In April 2019, my husband and I moved to Abu Dhabi and lived there for exactly 11 months. We moved back to Ajman (where I’m from) March 2020.
Our little apartment on Reem Island was our sanctuary. It was the first place we called home together, the first place that was entirely our own.
There was something so calming about being a stranger in a new city. I felt anonymous, and I loved it. I didn’t know anyone there besides my sister who lived about 20 minutes away from me and had crazy working hours, and my friends Noura and Hosanna.
It’s easy to look back and feel nostalgic, thinking the best has come and gone. But I remember the hard days, I remember the struggles. I remember breaking down with a mop in my hand when my husband called me saying he’s quitting his job. It wasn’t always easy, but the more time passes, the more the ugly starts to fade. Now I remember our time there so fondly, I miss it so much it hurts my heart. My brain seems to have a way to filter out the things that felt heavy.
Like driving for two hours, in total silence, back from my dad’s house after a fight broke out and struggling to see the road clearly because I couldn’t stop crying.
Those 11 months were hard and beautiful and they hurt and it was all so new. In August 2019, we made new friends. And I know the exact date because I was obsessed with meal planning and I was preparing dinner, when my husband called to tell me that while walking our dog, he met a nice British couple, Jon and Jade, who were also walking their dogs. And he invited them to dinner. I was making vegan burgers that night, and I was terrified they’d judge me for that.
Little did I know, our life was about to change.
They lived in the building right next to ours, and so did Paul, an Australian man we met also while walking our dog.
Dog people are the best people.
In less than a month, we started having dinner together every thursday night. They became our family. And to this day, we still have dinner together every thursday night. Over zoom, but still.
Leaving was so hard. Not only were we leaving the safest place we’ve ever known, we were also leaving some of the best people we’ve ever met. It was all so new, so unknown to me. I’d only been married a few months.
Then having to leave.. it really did feel like I was climbing into another unknown space.
A few days before we had to move, I called Jade and asked her if she’d model for me. My husband and I kept passing a construction site when we’d go for a walk, and I desperately wanted to shoot there.
I didn’t think I could do it as a self portrait, and I also really wanted Jade to be in one of my pictures. She immediately said yes, and met me outside our apartment in less than 5 minutes. We ended up creating this:
Paul, Jon, and Jade – thank you for the gift of your friendship. You’re the family I didn’t know I needed.
2020 abu dhabi amani alshaali amani alshaali blog emirati artist emirati photographer female photographer dubai female photographer UAE fine art photography friends life loss moving uae blogger uae conceptual photographer UAE photographer