The Great Wall – of graffiti

Dubai breaks graffiti world record with mammoth wall

In the current Guinness Book Of World Records there are over 150 entries from the UAE alone, from the obvious (the world’s tallest building) to the bizarre (the largest picture mosaic formed by people). The latter, however, was attempted to mark UAE National Day in 2012, and there was a similar sense of celebration this week as artists gathered near Jumeirah Beach Park to try and break the record for the longest graffiti wall in the world.

At a staggering 2.25km long, the graffiti “scroll” beat the previous record set in Argentina last year by a whopping 264 metres. And, like the mosaic, it was a commemoration of achievement in the UAE - commissioned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and featuring everything from Arab women in hijab to giant falcons, camels and, yes, the Burj Khalifa itself. From the air, the wall is even shaped in the outline of the country.

And while the finished piece is quite an achievement, it was the creation of the 'Rehlatna' (which translates as ‘our journey’) which said as much about both the UAE’s standing as a vibrant, cosmopolitan country and its thriving arts scene. 150 artists from the Emirates and beyond (including 33 Emiratis) gathered at Jumeirah Beach Park with their spray cans from last Thursday onwards to work on sections of the wall.

graffiti wall dubai
The scroll featured the talents of national and international graffiti artistsImage: #RehlatnaUAE

Khawla Darwish, an Emirati artist from Dubai, told The National newspaper she was delighted that it gave “local artists an opportunity to showcase their work, but in a way that helps promote the image of the UAE.”

Her contribution to Rehlatna was a design filled with an Arabic phrase that read “the UAE is in my heart”. And such enthusiasm for the country and its atmosphere of collaboration was clearly rubbing off on the artists who had come to Dubai for the first time. Andrew Bourke from Melbourne was part of the Ironlak collective, and tweeted that it had been a “kinda crazy” week working on their contribution, a bright wave-like image which incorporated a falcon. “Been a great experience meeting graffiti artists from Middle East, North Africa & India,” he continued.

Another graffiti collective from California, ICU, were responsible for the striking portrait of the Arab woman in black hijab - it was clear that the wall had really made the artists think about UAE. There was no sense of the work being parachuted in from outside.

Our Journey is an artistic documentation of UAE’s unity, with a contemporary view,” confirmed the Director General of the Office of the Crown Prince of Dubai, Saif Bin Markhan Al Ketbi. The fact that it broke records too was just a happy by-product.

Our Journey is now open to view until Saturday.