Monday, May 6, 2013


Emirati Woman, Al Jahili Fort, Al Ain, UAE  © Doug Hickok  All Rights Reserved

At first glance it would seem I have little in common with this abaya clad woman. She and her female companions were on an outing exploring
 Al Ain's historic Al Jahili Fort.

I later learned, to my utter delight, the young Emirati is an aspiring photographer. Becky, and our UAE hosts Debi and Dale opened a conversation with her in this fortress courtyard. They noticed the women were toting camera gear and told her I was a photographer. When I walked-up to join the conversation, the young woman told me of her hopes to be a photographer one day.

I spoke with her briefly, explaining to her what I did as a commercial photographer in Charleston. With her face almost completely veiled, 

all I could see were her intense and curious dark eyes.
Their inquisitiveness gave me an idea.

I asked if it was permissible for me to give her my business card. She replied yes. So I did, showing her my website address on the card. She said that she and her companions would take a look. Her enthusiasm was touching to me. I hope sharing my images with her will be a small spark of inspiration to her, like other photographers were to me when I was at an impressionable age.

This was an extraordinary moment for me on our visit... knowing that two people who come from diametrically opposite cultures and life experiences could have photography as a mutual point of reference and connection.

It is important to note that although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the most widely spoken. This made our communication possible.
And if Becky was not there, it would have been haram (forbidden by Sharia law, the moral code of behavior and religious dictates of Islam) for the woman to have any sort of exchange with a man she did not know.


  1. What a fabulous, awesome, inspiring story to go with this lovely image, Doug! I love it.

  2. First of all this is a wonderful image Doug. The contrast of the black dress against the golden wall is eye catching. Secondly, how wonderful that you were able to not only converse but instantly find a common purpose with a stranger in a strange land. I hope she sees your inspirational photography.

  3. Wonderful moment!Your pictures and posts always inspiring my heart and mind, thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Fantastic story, amazing photo:) Greetings

  5. this is such an important story you tell here, doug. thank you.

  6. Yes, photography is a universal language (just like music). Great that you were able to make that contact. The image is a great one, too, Doug, with your point of view through that doorway, towards the woman and contrasting background.

  7. Perfection in timing and framing. I love this exchange too. Again we see a wealth of similarities when only differences might be perceived at superficial levels.

  8. I think your image captures perfectly the incongruity of the exchange. At first glance it is a fairly timeless scene but then one notices the detail of the wheeled suitcase and the camera.

    I must say that I'm thoroughly appreciating seeing the UAE through your eyes. I visited a few years back but, sadly, during difficult personal circumstances which meant I was very inwardly focussed and struggled to open my eyes to what was around me. It is nice to be able to see it through more outward looking eyes so obviously enchanted by another culture. Thanks.

  9. what a fascinating and lasting experience, doug! this is what makes all travelling worthwhile in the end ... the establishing of personal contact! if that didn't happen, we might as well stay at home and watch documentaries and leaf through picture books ...
    i had no idea that emirati women still adhered to the old traditions so forcefully ... i had always considered the emirates as a shining example of modernism, even in social matters !

  10. What a touching experience and story,Doug!Love the framing and colors in this photo!

  11. Your fascinating musings touch as much as the other-worldly feel of your photograph.

  12. He he you have guests.
    I should better behave myself, eh. ;o)

    >English is the most widely spoken
    A legacy left by Lawrence of Arabia?

  13. great framing. wonderful composition. very compelling

  14. From the modernist Burj Al Arab Hotel to an ancient fort...a country of great extremes. Your write-up about your visit and inadvertent meeting with the young photographer brought an extra dimension to your post, not evident in the fine picture.

    I can't imagine how difficult it would be to become a photographer with so many odds stacked against the young lady's aspirations. One can only hope that she overcomes them.

  15. I like this window opened on the veiled young woman. He must be easy to photograph the women in this country???

  16. One of your really best!!! Fantastic! You caught all the spirit of Orient...
    Have a nice day.


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