Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Peter Schlesinger

How one home-grown photographer is capturing the soul of the glittering emirate.

For Abu Dhabi-based Noura Al Mur Al Neyadi, photography has been a passion project since she was a child. “One time I stole my dad’s film camera when I was 11 years old,” she explains. “A whole new world opened after that first click!”  The 26-year-old is now making a name for herself in the UAE as a rising #iPhoneOnly photographer, working with local tourism boards, partnering with multinational brands, and fostering an online community of followers on Instagram. In all of her photos, she incorporates a human figure. “The UAE couldn’t have made gold from sand or achieved sky-high towers if not for its great leaders and citizens,” she explains. “My main goal is to share my beautiful country and where I come from.”

Here, she tells the story behind the scenes of some of her most recent work around Abu Dhabi.

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

132 Lines of Lies

On Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, artist Marco Cianfanelli’s “Falcons” is a massive installation of 132 steel columns that, from certain angles, resembles a group of falcons in flight. “Everyone has different a perspective," says Al Mur about the piece, “one that’s not necessarily right in the first place. You can tell yourself things that are not true in all sort of angles.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Desert Dream

“This airplane is hidden in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Desert,” says Al Mur. “Wrapped in mystical silence, this scene sets my imagination on fire. I see it as a girl lost in the desert where she found an abandoned airplane—a symbol of all the beautiful dreams she once had but unwillingly abandoned.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Horizon Whispers

“I took this shot this winter while my brother and I were hiking the rocky valleys of Jabal Hafeet, the highest peak in Abu Dhabi and second highest in the UAE. I remember the wind made a soothing sound, whispering to my ears as the clouds lined up.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

For All I Know

The Saadiyat Cultural District is a jumble of performing arts centers and museums (including outposts of the Guggenheim and Louvre) in various phases of construction, but this Foster + Partners–designed pavilion—originally the UAE Pavilion from the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai—has been a fixture since 2011. “I love the beauty of this building,” says Al Mur. “It looks like the geometric version of a mountain.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Once Upon a Reflection

Zakher Lake is a peaceful escape 20 minutes from Al Mur’s childhood home. “My brother is trying to take a photo of the water here,” she explains. Her focus, however, is on the background. “I love that you can see Jabal Hafeet’s slopes.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Flare in Time

Al Mur photographed Miami-based artist Elio Mercado’s giant mural, six football fields in length, near Al Raha Beach. In this section, a woman lifts her burqa to sip a cup of traditional coffee. “To me, this photo captures the essence of Emirati culture, where the old generation’s wisdom meets the youth.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Into the Future

Masdar City is an ambitious initiative to create the world’s most sustainable urban environment on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. For Al Mur, the location evokes the “expectations and fears with which we imagine the future of civilization.” In this photo of student housing, “the wavy lines of the balconies go in harmony with the girl’s abaya, taking her toward the future.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

Real Mirage

For this shot, Al Mur stood on a wall that separates palm tree farms in Hili, one of the many oases that comprise her hometown of Al Ain. “The intimate, romantic and serene environment never fails to inspire me.”

Bringing Abu Dhabi Into Focus

There's No Power But From God

With 82 domes and more than a thousand columns, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one of Abu Dhabi’s most impressive architectural wonders. “It’s impossible to leave this place without breathtaking photos!”


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Written By: Peter Schlesinger


Locations: Abu Dhabi

See more: Art & Culture

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