Noor Rashid Ali Royal Photographer

Noor Ali Rashid as the Royal Photographer attended every major function and happening over the past 50 years of Dubai's history. He could always be seen bustling amongst the dignatories and crowd, giving instructions to everyone, VIPs and Bystanders alike, as to where to stand for his photos. Noor Ali Rashid sadly passed away on 18th August 2010 aged 80 years leaving a huge portfolio of historic Dubai photos. Gulf News interviewed Noor Ali from several years ago. This is an abridged version of that interview.

Gulf News interviews Noor Ali Rashid Royal Photographer

Noor Rashid Ali

Photo by Amy Leang-The National

As a young man Noor Ali Rashid was sent to Dubai as punishment for his obsession with photography in the hope a change of scenery would inspire a more ‘respectable' career. Born in December 1929 in the Gwadar province in Pakistan. His fascination with photography began when he was a 17-year-old student at a Gujarat boarding school. "A photographer came to take our pictures at school and I was hooked," he said. When he returned to Gwadar, his brother bought him a small camera that further sparked his interest. "I learnt how to take good pictures from studio photographers. I was so crazy about photography I would tell people that if they invited me to their functions I would take pictures free of charge." The hive of political activity in Karachi, Pakistan, in the 1940s lured him there and he began shooting pictures professionally for a weekly magazine and newspapers. "All this while my father was fed up that I always made excuses to go to Karachi to take pictures and spent my money on photography. He told me ‘look, when you tell me that you are a photographer I'm ashamed. A photographer is an odd job like a carpenter or a tailor. For generations we have been businessmen so why are you doing this?'"

Sent to Dubai

In 1958 Rashid's father packed him off to Dubai with a ‘handsome amount' to set up a business. "They said I should not take my camera but I took it anyway," he said. Rashid became a royal photographer to the UAE's ruling families by chance when the late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum became Ruler of Dubai. Noor Ali took photos when a British official for UK's Queen Elizabeth II read the Queen's official message recognising Sheikh Rashid as Dubai's Ruler. Noor Ali developed and enlarged the photographs and delivered these to Sheikh Rashid who was delighted. "He was very happy and said that I was to be his official and family photographer." Since then Noor Ali has amassed more than three million photographs of the UAE's Ruling Family, Statesmen, Celebrities and Sports Personalities. Paging through thick photo albums he pointed out people he has met - Nelson Mandela, Indira Gandhi, Jimmy Carter, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton to name a few. "Look, there is no protocol for me," he said showing photos of his warm greetings and embraces with world leaders. Noor Ali Rashid's Collection has photos of his entertaining UAE leaders in his home as well as swimming, horse riding and travelling with them. "I was very proud to be the photographer of Sheikh Rashid and later the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. I neglected my business but was quite happy with my new assignment," he said.

Royal Photographer

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Noor Ali Rashid was appointed ‘Royal Photographer' by the late Sheikh Zayed and is the official photographer for the Al Nahyan family as well as the ruling families of the seven emirates. "I took all the pictures I could because I knew they would be valuable later. And nobody would dare to line up these Leaders and High-Ranking Officials to take their photographs but I made the request. They understood that I am a professional photographer." Recalling Dubai's early days when he first arrived he said the country's Police Force was only two or three years old, work on dredging the Creek so bigger boats could enter had started, and telephone, electricity and communication facilities were being introduced by British companies. He said the country had no proper roads - "sometimes when there was high tide you couldn't even go by car. Taxis - they were Land Rovers rejected by the British army - got stuck all the time."

Noor Rashid Ali's close association with Gulf News

He recalled editors whom he worked with and current Gulf News photographers he has befriended. When the company was taken over by Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Abdullah Al Rostamani and Juma Al Majid, Rashid said he received a good response and his pictures, often supplied free of charge, were well used. Noor Ali Rashid's received 83 plaques and trophies, including the title of Photographer of the Millennium, during his 50 years as a Photographer. Noor Ali Rashid has published five books showcasing his photographic documentation of the UAE's development. The sixth and seventh books are under way.

"Maybe if God gives me the health and life, I think publishing three or four books every year will not be a problem."
Noor Rashid Ali died 18th August 2010