the UAE. The only thing that I would suggest you refrain from photographing are 1. women (unless you have their permission) 2. people on the beach... especially women.
    And do NOT offer an Arab money to be photographed. It would be considered a cultural insult. If you did, I wouldn't be surprised if he turned around and offered you double to leave him alone. Just kindly ask and everyone will be all smiles. You'd be surprised how much people love to be photographed.
    On the other hand, if you offered a labor/construction worker (usually Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, or Sri Lankan) money for a photograph, I'm sure he'd be delighted considering how little they earn.
    I wonder if the british couple that Dan mentions is the one that was jailed for publically having sex on the beach. That's a bit more than a public display of affection. In the UAE its common for couples (even the fully covered arabs) to walk around holding hands, hugging, and even kissing on the cheeks . You just won't see full-on tongue action. And if you did, you definately don't want to be photographing such a thng... unless you want to be considered a perv. :) I'd actually love to take a photo of you taking a photo of such a scene. It would be great for my small 'street photography' collection. I can already imagine the photo... you'd be sharply in focus with the kissing couple blurred in the backgroung bokeh. hehehe
    My wife is able to get much better photos of women in the UAE than me. She once got a photo of a fully covered woman walking right by a scantily clad woman. In the background was a mosque next to a modern styled building.
  6. deleted double post... sorry
  7. And do NOT offer an Arab money to be photographed.​
    Interesting and good to know. Obviously, it wouldn't be appropriate to offer money to a Dubai banker or hotel manager. I was thinking of laborers, shoe shiners, etc.
    people on the beach...​
    I wouldn't do that anywhere. What happens on the beach stays on the beach.
  8. To every one on this thread, thanks for the excellent advice. This will make my time there more productive and less stressful.
  9. It is not a preferred kind of photographyand it is not welcome. But nobody is arrested, imprisoned or deported yet
    because of street photography here in Dubai. Correct me if I am wrong.

    This is my blog:
    Modesty aside, the photos in my blog are answers to your questions about the topic.
    Let the photos speak.

    As in New York, so is in Dubai.
    Just be extra extra extra careful shooting veiled women.
    The best approach is to ask them with a smile.
    If your intuitions say DON'T, then don't.

    Long live the streets and long live Dubai!

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