Meet the man who clicked UAE's iconic 'Spirit of the Union' photo

Meet the man who clicked UAEs iconic Spirit of the Union photo

One of his happiest and proudest memories was being able to photograph Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at a camel race in Sharjah in 1968, three years before the Union was established.


Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Published: Wed 2 Nov 2016, 4:38 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Nov 2016, 11:37 PM

Compiling a book that records the history, people and development of Sharjah is the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, according to famed one-time royal photographer Ramesh Shukla.

Shukla, now 78, is perhaps best known locally for an image he captured of the rulers of all seven emirates clicked after the signing of the Union Agreement at the Union House in 1971. The iconic image is now the "Spirit of the Union" logo used on the UAE's National Day.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), Shukla told the Khaleej Times that he credits the success of the now famous image to being at the right place, at the right time.

"They all came and I just told them to stop, then it was 'click click click'," he remembers. "Now this picture is my most famous!"

Now, to coincide with the SIBF, Shukla has released a new book entitled "The Rising Sun" - which is the English version of the Arabic name 'Sharjah'.

The book includes images Shukla has taken in Sharjah over the last four decades, ranging from photographs taken over the years of Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to images of Bedouin in the desert, fishermen and Sharjah's cityscape and archaeological sites.

Shukla said that his new book is a result of his deep affection for Sharjah, where he first set foot in what was then the Trucial States in 1965.

"The ship I first came from on my first trip from Bombay to here was to Sharjah," he said. "My first picture I took here (in the UAE) was in Sharjah, of a police inspector. That's when Sharjah became by life dream. I've done seven or eight books now, and I now had to do one about Sharjah, which I love."

Back then, Shukla recalled, the UAE was a very different place.

"People see photographs and say 'oh my God', this was the UAE? Back then there was nothing. No water, no electricity. Nothing," he said. "I used to go from Dubai to Sharjah on a bicycle, with my camera and 50 or 60 black and white rolls of film in my pocket."

One of his happiest memories and proudest moments, he noted, was being able to photograph Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan at a camel race in Sharjah in 1968, three years before the Union was established.

"The next day the image had to go to Dubai to be developed and printing. The second day I went back, and Shaikh Zayed gave me his signature and even his gold pen," he said. "I was 22 years old, and Shaikh Zayed told me I was the best. I was very happy."

Looking back over his long career capturing images of Sharjah and the rest of the UAE, Shukla said he's motivated most by the ability his camera has to capture important moments in time.

"I love history. I don't love money," he said. "I don't care about money, but I am very happy to cover history."

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