Democracy Dies in Darkness

In Sight | Perspective

A country constantly under construction: A photographer documents the changing coast of the United Arab Emirates

April 16, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Jumeirah Public Beach, Dubai, 2017. (Philip Cheung/)
Residence II, Ajman, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)

“I’m fascinated by the speed of the cities’ expansion along the coastline and into the desert,” photographer Philip Cheung said about the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He lived in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, on and off from 2007 to 2013, inspiring him to return each year afterward to document the changing coastal landscape, in a project called “The Edge.”

“Since I’ve first arrived in the UAE, the landscape has changed considerably. Continual construction of buildings, housing and infrastructure is an ordinary way of life there. The cities are expanding further and further into the desert, along the coastline and onto man-made islands. And as much as the landscape expands in area, it also extends in usage refinement and aesthetic sophistication,” Cheung told In Sight.

He also noted that more than the land was evolving.

“Not only have there been considerable physical changes, but the social landscape has also greatly transformed. The younger generations of Emiratis are returning from being educated abroad, bringing new perspectives and demands onto the local population, businesses and the government. And, interestingly, this happens while they continually and fervently embrace the cultural and religious traditions.”

Al Sila, Western Region, Abu Dhabi, 2017. (Philip Cheung/)
Majlis, Fujairah, 2017. (Philip Cheung/)
The Breakwater, Abu Dhabi, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)
Friday, Fujairah, 2014. (Philip Cheung/)
Al Sultan Tailoring, Fujairah, 2014. (Philip Cheung/)
Workers, Al Sila’a, Western Region, Abu Dhabi, 2017. (Philip Cheung/)
Future Development, SAS Al Nakhl, Abu Dhabi, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)
Shooters Club, Ajman, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)
The Royal Residence Hotel, Umm al-Quwain, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)
E11, Jebel Ali, Dubai, 2015. (Philip Cheung/)

More on In Sight:

A diary of the Middle East in the 1930s

These opulent villas are 50 miles from the Islamic State’s front line in Mosul

Burned-out buses, unexploded missiles: a photographer on the road through Syria.

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting an article to In Sight, please complete this form.


Chloe Coleman is a photo editor at The Washington Post working in Outlook and Foreign news focusing on The Americas, Europe and Russia. She is regular contributor to the In Sight blog. She joined the Post in 2014.

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