How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos

How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos
View of the Holy Shrine and the City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, taken in 1881 by Muhammad Sadiq Bey. (Supplied photo)
Updated 03 May 2019

How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos

How an Arab took Makkah’s first photos
  • The first known images of the holy city are part of a fascinating display of early photography at Louvre Abu Dhabi
  • Egyptian-born Muhammad Sadiq Bey had travelled to the Hijaz region as treasurer of the pilgrims’ caravan

ABU DHABI: More than five decades after the world’s first photograph was produced with a camera, an army engineer ventured to the ancient city of Makkah and made history by chronicling the Muslim world’s holiest site on film for the first time.

Egyptian-born Muhammad Sadiq Bey had traveled several times to western Saudi Arabia’s Hijaz region in an official capacity as treasurer of the pilgrims’ caravan, first visiting in 1861 and taking with him a device known as a wet-plate collodion camera, a technique invented in the 1850s, which used glass-plate negatives.

In 1881 Bey, who wrote four books about his visits to the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, returned to the Hijaz and became the first person to take photographs of the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and the Hajj from multiple angles, as well as capturing the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, images that are now on view at new exhibition at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Photographs 1842–1896: An Early Album of the World, which runs until July 13, is an exploration of the development of photography in its first years of existence. Bey’s photos of Makkah give a rare snapshot of what life in the holy city was like over a century ago. 

It is the works of Bey which excite the exhibition’s curator, Christine Barthe most.

Portrait of Sir Pratab Singh, Maharajah of Orchla with his entourage, India, 1882, by Lala Deen Dayal. (Supplied photo)

“While the exhibition focuses on 44 different countries, two of the important pictures for us were the pictures taken in Makkah in 1881; this was an important element both because of the site, the fact it was photographed so early and also that the photograph was taken by an Arabic photographer, so it really is a symbolic showcase of the exhibition,” said Barthe, who is head of the photographic collections heritage unit at the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac.

“What remains fascinating is that you get the chance to stand in front of one of the most photographed places on earth — a site that has been photographed so many times — and (that) allows you to realize that there was once a time that someone captured this site for the very first time and saw this site in this very unique way.

“We are now very familiar with the image of Makkah, but once it had never been captured on film. This is a moment of history.

“I hope that many people will have a special interest in these pictures. I think that is the interest of the exhibitor to ensure visitors from across the world come — but also have a special connection with one or two pictures that hold such cultural relevance.”

Barthe also pointed to the works of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi — best known for designing the Statue of Liberty — and his imagery of the Kingdom.

“Bartholdi made a trip to Saudi Arabia between 1855-1857, and we have a special place for his images in the exhibition,” said Barthe. “He depicted Saudi Arabia in a different light; showing the landscapes and places where he lived during that period.”

His imagery offers people a humanizing glimpse of Saudi nationals during the mid-1800s, a reflection of what the undeveloped Kingdom and its inhabitants looked like before it was transformed by the discovery of vast oil reserves in the 1930s. 

“Architecturally, Bartholdi’s pictures are very beautiful,” said Barthe. “He had a very special way of taking pictures; he had this way to show his objects slowing down. It really is a fascinating and very early record of the region — images that, until now, have not been well known.”

Barthe said the exhibition was born from a desire to present some of the world’s earliest photographic images. “This exhibition offers, for the first time, a global history of photography, whose development in South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia reveals a fascinating play of difference and similarity.  

“I believe it will be full of surprises for visitors, who will not only discover the first evidences of the visual mapping of the world, but also question our fascination and our current dependence on photographic images.”

This exhibition offers, for the first time, a global history of photography Ismail Noor. (Supplied photo)

Photography was born commercially in 1839, when several European nations expanded their colonial empires to territories in Africa, Asia, America and the Middle East, driven by an insatiable quest of discovery. Subsequently, photography crossed the borders of Europe and the seas, accompanying religious missions, scientific, diplomatic and military expeditions and even individual travelers.

The 250 photos in the show, which are on loan from French museums, include historic photographs from the Philippines, including works by Pedro Picon, the creator of one of the earliest photographs in the country. 

Lala Deen Dayal, considered the best Indian-born photographer of his time, is also represented with views of Bombay, Hyderabad and a portrait of the Maharajah de Orchla, dated 1882. In India, photography was of interest to many ruling families at this time. Dayal quickly established himself as the photographer of the nobility, notably documenting the royal tour of the Prince and Princess of Wales through India in 1875-76.

Visitors will be able to discover works by other prominent early photographers, including Luis Garcia Hevia from Colombia, the Abdullah brothers and Pascal Sebah from Turkey, Marc Ferrez from Brazil, Lai Fong from China, Kassian Cephas from Indonesia, Alexandre Michon and Nikolai Charushin from Russia, Francis Chit from Thailand, and Ichida Sôta and Suzuki Shin’ichi II from Japan.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi (DCT), said the exhibition was held to give visitors to the UAE capital a chance too “travel to new places and explore different regions of the world through the eyes of nineteenth-century European travelers.”

Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said the exhibition forms part of its cultural season, called A World of Exchanges. 

“Pioneering photographers played a key role in making other cultures visible and accessible to people back home, the same way our audiences record their daily experiences to share them with their family, friends and online communities.”



 The first photographic process — heliography — was invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (right), who took the world’s first photograph made with a camera — a snapshot from the upstairs windows of his estate in the Burgundy region of France — in either 1826 or 1827.  Niépce’s associate, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, developed the daguerreotype, the first commercially viable photographic process, which was introduced to the world in 1839. The daguerreotype required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results.  The first color photograph was taken some years later by Thomas Sutton, who worked with the theoretical physicist Sir James Clerk Maxwell (below) to take three exposures of a tartan ribbon through red, green and blue filters. The negatives were projected through separate magic lanterns, with the same colored filters, on to a screen to create a single image.  On May 17, 1861, Maxwell presented the first color photograph at the Royal Institution in London and the principle of color photography was born. The physicist Gabriel Lippmann received the Nobel Prize in 1908 for finding a way to obtain photos in direct colors on one plate.

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan condemns ‘unjust’ situation in Palestine

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan condemns ‘unjust’ situation in Palestine
Updated 18 May 2021

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan condemns ‘unjust’ situation in Palestine

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan condemns ‘unjust’ situation in Palestine

DUBAI: US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan has become the latest celebrity to speak out on social media about the current bombardment of Gaza by Israel and the forced evictions faced by Palesntians.

A number of big names have recently expressed their support for families facing eviction from their homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah while also condemning Israeli airstrikes on Gaza.

In an Instagram video, Dubai-based entrepreneur and founder of the Huda Beauty brand, and skincare label Wishful, Kattan said: “I am really annoyed at some of the things that have been happening on some of the social media platforms.

“There have been very unjust things going on in Palestine right now. Hopefully, most of you have been able to experience the opportunity to buy your own home, and I just recently did. I can’t imagine somebody coming into the home that I built and telling me I have to leave and taking it away from me.”


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The 37-year-old makeup artist also accused Instagram of hiding or “completely” deleting posts about Palestine. “It is really disappointing, because a lot of these outlets have outwardly said, ‘we are going to allow fake news.’ But they won’t allow us to post or protest?” she added.

“One of the gifts of social media is the equal opportunity to spread news and to spread the things of how we see them. But that’s not actual, it depends on which side you are fighting actually. Because if you are on the wrong side, it will get hidden, or deleted, or nobody is going to see it.

“I know I have a beauty brand and I am not supposed to talk about politics or whatever, but it is unjust, and I want to stand for what’s right whether or not it makes me unpopular,” Kattan said.

Model Elisa Sednaoui Dellal collaborates with French label Antik Batik

Model Elisa Sednaoui Dellal collaborates with French label Antik Batik
The model joined forces with Paris-based label Antik Batik. Supplied
Updated 18 May 2021

Model Elisa Sednaoui Dellal collaborates with French label Antik Batik

Model Elisa Sednaoui Dellal collaborates with French label Antik Batik

DUBAI: French womenswear label Antik Batik has just launched a new collaboration with Part-Egyptian model and activist Elisa Sednaoui Dellal’s nonprofit social enterprise Funtasia, helping children and teenagers obtain access to education geared toward their development.

The Antik Batik x Funtasia capsule collection, which was released this week, includes 11 pieces such as tops, trousers, a fringed jacket, and embroidered dresses, that are meant to be mixed and matched.

“Partnering with @antikbatik_paris is the dream collaboration,” wrote Sednaoui Dellal on Instagram. “#AntikBatik is a brand of integrity that creates handmade items in India. I’ve been their fan, and a client, for over 10 years. It’s been a joy to select my favorite pieces that I have most worn through the years and create what to me is the ideal summer suitcase, that will take you from day to night. Thank you to all of you that have already made a purchase, it blesses my heart.”

Meanwhile, 100 percent of the profits from the collection with the Paris-based brand, founded by Gabriela Cortese in 1992, will be donated to Funtasia, Sednaoui Dellal’s social enterprise.

It’s not the first time the Italy-born beauty, who spent a large portion of her childhood in Cairo, has collaborated with a fashion brand for a good cause.

Sednaoui Dellal, who has walked runways and featured in campaigns for prestigious brands such as Chanel and Roberto Cavalli, is on a constant quest to assist underprivileged youth in achieving their creative potential.

In 2020, the actress teamed up with France-based accessories label Josefina on a capsule collection of 16 leather carryalls, pouches, backpacks and accessories inspired by her Egyptian roots. Much like her most recent collection with Antik Batik, 100 percent of the profits from the collaboration benefited Funtasia.

That same year, she designed a capsule collection with Italian brand Spazio that was composed of black and white T-shirts printed with the words “Respect,” “Diversity,” “Empathy” and “Identity” in Italian.

More recently, the French-Italian-Egyptian philanthropist teamed up with Italy-based coffee roasting company Caffe Vergano in support of Funtasia.

Startup of the Week: Tebr Jewelry; Each piece made with the utmost care

Startup of the Week: Tebr Jewelry; Each piece made with the utmost care
Updated 18 May 2021

Startup of the Week: Tebr Jewelry; Each piece made with the utmost care

Startup of the Week: Tebr Jewelry; Each piece made with the utmost care

JEDDAH: Abeer Khafaji is a Saudi artist who designs and sells luxury jewelry for her brand, Tebr Jewelry. She discovered her love for the craft when she began experimenting with handmade jewelry.

“I began studying jewelry designing. It took several courses to hone my skills. Now I make sure that each piece is made with the utmost care, using the highest quality materials from the best suppliers,” Khafaji told Arab News.

Her jewelry is made with natural diamonds and precious and semi-precious stones that she chooses to match her designs. She also pays special attention to the packaging of her pieces, which is part of the “Tebr experience.” “My biggest challenge was finding manufacturers who could help me convert my ideas to physical products while maintaining the elegance I aim for,” she said. Tebr has participated in numerous local and international jewelry exhibitions. However, the designer said she gets the most joy out of her work when she sees her customers talking about her products and wearing them with pride. “My biggest achievement was opening a Tebr atelier in Jeddah,” she said.

Khafaji explained the process behind her work: “It takes a lot of time and effort to launch a new collection at the right time. We start working on these months in advance. It is a long process to choose stones that are compatible with my designs, so to ensure perfection we make the demos before the pieces are released. Then we arrange photography sessions with the crew, and then comes social media advertising. But thankfully, it’s all worth it in the end.”

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments
Cult Gaia is a Los Angeles-based label founded by Jasmin Larian. Instagram
Updated 17 May 2021

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

Major luxury retailers announce removal of popular brand due to alleged ‘anti-Palestine’ comments

DUBAI: Harvey Nichols Kuwait announced this week that they will no longer be stocking Cult Gaia products after the Los Angeles-based brand’s founder, Jasmin Larian, made comments on Instagram that were deemed by many on social media to be “anti-Palestine.”

Her post, which she shared with her 28,200 Instagram followers read: “I am seeing so much misinformation on social… One-sided and spreading hate. Please educate yourself on the full story before reposting. I’m praying for everyone on both sides who are a victim of this violence.” She also reposted a photo depicting the words “I support Israel’s right to defend itself.” 

Many in the region perceived her post as taking an anti-Palestine stance and engaging in “bothsidesism,” and urged local department stores and e-tailers to stop selling Cult Gaia products.  

In response to the backlash her post garnered, Larian, who is Iranian-Jewish, later shared: “I realize I am part of the problem by failing to share both sides.” She added, “I also want to be clear that I am in support of the Palestinian people and their rights but not of the leadership that uses them to incite violence and hatred for Israel and Jews. In a perfect world, Israel should be a place for all people and all religions.” However, a number of retailers have already made the decision to remove Cult Gaia from shelves.

Harvey Nichols in Kuwait took to Instagram on Monday to announce their decision to stop stocking the ready-to-wear label. “Our dear followers, due to the current escalation of events, the decision has been made to remove Cult Gaia from Harvey Nichols,” said the statement.

Galleries Lafayette in Doha followed suit, replying to a user calling for the boycott of the brand in an Instagram direct message that they are “in the process of taking the necessary action.”

Ounass, a leading luxury e-tailer in the region, has also stopped selling Cult Gaia products on its online platform as well as Bloomingdales Middle East.

The death toll in Gaza has climbed to a total of 197, including at least 58 children and 34 women, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Since the beginning of the Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip this week, at least 1,235 Palestinians have been injured, with the number expected to rise, the health ministry said.

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear
Updated 17 May 2021

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

Meet the Arab fashion brand supporting women through menswear

DUBAI: While Arab womenswear designers continue to take the international fashion scene and celebrity red carpets by storm, menswear is still a work in progress. Understanding the need to fill the gap in the market, cousins Abla and Raneen Kawar launched ARAK, creating unique designs for men and also shining a spotlight on Arab culture. 

With sustainability and community at the forefront of the brand’s ethos, ARAK is a social enterprise, empowering local women and preserving their fading culture. Here, the duo discusses their label, fusing fashion with technology, and why showcasing Middle East traditions is so important. 


A post shared by ARAK Studio (

Tell us about the idea behind ARAK.

We launched ARAK (meaning “I see you”) with the aim to preserve our Arab heritage by using artisanal skills and techniques in the production of our pieces, namely cross stitch embroidery. We grew up in a family that values sustainability and caring for the environment, so it’s important for us to carry out those values. 

Why focus on menswear?

We noticed the visible gap in the market, particularly with Arab menswear brands. So, we wanted to fill that gap by incorporating traditional Levantine embroidery through our designs. As part of our sustainability efforts, we only want to offer consumers garments that are not offered in the market today.


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You say ‘each garment narrates a wider narrative,’ how so?

Each collection we produce has an overarching narrative, which the designs are inspired by, and then each piece has a hidden narrative to tell – the story of the woman who spent endless hours creating it.                                                                                                                                  

Most of your artisans are underprivileged women in Jordan, why was this important to you?    

Part of ARAK’s ethos is female empowerment. We provide the women with jobs and the opportunity to be financially independent and to help them provide for their children, all from the comfort of their own home. It was important to support these women and destigmatize the taboo around women working in traditionally conservative households.


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How does your relationship work with the local NGO in Jordan?

ARAK works with a local NGO based in Amman, for the production and operation of embroidering the pieces in order to ensure quality and consistency. The local NGO launched in October 2020, aiming to help women build sustainable income as well as build their skills professionally. They work with a not-for-profit academy which offers 100 percent free artisanal courses for members in a bid to continue advancing their skills. We offer the women work with fair wages and ethical working conditions.

ARAK’s designs also fuse tech with tradition, tell us more.               

Today’s world is shifting towards being more tech-dependent. So, it was a no brainer that the initial step we would take as a brand was to implement a woven QR code attached to each garment. Our QR code allows purchasing customers to track how to care for their garment, be introduced to who made it, and identify our transparent practices. We hope to integrate more tech-savvy solutions to our brand in the future.   


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What was the inspiration behind your SS21 collection?                     

Re-discovering our country from a new lens, particularly appreciating the little things as well as the beautiful landscapes that we took for granted pre-COVID-19. The designs in this collection, translate the beauty of the Jordanian landscape through embroidery.                              

What’s your opinion on the representation of Middle Eastern talent in the fashion industry?

The region is filled with incredible talent, many that are yet to be discovered. We believe that representation of the Middle East for what it is still has a long way to go to be perceived in the light it deserves. ARAK aims to do that by making sure all our work is supporting local talent, from the production down to the photographers, models and anyone involved in the creative process of our journey.