'Serving UAE is a life-long mission': Meet Emirati photographer Noora Al Neyadi who impressed Sheikh Mohamed

She is an intrepid traveller whose adventures come with a noble cause


Ruqayya Al Qaydi

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Published: Thu 10 Aug 2023, 2:48 PM

“Serving our leaders and the UAE is a life-long mission.” This is how Emirati photographer Noora Al Neyadi reacted after having met the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Fondly known as the ‘Free Arab', she gained widespread attention after embarking on a unique journey, forming a team to travel with her and spend a whole month living in a tent among tribes in Chad.

As he met her at Qasr Al Bahar, Sheikh Mohamed encouraged her to continue capturing and documenting different traditions and cultures and promote understanding and collaboration through photography.

But who is Noora Al Neyadi? And why has she earned high praise from the President?

Noora is an Emirati anthropologist, documentary photographer, and intrepid traveller who has amassed a substantial following of over 30,000 on Instagram. Here, she generously shares captivating visuals and accounts of her remarkable undertakings spanning the landscapes of the UAE and far beyond.

Noora gained widespread attention after embarking on a unique journey of immersing herself in the heart of tribal communities in Chad. For an entire month, she lived in a tent, completely isolated from the internet in a noble mission to transform the lives of millions in dire need of clean water.

Her documentation vividly captured poignant moments and the intricacies of tribal life.

In a dialogue with CNN, Noora elaborated on her mission within the African nation, recalling: "At the COP27 climate conference, a Chadian woman spoke about the drought affecting about 90 per cent of Lake Chad. It was very important for me to embark on an exploratory journey to get closer to the local people and study how they are affected by this crisis."

She added: "This place will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope to return there again, perhaps sometime in the future."

After the journey, everyone in Chad was talking about the "Free Arab" who embarked on an adventure full of excitement, danger, and events, narrated through her Instagram account.

Indeed, Noora managed to achieve one of her important goals at the end of the journey: She raised over Dh1.2 million to build seven water wells in different regions of Chad.

She wrote on her account: "We are the ones who create the paths of exploration, and we are the ones who give cities and people a space for hope and a deeper meaning to their life stories. We are planting Zayed's goodness."

With profound gratitude, she expressed her appreciation for the unwavering support extended by the Emirates Red Crescent and their assistance in carrying out this project.

But this was not Noora's only journey, as her ardour for camping led her to undertake many trips within the country as well.

One of the trips she took was a week-long journey from the capital, Abu Dhabi, to Liwa.

She went on this adventure during winter, facing challenges such as low temperatures, but also enjoying exhilarating moments such as stargazing beneath the clear, glittery night sky.

Throughout this remarkable expedition, Noora passed through various stations, crossing oases and castles, covering a distance of 848km, narrating the stories of these places, their castles, and their history.

During her meeting with the President, Noora shared her experiences and the challenges she had faced as she explored various cultures. Despite all odds, she vowed remained dedicated to documenting the history and architecture that makes each society unique.


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