“I love the people, I love the culture, and there’s always something new to find in unexpected places.” We’re talking to our IT engineering systems trainer Steve Brookwell about one of his favourite destinations, Dubai. “When talking to friends they often think of Dubai in terms of the travel brochure version. Big skyscrapers, huge shopping malls and big glitzy resorts,” says Steve. Of course, it can be all those things. But after visiting the country five times, Steve has discovered a different side to the Emirate. “Lots of people miss out on the other Dubai, and that’s a shame,” says Steve. “There’s a side to this fascinating land and its friendly people that many visitors don’t see.”
Steve’s job takes him all over the world, and he’s lucky enough to combine that with his love of photography. He understands exactly how much work and patience goes into getting the perfect shot and is prepared to suffer for his craft. Known to sleep in his car and be out with his camera before dawn, these photos demonstrate that the effort is always worthwhile.
We asked Steve to show us some of his favourite photos of Dubai and share a few top tips for exploring the Emirate in more depth.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a series of natural lakes and wetlands a short drive from the main city. With the harsher desert on one side and the vibrant metropolis on the other, this peaceful and completely natural area is home to a good selection of birds, including spoonbills and a large group of flamingos. These beautiful birds are native to the wetlands and not brought in as many people believe. It’s best to visit early in the morning when you can sit in one of the free bird hides and spend some time among nature.
Behind the lakes, a new development called Dubai Creek Harbour is being built. Visit the sales centre for a really special view of the city and the lakes.
It’s not all about cars. Dubai is a fantastic city to cycle in, with a number of dedicated cycle tracks. The one I enjoy the most takes you around the creek. It has phone recharge points, free WiFi and music streaming from the lamp posts! Along the way are some amazing photo opportunities, and it’s a great way to meet some of the locals. The red bridge is called Tolerance Bridge and is new, on the Dubai Canal where they are developing the water taxi, cycle track and more.
Meydan Bridge which is near the racecourse, not on the canal, is worth a visit at night.
You can still find the old Dubai if you look. Black Palace beach stands in total contrast with the built-up tourist hotspot of Jumeirah nearby. You’ll need a hire car to get there, but this beach is extraordinary in that it is uncrowded and still completely natural. There are no charges and nobody trying to sell you stuff. It doesn’t have a proper car park either, just sand.
Dubai is a fascinating destination to discover under your own steam. Take time to learn about the Arab culture, and hire a car and explore. You can easily drive into the desert yourself – it’s an easy and satisfying thing to do. If you’re a photographer the best natural light is early in the morning, though the city also looks incredible at night.
To see more of Steve’s travel photos, take a look at his travelogue
Steve, self portrait (on a tripod with timer!)