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Friday, June 18, 2021

Photographer documents a disappearing Musheireb, one walk at a time

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Photowalk
Photowalk

While the rest of Qatar sleeps in on Friday mornings, Shaima Al Tamimi wanders the streets of Doha with her camera and lens kit.

The 31-year-old Yemeni expat and her friends regularly embark on 6am photowalks in downtown Doha, hoping to capture some of the country’s past and future.

During a recent interview with Doha News, Al Tamimi said she and a group of photography enthusiasts like to spend many of their Friday mornings specifically in Musheireb.

The neighborhood is largely inhabited by low-income workers and serves as a hub for some of Qatar’s oldest shops and buildings.

Photowalk
Photowalk

But this is rapidly changing due to the Msheireb Downtown Doha project, which is redeveloping the area into a new city center.

However, for now, Al Tamimi said Musheireb remains a hidden “gym” for photographers (that pumps them up).

Beautiful souls

During her trips to the area, Al Tamimi said that she is drawn not so much to objects or the landscape, but rather to the people in the neighborhood, who she prefers to call “souls.”

“These group trips I go on and the traveling I do have allowed me to see the beauty in simple things, and to capture souls rather than just people,” Al Tamimi said, adding:

“Especially when it’s people from that kind of background, people who are underprivileged compared to you and I. More often than not, they are the kind of people ignored by society.

My photography is not so much about shedding light, to tell others that these people live here and what not, it’s really more about appreciating their existence.”

Men going about their daily routines like eating their breakfast, drinking a cup of tea, shaving their beards, working or even taking a nap are examples of scenes Al Tamimi captures through her photography.

To her, it is all about “finding beauty in the mundane,” wherever it is.

She shares many of her photos on her Instagram account under the hashtag “Documenting Msheireb.”

Photo club

Al Tamimi’s interest in photography was originally inspired by her passion for cooking.

Although her father is a professional photographer himself, she only decided to take on the hobby after creating a food blog to share her recipes.

Shaima Al Tamimi
Shaima Al Tamimi

And she became more serious about street photography this year after joining the photowalk club.

The club, founded by renowned Qatari photographer Khalifa Al Obaidly, has not only served as her main support system, but also played a major role in Al Tamimi’s progress as a photographer, she said.

Now, Musheireb has become somewhat of a safe haven for her photography.

Currently, the neighborhood is undergoing rapid change as several shops and residential areas are marked for demolition to make way for newer, more upscale developments.

Al Tamimi grew up in Abu Dhabi for the majority of her life, but she said seeing these changes still make her sad.

Photowalk
Photowalk

To her, they bring back memories of when some of Abu Dhabi’s most beautiful areas were demolished for redevelopments that turned out to be “failures.”

Highlighting reality

Nonetheless, Al Tamimi said some of her photos have previously been criticized by followers as being unrepresentative of the Gulf.

She argues however that the exact opposite is true.

“I’m not going to photograph my Starbucks coffee or Cartier watch and say this represents the Gulf, although many people do it.

We can’t hide the fact that these are some people’s realities. We cannot say this doesn’t represent the Gulf, because it does. They (blue-collar workers) are the majority here, not the Khaleejis.”

As Musheireb continues to be developed into something new, the population continues to shrink, due to evictions and relocations.

Photowalk
Photowalk

Today, many people in the area remain on their tip toes, afraid of being next in line. Al Tamimi said she is even often mistaken for an authority figure coming to kick them out.

Before the area is completely demolished, Al Tamimi said she plans to continue documenting the people of Musheireb as a way of keeping the neighborhood’s memory alive.

“It’s one of the few places that’s making Doha be Doha. It’s the real stuff, the authentic way of how people used to live,” she said.

Locals have moved out to different areas and developed financially, but it’s that little area that feels like there’s still that one part of Doha that hasn’t changed.”

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