Deira, DXB, UAE, 2015/16

Street Prayer

Public space as sacred space and interstitial so elusive that sometimes it's understanding and description depends only in the eye of the observer and the means we use to describe it.

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This photo series was two years in the making, during the months of Ramadan, in the hot and humid Deira, oldest part of modern city of Dubai (UAE). In its own stubborn way, Deira refuses to change, both visually and emotionally. While Dubai is constantly changing and unstoppably growing, Deira is forever squeezed between a Creek on one side, and other parts of the city and a massive airport from the other side. Creek, a main Dubai port for years is now a shadow of what it once was and used only as a local transport and tourist hub. It seems that Deira and its population are not attuned nor interested in what's going on in the rest of this hectic city.

Above Waiting for the Prayer time, Deira 2016

Before the Prayer

Street like any other.

It is Friday, and just like any other Friday in Deira, the shops are closed and the streets that are usually crowded are now empty. It is the beginning of Ramadan, and temperature peaks to up to 50 degrees Celsius in the old city. Just couple of meters from the Old Gold Souq, usually full of tourists and street sellers, only one street is showing some signs of life.

First visitors that trickle in, like by some unwritten law, are the Pakistanis, Bangladeshi and the Indian people, followed by Afghans then others from the Arabian peninsula and even some from north of Africa. Majority of these people are immigrant construction workers, however some of them are also from the local shops and even some local Emiratis are sometimes possible to see. They are all from the same neighborhood, living or working close by.

It is easy to recognize their nationalities as they are all wearing their national dresses, each of them with their own prayer rug. They walk slowly, trying to stay in the shadow as much as possible, as it is still too hot under the sun. It is a time of fasting. Small mosque is not big enough to host all of them so those who did not find a spot inside are looking for the place to pray on the street. As the Prayer time is approaching, it is obvious that a large crowd of people outside is much larger than the number of people in the mosque. Lines of prayer rugs are formed, everybody is seating on their rugs and a murmur of different languages and dialects is slowly disappearing as everyone is preparing to pray. Only some latecomers are still moving around, desperately trying to find an empty spot.

Above Empty streets on Friday noon before the Prayer, Deira 2015
Above People are coming and hurriedly looking for empty spots in the street, Deira 2015, Deira 2015
Above Spots in shadow are disappearing quickly, Deira 2015
Above Even in the shadow protection is hot, Deira 2015/2016
Above Prayer time announcement, Deira 2015
Above Prayer time, Deira 2016

Prayer time

Inclusion and interstice in city center.

Imam's voice, echoing through the mosque's speakers, is announcing the start of the Prayer. This is the moment when all the noise on the street is silenced, all cultural differences disappear, and urban structures cramped shoulder to shoulder, foot to foot, become a sacred space.

Above Silence, Deira 2015
Above Belated, Deira 2015
Above Prayer time, Deira 2015
Above Prayer time, Deira 2015
Above Prayer time, Foot to foot, Deira 2016
Above Prayer time, Deira 2015
Above Prayer time, Deira 2016
Above Shoulder to shoulder, Deira 2015
Above Iftar dinner, Deira 2016


End of the fast and dinner

Iftar is often done within a community of people, gathered together to break their fast. With family or friends, at home or in a restaurant, or simply just on the street, everyone enjoys the experience together. There is an open and free Iftar dinner for everyone in front of the mosques, which is a blessing for those who can't afford an Iftar dinner in a restaurant, or are not able to share this sacred moment with family or friends. Then there are those who just want to share their Iftar dinner with tired but smiling crowd of people milling around.

Dinner is usually a simple traditional dates and water, but with little luck you can also find some rice with meat and vegetables.

Above Boy is playing while waiting for his father, local shop owner, Deira 2016
Above Iftar, Deira 2016
Above One of Iftar dinner participants, Deira 2015
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