Thursday, 12 March 2009

Anything For The Sake of Photography

Feb 13 2009 Fri
The illegal SD Cards

Today (Fri 13 09) marks the "monthsary" of our infamous early morning photo shoot here in Dubai in search for camels that nearly landed as a disaster...being fined and jailed.

Everybody in the Emirate must catch a glimpse of these amazing beasts of the desert. The animals which are highly prized here can be found on the outskirts of the city wandering inside fenced areas but to get close to one there is a place called Nad Al Sheba Camel Race Track which i think is worth the visit.

So why post a picture of SD Cards? Here's the whole story.

It was one cold and dark Fri morning 13th of Feb 2009 when we started off to Nad Al Sheba for camel hunting. Brimming with photo gears we were full of high hopes that by the end of the day we will have our memory cards full of camel pictures.
The other car was late so we on the first car, decided to go ahead and find the spot early on. It was still dark and since we don't know the exact location we just followed road signs.
Nad Al Sheba was not hard to find because it is quite close to the city but the camel race track proved to be quite difficult to locate.

I remember going there three years ago and the route now seems to have changed. So we just followed every road that we think will lead to the camels for quite sometime. Frustrated that it seemed we couldnt find the place we opted to go to the desert sand dunes of Um Al Qwain.
But luck guided us to a road with a sign that can be graphicaly read clearly as "Camel".

Excited we shouted "camels ahead!" and shortly after a few more signs we came to a big gate with a guard on a small shack.
We stopped and the guard approached our car.
"Where are the camels?" we asked.
He gestured inside the gate. So we said we want to go inside and he answered OK and gave us a logbook to register.

So off we went inside and lo and behold! Camels! We are finally inside the camel race track.
This is the place where they train those million Dirham racing camels. Second only to horses in terms of racing tradition.
Lines of camels trot with their jockeys and trainers. It was a wonderful sight to see. We wasted no time and quickly got down from the car and started shooting on all angles.

One thing to remember though, the camels get upset when you approach them real close so caution is exercised. We then followed them to the racing pens where they where whipped and shouted at by their trainers as the camels were told to sit.
The trainers didn't seemed to mind us and they even gestured for us to go closer to take photos.

And then more batches of camels followed inside the racing pens. They were all lined up sitting with their respective jockeys.

It was just pure snapping pleasure for us.

When the morning got lighter more camels came and by this time the other car was on the way trying to find our spot. Late!

We had enough of camels already so we decided to meet them halfway to guide them back inside.

After a brief coffee and breakfast we had the other car back by the gate and did the same registration process with the guard.

There was a big walled compound with a large gate that attracted our attention. It was the camel stables! We didn't dare to go close but camel shepherds gestured us inside and they want us the ride the camels!

For free! who wouldn't want that?

I decided that the only the girls will ride ( the powerfpuff trio) and so they mounted and rode and we snapped photos all the way. It was fun!

A few minutes later they dismounted and we gave thanks to the shepherds and planned to go back at the racing fences.
But as we got out the gate a white Toyota Landcruiser just arrived and out are two Emarati Arabs. We greeted them good morning and they greeted us back and asked:

"Who told you to come inside?"
"Who told you to take photos?"

very sternly and they were not smiling at all.

Everyone on our group ( there were eight of us, six were with cameras) suddenly fell silent looking at each other with blank expressions.

We tried to reason out but it seems we were told we are on private property and we are trespassing and taking photos illegally.

We realized that we were on a racing stable after all and two of our girls just rode a very expensive racing camel.

We were then told to go outside the main entrance and wait for the manager to come.
They followed us there and took all our cameras ( all DSLRS), put them inside the white Landcruiser and waited for the manager.

The situation isn't fun anymore. We are in deep shit.

The manager came riding a small four wheeled drive ATV (all terrain vehicle). Probably chinese made.
His name is Ahmed. And not happy at all.

"What is this?"
"Who told you to take photos?"
"Who told you to come inside?"
"How did you find this place?"
"Which company are you working from?"

came the barrage of question after question.

We tried to explain that the guard at the gate allowed us in and we are just taking photos for photography class and other lame excuses we can muster.

But Ahmed wouldn't have none of that.

"This is private property and you are trespassing and the penalty is a two year jail term!"
"This is a company and you just dont walk straight in here!"

Two years! Good gracious!

Ahmed had the guard replace the post immediately and inspected all our cameras.
He browsed the photos and when he saw the picture of the girls riding camels he almost freaked out.

I can almost hear him scream "that is a very expensive racing camel you just rode you idiots!"

He made us format some of the SD cards but some he just took without deleting. A sort of evidence to be discussed at the board meeting.

They took our work permits, our telephone numbers, had them photocopied and told us that they will call us after a few days for the decision.

Some of us were scared shit!

Lots of discussion followed and finally we were allowed to go home.

We went home shaken and lost all appetite to shoot some more pictures. After all we don't have any spare memory cards at hand.

Back at the city we had coffee and talked about our fate.

After a few days we phoned Ahmed but he's just ignoring our calls. We lost all hope to get back our memory cards.

More than two weeks has passed and our fear of being penalized and jailed had subsided so one of us decided to go to him and confront him personally.

To make the story short we got back our memory cards, formatted and promised never to tresspass again.

"Ahmed which company is this you say?" he was asked.

"This is not just a company. This is the Sheiks' Palace." was his prompt answer.

We just trespassed on His Highness' private property.

Anything for the sake photography.

photo taken at Nad Al Sheba at 2006


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Whew! What an experience!

    I think it's the guards' and the shepherds' fault, they allowed you to enter the place, to ride on those invaluable camels, and to take plenty of photos! Has the manager told you something about this?

    [...found your blog from Reena.]

  3. hahaha, I still recall the day I chatted with Malotz. So who confronted him?

  4. thanks RJ,

    its was scary at first.
    maybe thats why we did not get any punishment because it was the guards fault and the sheperds saw as and was glad to pose for us.
    But still it was still illegal. Its top secret from the competitors these camel stables.

  5. it was george who confronted Ahmed bro.
    funny thing is after their chat, Ahmed asked him if he knows any filipino worker to work for him at his office. hehe