2 Females Win Top Prizes for Entries to the Arab World’s Most Prestigious Annual Photography Competition

The two winners strikingly documented the sorrows and delights of trading in the region’s souqs for the 'Moments' competition.

With ‘Souqs of the Middle East’ as the theme of this year’s Moments competition, the region’s budding photographers sent in their best pictures capturing the "diversity and stories of markets from around the Arab world." And it was two females who nabbed the top prizes for the beautiful pictures they snapped for the competition organised by National Geographic Abu Dhabi and Almarai. While Lebanese Zeinab Khalifeh won the adult category, Wafa Abdulmajeed from Oman was declared the winner in the children’s one. This was a particularly impressive feat for the victors, who were awarded at a recent ceremony at the Youth Hub in Emirates Towers in Dubai, as the competition had attracted over 50,000 entries and theirs were then selected from a shortlist of 90 photos.

Khalifeh was awarded for her poignant and broody photograph of Am Hassan, or Uncle Hassan, a Lebanese tailor in a souq in ancient Sidon, south Lebanon, a spot she often visits to practise photography and chat with the locals. Am Hassan had spent over 40 years working at his sewing machine before dying a few months ago. Khalifeh, a nurse, said he couldn’t recognise his family members towards the end of his life, but he would always talk about his sewing machine. 

“My picture portrays one moment in his 40 years in the souq. Forty years of hope and sadness that he shared with his sewing machine,” the 26-year-old told Arab News

Khalifeh also said she saw her hobby as a way to put the many “forgotten people and places” in her community in the spotlight. The avid photographer used her very first paycheck to buy a new Nikon camera, and she has been portraying the world around her ever since. She has perfected her technique by reading, watching videos and going to workshops.  

“To me, photography is about building a pure connection with people and trying to portray it in one moment,” Khalifeh, who feels art and medicine are somehow linked, said.

Meanwhile, Abdulmajeed’s colourful winning shot showed a shopkeeper in Muscat’s Mutrah Souq.  While visiting the souk in Oman’s capital with her mother, the 17-year-old-high school student zoomed in on the trader as he was having an introspective moment. Wearing traditional clothing, he is surrounded by precious keepsakes and wares, including traditional daggers.

 The young creative, who hopes to study medicine, told Arab News her passion for photography began at an early age, when she discovered renowned National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Her dream of meeting him came true, which further propelled her to continue clicking away. 

“I had only dreamt of meeting him. And when I did, his advice was ‘Go for it’,” she told Arab News. “After that day, I have been taking photos not only during family gatherings but of streets and different aspects of society.” Her first camera, a Canon 700D, was a gift from her dad.  

Chosen by a judging panel that included Hussam R. Abdulqader, CMO of Almarai, and the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner and National Geographic photographer Mohammad Muheisen, the winning entries will be printed in National Geographic’s Arabic edition. The winners will also receive $5,000 worth of photography equipment and are invited to join a 10-day expedition trip worth $10,000, where they will be mentored by National Geographic’s expert photographers.

About 'Moments'
Open to photographers of all skill levels and from all ages 13 and up, Moments, which could be described as the Arab world’s most prestigious annual photography competition, has now been running for nine years. The competition seeks to boost the talents of aspiring photographers from the region via exposure and mentoring. 

This year’s competition, which saw an increase of 10,000 entries compared to last year, featured a returning category for those aged 13 to 17. The competition proved particularly popular with up-and-coming photographers from the UAE. They showed the highest increase in submissions in the GCC, with a 62 percent rise over last year. 

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