Everyone knows that the UAE is packed with photo opportunities - but where does one begin? We’ve been Dubai’s center for photography for more than a decade, and during this time, we’ve explored the ins and outs of the UAE for the best places to capture interesting photos.
Whether you’re in search of a sleek background for your next Instagram post, a place to capture the Dubai skyline, or simply want to practice your newfound skills from our Photography Level 1 workshop, these ten recommendations are sure to inspire your creativity.
1. Creekside, Dubai
The Creek is the lifeline and pulse of Dubai, separating the city from Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south. You can take an abra from one side to the other and back for only 1 AED! Whichever side you decide to explore, the combination of lively streets, crowded shops, and tempting culinary offerings always makes for interesting photos. Every time we stroll along the Creek with camera in hand, we’re transported to the Dubai of old, a time before towering skyscrapers, sprawling malls, and speeding sports cars became synonymous to the city’s name.
Capture the soul of Old Dubai as you put your photography skills to the test - whether it’s through street, portraiture, cityscape, or travel photography.
If you truly want to unearth the rich history behind this side of Dubai, join one of our Unseen Trails, run in collaboration with Frying Pan Adventures. You can also check out the Analog Photography in UAE Facebook group, where they plan photo walks and meetups in the country’s less-explored areas.
We love the photo on the left, which was shot on film by Arvind Madhu, a member of the Analog Photography in UAE Facebook group. Check out more of his work on Instagram @arvindmadhu. Photographer Khadija Ibtisam also explored the Creek and got this shot by the shipyard. See more of her work on Instagram @kibtisam.
Best Times to Go: An hour or two before sunset. Click here for sunrise & sunset timings.
Getting There: Avoid the traffic and take the metro to either Al Fahidi Metro Station or Al Ras Metro Station. Find out more details about the abra ride here.
2. Kushti Wrestling, Deira, Dubai
For action-packed photo opportunities, look no further than the Kushti wrestling matches in Deira every Friday, from the late afternoon onward. This weekly sporting event is a sight to behold, with its cacophonous crowd of spectators cheering and rooting for their preferred contenders. Spectators, participants, and organizers are usually more than happy to be photographed. Make it clear that you aren’t with the government, though - they’re an “unofficial” sporting event.
These dynamic images were captured by Mohamed Somji. Check out his website here.
Timings: Every Friday, late afternoon to evening before Maghrib prayer time. Click here to see prayer times.
Getting There: It varies week to week, but the wrestling takes place either just behind the market in a sandlot or the sandlot across Hyatt Regency. Click here for the map.
3. Four Points by Sheraton and Shangri-la Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai
Every photographer needs to know where to go to get that perfect Dubai cityscape shot. We're happy to share that Level 43 Sky Lounge in Four Points by Sheraton provides easy access and has a fantastic view of the city.
You can also go to the Shangri-la Hotel pool deck for a different angle of the Burj Khalifa, its surrounding buildings, and Sheikh Zayed Road. Just make sure to email the hotel in advance.
A word of warning - be cautious about bringing tripods along. If you do plan on using a tripod, message the hotel ahead of time to inform them, and get the hotel management’s permission.
These images were taken by one of our community members, Anna Shtraus. Connect with her on Instagram and read her blog to learn more about the ins and outs of cityscape photography.
Best Timings: At sunrise or sunset. Click here for sunrise & sunset timings.
Getting there: Location pins to Four Points by Sheraton and Shangri-la Hotel Dubai. Visit Four Points by Sheraton's website here and Shangri-la Hotel's website here.
4. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is typically busy with tourists, but it does not diminish the architectural beauty of Jean Nouvel’s stunning design. Sunlight filters through its geometrical dome to create a stunning effect known as the “rain of light”, which provides enchanting lighting for portraits.
Here's a tip - test out your wide angle lens and paint with light when you visit the museum. Just keep in mind that flash photography is prohibited in the galleries. Backpacks are also not allowed, so consider packing light!
Jepren Solis, one of our community members, shot the first and last image above. His exterior shots of the museum captured its architectural elegance using just his iPhone. You can see more of his work on his Instagram @jeprensolis and browse through his portfolio. You can also learn how to make the mostof the camera in your pocket with our Intro to Mobile Photography workshop!
Notice the ethereal way the light falls on gallery walls in the center image, taken by Mohamed Somji. Check out more photos he took of the Louvre Abu Dhabi on his Instagram.
Timings: Sun - Wed & Sat 10am - 8pm, Thu & Fri 10am - 10pm. Closed on Mondays. Click here for more information.
Getting There: Click here for the map. More info on Louvre Abu Dhabi’s website.
5. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi
Stand in awe under the shadow of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a place of worship adorned with beautiful mosaic tiles, gold chandeliers, and other intricate architectural details. From its marbled open courtyard to the world’s largest hand-woven carpet, this mosque surpasses all expectations and will leave you speechless with its elegance.
The best time to visit the mosque would be an hour or two before sunset, so you can catch the blue hour and marvel as it lights up for the evening. Tripods are allowed, but not in the main courtyard.
We love how our community member, Khadija Ibtisam, captured both the details and the grandeur of the mosque in her images. See more of her work on Instagram @kibtisam.
Visiting Hours: Sat - Thu from 9am - 10pm, Fri from 4:30pm - 10pm. For Ramadan timings and the ‘walk-in’ tour schedule, click here.
Getting There: Click here for the map. More info on Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque website.
6. Al Madam, Sharjah
This is it - our best-kept secret of where we shot the campaign images for GPP Photo Week 2018. An abandoned village in a lost corner of Sharjah, manmade structures and nature collide as sand pours into the empty windows and open doorways of long-vacated homes.
Over the years, more and more people have ventured to this “ghost town” for photos, but it remains as a hidden gem due to its constantly-changing landscape. With such an interesting and versatile location to play with, you can shoot anything, from portraits to products in these forgotten homes of the past.
Best Timings: At sunrise or sunset. Click here for sunrise & sunset timings.
Getting there: Bring a 4x4 for this one - you’ll need to do a little bit of dune bashing with this location. You don’t want to get stuck out there after the sunset, trust us! Click here for the map.
7. Al Dhafra Camel Festival, Abu Dhabi
An annual festival held in Abu Dhabi, the Al Dhafra Camel Festival embodies the spirit of heritage in the region, a place to grow in appreciation of Bedouin life and culture. There is a particular focus on camels and its role in the culture and heritage of the UAE, highlighted by the camel beauty contest, also known as Camel Mazayna.
Other than camels, the festival also hosts the Falcon Competition, Arabian Saluki races, camel auctions, and many more events which bring generations together. Mark your calendars and grab the unique chance to document this vibrant celebration of Emirati heritage!
Check out the images of Kathleen Hoare, one of our instructors, from Al Dhafra Camel Festival, where she captured soft light and tones that are carried throughout her work. Check out more of her imagery on Instagram @kathleen.hoare and on her website kathleenhoare.com.
Dates: Last two weeks of December. Stay tuned on their website for the 2018 dates!
Getting There: Click here for location map.
8. Al Ain Desert, Abu Dhabi
The quiet town of Al Ain boasts of a virtually-untouched desert with beautiful red sand and a night sky unaffected by light pollution. In the right vehicle, you can explore the desert dunes and drive into the expanse to disengage yourself from the world, even for just a moment. Plus, we’ve been told you might even come across a camel or two!
You can test your landscape photography skills and capture the expanse of Al Ain’s desert. Consider spending the night under the stars to take a few astrophotography shots.
Best times to visit are at sunrise or sunset. Click here for sunrise and sunset timings.
The beautiful images you see above are by one of our community members, Michael Glenister. He took these photos here, but he also recommended this other location for photos.
9. Sheikh Zayed Learning Centre, Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain
The minimalist architecture of the Sheikh Zayed Learning Centre in Al Ain Zoo provides a stunning background for photos, especially when shooting portraits. There’s something striking about the way the light hits the geometric windows and other reflective surfaces that could inspire you to keep shooting.
Right before sunset, the architecture in the Sheikh Zayed Learning Center comes alive with shadows and light. On busy days - usually the weekends - it also serves as a great spot for street photography.
This special location was a suggestion from a community member, Khadija Ibtisam! She beautifully incorporated the building's architecture with her photos. See more of her work on Instagram.
Timings: Daily, 9am - 7:30pm. Click here for more information.
Getting There: Click here for the map.
10. Beehive Tombs, Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain
For 5,000 years, hundreds of domal beehive-tombs at the foot of Jebel Hafeet have survived the onslaught of man and nature. Declared as a UNESCO site in 2011, each tomb is made out of stacked natural and edged stones.
This historical settlement holds many unique areas to photograph, from the juxtaposition of stone tombs against the magnificent Jebel Hafeet mountain, to framing your subject with the tombs’ doorways.
Being 1,200 metres above sea level, temperatures are lower than what you would expect, and there’s even a chilly breeze to take advantage of in the winter months.
The inspiring images you see above are by a memeber of the Analog Photography in the UAE Facebook group, Michael Glenister. You can learn more about the Jebel Hafeet Tombs here.
Best Times: At sunrise or sunset. Click here for sunrise & sunset timings.
Getting There: https://goo.gl/maps/omKC9EQzjv92
Now that we’ve spilled our favorite photography spots, it's time for you to go out and shoot! Let us know if we've missed any other locations worth photographing by tagging us on Instagram @gulfphotoplus and we'll check it out!
If you’re a photography novice and unsure where to start, join our Photography Level 1 workshop to unlock your camera's potential, or grab your smartphone camera and take part in our Introduction to Mobile Photography workshop.