Top 10 places to shoot in the UAE
Updated on Tuesday, July 31 2012
When the weather is fine, there’s nothing better than a location shoot. Whether you dig street photography, want an interesting backdrop for your portraits or love landscapes, we round up the best locations the region has to offer… so no more excuses for you to not get out and shoot!
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Chances are you've driven by it, but if you haven’t made a visit yet you’re seriously missing out.
This gargantuan mosque is brimming with amazing opportunities to capture stunning architecture, beautiful details (including 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers – so very UAE) and a healthy dose of culture. Best of all, as it holds an annual photography competition, the mosque is very photographer friendly (though you may have to skip the tripod).
Best times: Open daily to visitors, except on Friday morning, which is for worshippers only.
Getting there: Click here for full location details.
2. Kushti Wrestling, Deira
A truly unique photo opportunity, this 'organised' (yet totally unofficial) sporting event takes place every Friday in the later part of the afternoon before evening prayer time. A real spectacle to behold, wriggle through the crowd for a good vantage point. The organisers, participants and enthusiastic fans are welcoming and generally happy to be photographed – after they have determined that you're working for the authorities.
Best times: Fridays, late afternoon before Maghrib prayer time.
Getting there: Take the Shindagah tunnel from Dubai towards Deira and once you get off the tunnel, stay left and make a U-turn at the traffic light and just before you hit the tunnel, there will be an exit towards your right for the Fruit & Vegetable Market. Head back towards - you will see signs for the Fruit & Vegetable Market and the Kushti wrestling takes place either just behind the market in a sandlot or in the sandlot just across from the Hyatt Regency. Here are the GPS coordinates for it: 25.277191, 55.302311 or a link to the Google Map here.
3. Fish, Fruit & Vegetable Markets, Deira
If you're planning an adventure to the Kushti wrestling (item 2 on this list), we strongly recommend making a day of it with a trip to these nearby markets. Capture the vibrant colours of the fruit and vegetable market, detail shots of the catch of the day, document a day in the life of the traders, or grab some impromptu portraits. Generally the people there are happy to be photographed (in fact, it's best to keep as low key as you can to avoid a queue).
Best times: Open every day, get there really early to capture the hustle and bustle
Getting there: Fish market is in Deira, go through Al Shindagha Tunnel and it's right there, opposite the gold souks. You'll smell it before you see it. Also, see above for directions to Kushti which is right by the markets.
4. Ghost Town, RAK
Off the beaten track, this one is a real gem. In fact, we're pretty sure that we're breaking some vow of secrecy in the photographer's code by sharing this location. Try your hand at some landscape and HDR photography to take in the textures or drape your model among the ruins.
Best times: sunrise/sunset
The town is around 18km south west from Ras Al Khaimah.
Drive towards the Emirates Road R/A. Once at the roundabout, do not turn towards Dubai but go straight and continue along the coast. After about 5km you pass the modern village of Jazirat Al Hamra, then turn to the right, there is also a sign: Al Jazirat Al Hamra. After 900m you will see the Al Jazeera Port sign, turn here to the right and then take a first turn left. After 400m enter the old village by turning left onto the dirt road and explore the village.
GPS: Wind Towers House: N25o42’ 40.56” E55o47’ 44.38”
Old Mosque: N25o42’ 42.00” E55o47’ 36.61”
Fort and watch towers: N25o42’ 32.17” E55o47’ 49.45”
5. Garhoud Bridge, Dubai
As the sun sets over the city, this place really comes in to its own as its vivid lights cast a neon blue glow on its surroundings and reflect off the Creek. A wonderful spot for a bit of night photography.
Best times: From dusk till dawn
Getting there: Find the bridge here.
6. Bastakiya to Al Ghubaiba Bus Station, Dubai
A recommendation from our friends at Street Photography Dubai (if this is your thing, these guys are really committed to the Street Photography cause – find their group on Facebook). The general hustle and bustle in this area means that there are always opportunities for great street photography whenever you visit. We have organised a few photo walks in this area, including Bur Dubai and the Creek Side and have never been disappointed with the results.
Best times: anytime! Though Friday morning and daytime tends to be a lot quieter.
Getting there: Bastakiya is right next to the Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai. Here's the link to the Google map - you can even take the Metro to Al Fahidi Station and it's a 10-15mins walk from there.
7. Al Dhafrah Festival, Abu Dhabi
This happens just once a year, but is definitely one to put in your diary. The Al Dhafra Camel Festival has an abundance of unique scenes just crying out to be documented photographically. From the set up of the festival, to the dedicated special shows for 'Asayel' (pedigree) and 'Majahim' (dark-skinned) camels, to the infamous and rare 'camel beauty contest'. A must-see spectacle for UAE photographers.
8. The Dhow Building Yard, Dubai
Not far from the Bur Dubai Abra docks (close to Al-Gharhoud Bridge), along the Dubai Creek, the Dhow Building Yard is an extensive marina, where you can step back in time and capture boat builders at work. They still use traditional tools and Sheesham wood to hand-build the dhows that sail the creek. Notably, this is the world's biggest dhow building center. You'll always see the boat builders at work - as 20-30 boats are built at the same time.
Best times: you'll almost always see the boat builders at work as 20-30 boats are being built at any one time
Getting there: Al-Gharhoud Bridge, Dubai Creek waterfront, Dubai - map here
9. Global Village
All the fun of the fair, fireworks and international market stalls making and selling unique craftware, each country with a different feel. We suggest taking a tour of the market stalls in the afternoon to make the most of the golden hour, then heading the the fun fair at dusk to make dynamic shots (don't forget your tripod).
Check out this video from our Photo Walk at Global Village:
Best times: Late afternoon - night time. Open to the public from 21 October 2012 - 30th March 2013.
Getting there: Find directions here.
10. Heritage Village, Abu Dhabi
A fabulous spot for a portrait session, the Heritage Village offers an abundance of backdrops in one small and convenient location. Go from the farm (complete with camel and donkey), to the recreated traditional buildings and Bedouin camps complete with traditional crafts people, cross the quiant bridge over the duck pond, to the quiet beach with a cityscape backdrop.
Best times: Get there early to avoid the crowds and the midday sun.
(Open: Sat-Thu from 9am to 5pm, and Fri from 3.30pm to 9pm)
Getting there: Located on the Breakwater, next to Marina Mall and big flag pole. See map here.
Now Go! Shoot!
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Think we missed a cool location to shoot?
If you know a great spot, please let us know! (email@example.com)