Dubai is very surprising in every way. The contradiction between the opulent new Dubai and the mysterious old Dubai is alluring. One of the activities in our jam-packed itinerary was to visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. We were hosted by a charismatic guy whose name was Nasif. He shared a delicious traditional Arabic breakfast with us and discussed many of the myths and stories around his culture, beliefs and way of life. Nasif was larger than life and full of personality and wit. He made me laugh and made me cry. Here are 10 reasons why I would visit Dubai at a drop of a hat.
1-Balloon Adventures in Dubai
Hot air ballooning over the Dubai desert is one of the most spectacular experiences I’ve ever experienced.
This was not a special event but something that you can do anytime you visit Dubai with a company called Balloon Adventures Emirates.
We went up at sunrise. It was raining and the sky looked like poo.
We all thought sunrise would be a washout but all that changed. We were gifted with one of the most magical sunrises I have ever seen.
I was lucky to capture the other balloons that had also taken off on the same sunrise chase. I felt like I was in an olden-day movie floating above the desert.
It’s dreamy and surreal being in a hot air balloon. It’s also a great reason to visit Dubai.
I was madly snapping pictures from the hot air balloon as we floated over the desert; I was in such a fluster. Every moment, every sand dune, was just like a dream. I wanted to capture every inch of it all on my camera.
2-Visit Dubai Creek
We caught a boat over to visit the spice, textile and gold souks. Souks are the markets of Old Dubai. I loved this area a lot and it didn’t even need to be a festival to experience the vibrant atmosphere along the creek.
3-Arabian Traditional Outfit
I’ve always loved black and white portraiture. I nearly always edit my portrait work and street photography this way.
I happened to catch my awesome instabuddy Mark Seabury (who had dressed in a traditional outfit) looking around the souk in wonder as the sun was going down.
I thought it would make a nice photo, so I sneakily snapped this one shot. I think portraits work so well in black and white because you are not distracted by the colour of their clothes or their surroundings. Your focus is drawn to their emotions and their soul.
The restaurant has views of tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
Garry Norris and I had snuck off to try and get a unique perspective of the sunrise. Our aim was to photograph a different perspective to the rest of the group.
We were crazy with excitement when the sky went pink. I was really mesmerized by the shape of this beautiful mosque across the water. We could also hear the mysterious call to prayer echoing across the ocean.
5-Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
We spent a day at the exclusive Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
This was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Al Maha is beautiful.
We were taken on a 4WD trip around the reserve to capture images of Oryx roaming in their natural habitat.
6-Wild Flight Educational Falconry and Hospital
The beautiful falcon is treated like a princess. The falcon wears a head dress so as not to stress her out when there are strangers around.
Falconry is an important part of Arab heritage and culture. Millions of dirhams are spent every year to protect and conserve wild falcons.
I had the honour of releasing a young rehabilitated shikra hawk back into the wild at the Wild Flight Educational Falconry and Hospital. The hawk had been found injured in the city and the hospital staff nursed it back to health.
They cared for it and taught it to hunt in the wild so that it could fend for itself when released. I couldn’t believe I was chosen to release the hawk. It’s one of my favourite reasons to visit Dubai. It made me cry. I’ll never forget that experience.
7-Ras al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Who knew there were flamingos in Dubai? I certainly didn’t. Right in the heart of the city, you can see these gorgeous birds at the Ras al-Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.
I was so excited I actually got in trouble with our host as I was trying to get close to them on the wrong side of the fence. I know, looking back I feel very naughty, but at that time, I was completely beside myself as I had never seen a flamingo before.
One of the ‘grammers’ on the trip, Maxime Coquard, is quite the graceful gazelle. When it comes to instajumping he does it better than anyone I know.
I hadn’t planned on shooting him because everyone else was but when I saw him prancing and frolicking with his red sheer scarf, I just couldn’t resist.
These are the kind of shots I love most because more often than not, the best part of an adventure is the people you share it with.
9-Grafitti and Fashion in Dubai
If I had to choose just one photo, I would have to say my favourite is this shot of graffiti artist and fashion designer, Steen Jones with the falcon.
I can’t really explain why but I just love that shot so much. I think because Steen loved it so much, it made me feel like it was a special shot.
As a photographer you have to work with all kinds of difficulties based on the location or the weather. Working in the desert means everything ends up covered in sand.
You just have to get on with getting the shots and deal with the sand issue later. I’d say we all had out the air blowers later that night.
I always take all my camera gear with me wherever I go. I can never bear to leave anything behind. So for this trip, like most others, my gear comprised of the Canon Eos6D, 16-35mm F2.8 lens, 24-70mm F2.8 lens, and the 70-200mm F2.8 (thanks to Canon Australia who provides me with support).
Jewels Lynch was a guest of Dubai Tourism
Every moment of our #mydubai campaign was amazing: the people I shared the trip with, the hot air ballooning, the indoor ski lesson, the largest waterslide in the world and the desert.
I love the desert and would go back in a heartbeat. The only thing I’d do differently next time is I’d rob a bank and take suitcases of money to go shopping!
Looking for more things to see and experience in Dubai? Here is a great local guide with plenty of things to see and do in Dubai.