Am I Driving Safely, If Not Please Call (c. 2021)
Mina Zayed: Reflections on Past Futures
Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Photographic prints on paper and translucent fabric, Audio
This project was developed through the year-long photography mentorship program by Warehouse 421 and Gulf Photo Plus, in response to the changing landscape of Mina Zayed in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE has well-established trading relations both within the Middle East and globally, making it one of the easiest countries to do business with. Importation, exportation, and re-exportation fuel the economic growth of the country. There are three ways that goods are exported and imported in and out of the UAE: Air, Sea, and Road. All three follow different procedures, yet the Road Imports and Exports Process has the least steps to follow. At times, the road is the most effective mode of transport, "especially where the existing infrastructure is poor. Currently, in the UAE, five percent of all exports take place by road," according to the UAE Imports & Exports Guide the Ministry of Economy.
One of the main ports that activate the country's economy is Mina Zayed; it is the first local port in Abu Dhabi and dramatically contributes to its trade and economy. In this port lives so many stories, both transient and permanent.
Near the Mina Zayed Fruit and Vegetable Market, there is a parking lot dedicated to non-oil transport trucks that travel across Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the cities in between. In this spot, drivers come to rest in their makeshift beds, cook meals in their makeshift kitchen, and feel safe in their makeshift homes. Several minutes of walking in this area will lend a sense of impermanence, of transience, through the cigarette butts, foldable chairs, and leftover food that stay after these drivers drive back to where they came from and from the muffled roaring of trucks that have just arrived.
With the worn-down remnants of their European origin, the trucks are structured for road haulage; it has a pull-out kitchen beside its wheels, filled with canned goods, butane stoves, pots, and occasionally a tiny pillow. On their windshields are stickers of various Islamic proverbs that seem like little prayers for safety. Their clothes are hanging by a string, from one corner to another, out to dry. These are a sight to see upon walking between Al Funs and Al Luluah streets: men cleaning or cooking, packing, smoking, conversing, imitating life, and making a home on the road.
Amir, Karim, Mohamed, and Murad, in broken English dialogues, have said that it takes several days to drive thousands of kilometers from Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to the UAE to deliver fruits vegetables from their local farms. These products eventually end up in the Mina Zayed Market, to the rest of the Emirates, and finally in our homes.
'Am I Driving Safely? Please Call' is a series of photographs dedicated to these drivers' journeys and resting places. Though they are a small part of globalization's ethos, their hard work perpetuates the economic progress globalization brings to nations. This project highlights the trucks that they call home, albeit temporarily, while fulfilling their respectable jobs on the road, thousands of kilometers away from where they come from.