The Vibe… Jalal Abuthina

Photographer Jalal Abuthina’s latest series of books document one of Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods. He tells Georgina Lavers why he feels compelled to capture the traditional quarters of the city

There is a lack of representation when it comes to everyday society here. Most books about Dubai are historical accounts, tourist brochures or highlight flagship developments.

I decided that I had a lot of images of the old parts of the city, plus more contemporary images, and I should turn them into something. It took me two years to compile the images and shoot new ones to create a visual narrative. I’m a street photographer at heart.

A shopping street in Bur Dubai
A shopping street in Bur Dubai

Some of the neighbourhoods have changed a lot over time, but many are pretty much the same. There is a lot of restoration and gentrification going on. A large proportion of Satwa – including some of the historical Emirati neighbourhoods – has been demolished. Satwa right now is probably the area that has been gentrified the most.

Deira, Bur Dubai and Karama haven’t changed that much, although Karama has been partly gentrified. Some of the buildings there, documented in the book, have been demolished and new developments have been built. They are some of the oldest buildings in Dubai.

Trading has been integral to the development of Bur Dubai
Trading has been integral to the development of Bur Dubai

My favourite neighbourhood is Deira. Dubai represents multiculturalism in its rawest, purest form. It is one of the few places in the world where you have all these different nationalities from all parts of the world.

What goes on in the city and how it is portrayed are two completely different things and there are lots of different realities inside the city.

Abuthina, 35, is a visual artist and self-taught photographer
Abuthina, 35, is a visual artist and self-taught photographer

Dubai represents multiculturalism in its rawest, purest form. It is one of the few places in the world where you have all these different nationalities from all parts of the world.

Jalal Abuthina, Photographer

I wanted to represent the large long-term expat community who have been living here for a while – those who call Dubai home, like myself – and the Emirati community. I feel both of them represent the heart and soul of the city.

I moved to Dubai at  a young age and I have an emotional attachment to it. I spent a lot of time as a youngster in these parts of the city – this project gave allowed me to rediscover the city and that was really enjoyable.

Jalal Abuthina’s series of three books, Dubai: Behind the Scenes, Memories of Satwa, and the Best of Dubai Shop Names, are available for purchase at insidedubai.ae