Down By The Creek

Down by The Creek.

I have just returned from ten days working in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai. I have been a few times before to Dubai but only fleeting visits and always confirming my feeling that it’s a soulless monstrosity cluttering an otherwise pristine desert. This time because of the work I was doing I had more opportunity to engage with its population and this gave me pause for thought.


I was born in London and was always proud of our multi-cultural diversity and have sadly watched at safe distance this heritage eroded and denigrated, myth and falsehoods perpetuated by fake news and fascist firebrands. I have lived as a migrant in the Middle East, a landscape torn apart by competing empires and paying the price to this day, my faith in humanity never wavers but is constantly tested, the era of Brexit and rise of the populist sodomizers intent on divide and rule and profit before morality the most depressing of tests.


Could there be a more multi-cultural society than the UAE? Yes, the shiny mega-projects were built on exploitation amounting to modern day slavery and obscene discrimination but for all the failings the overriding asset the Emirates has to offer is its vast migrant resource. Over the course of my visit I probably met around half a dozen Emiratis and they were without exception, warm, friendly and very welcoming but everyone else was from everywhere else, I met Brits and Americans, Australians and Romanians, Pakistani, Indian and Kashmiri, Russian and Ukrainians, Syrians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Afghans, Zimbabweans, Thai, Filipino and Korean, many were the second generation of mixed expat marriages.


Sure it was still only a short visit and its never enough to fully understand the complexities of any society but it did leave a lasting impression, not just the warmth and friendliness I was shown at every juncture but also the support and understanding shown to each other, the Russians working alongside Ukrainians, the Indians with the Pakistanis.

Without stoking the fires of fear, humanity is doing just fine.


These random portraits were shot quickly between assignments in the busy Gold Souk and port alongside Dubai Creek.

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to support my work then Buying me a coffee would be brilliant

If you are interested to see what work I was doing in the Emirates you can check out my website: John Wreford Photographer

Istanbul based freelance travel, commercial and corporate photographer covering the Middle East and Balkans.


55 thoughts on “Down By The Creek

    1. Thank you.
      They are expat workers and come from many backgrounds of faith, religion and culture. While in some cases it would be easy to say some are Muslims it would not be fair to assume based only on ethnicity since that rules out the many secular.

  1. These are wonderful portraits and your words gave me a much-needed boost. Especially this sentence: “Without stoking the fires of fear, humanity is doing just fine.”

    Thank you, John.

    1. Thank you.
      Actually this was an incredibly rushed project, it wasn’t planned and only shot between assignments I was working on. The shots were made in one Souk which is predominantly male, there are though plenty of women around in other areas of work and for sure would have added immeasurably to the project. During my work I did meet some very inspiring women including the first women to take a management position at Abu Dhabi port a traditionally male role. Its not all bleak despite the very obvious issues for women in the Middle East which I am in no way defending

  2. What a beautiful and thoughtful post, John. I lived in Oman, right next door to UAE, for two years, and visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi each. I too thought Dubai a soulless place, but the people are everything, aren’t they? And I agree with your political sentiments wholeheartedly. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Down By The Creek — John Wreford Photographer – Truth Troubles

  4. Very cool. I learned something new! I live in Texas, USA. I’ve traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada, and all over Europe. The friendliest people were the Mexicans. Even those who had very little, celebrated life and family continuously. My runner up would be California. Everyone there is so happy! Maybe due to the perfect weather and the sheer beauty all around. But I think it also has something to do with their government. Yes, taxes are high. But it shows! Roads are in perfect condition. Public land is beautifully landscaped. No abandoned buildings. No tacky neon signs. No trash. No crime. State run healthcare that actually works! Wonderful benefits like extended paid maternity leave. I doubt anyone goes hungry there. I’m ready to move there!

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