Sign of the Times: A Photo Essay

Scenes of Abu Dhabi, UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young masked men play pool outside Madinat Zayed. Others seem to be selling fake designer clothes in an illicit secondhand market. A lone man in a polo shirt has erected jumping castles to make extra cash outside the Gold Center. The castles are deserted. He listens to something on his phone, absorbed with all the intensity of the clouds gathering above. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Laborers in the city must continue to earn money. Juice shops, cafeterias, carpet sellers, cobblers, tailors, honey vendors…all remain. They sip tea in their shops, trying to sell. In 48 hours, they will have to pack up and stay home for two weeks. Almost everyone on the street is masked. Small cigarettes and “massage cards” lie motionless on the pavement. Malayalam, French, Urdu, Wolof, Bengali: all the languages of the streets, of the working class, dance. They filter through masks and mix with the air like steam rising from the chai at Happy Cafeteria. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — must continue to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.

Small groups of young West African men swap cigarette boxes, thin rolls of money, and bottles of hand sanitizer as they congregate outside an apartment building. I try not to look. I, girl with the zooming camera and lens-corrected eyes, am looked at. I stumble upon a shop called MASK FASHION nearby. Life — the exchange of capital and conversations — continues to rumble even at this off-kilter pace.



Vamika Sinha is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of Postscript. Find more of her photography here.

workshop in an abu dhabi library

where we hope to become better
where saturdays burn away
where we write poetry
where my wild boyfriend waits

thumbing failure by design

where maybe he imagines what is left to learn about poetry
where a poet blows her nose loudly—twice

marveling at the library’s new architecture
beckoned to mull white walls criss-crossed by
shadows and light pouring from triplet oculi

where once men painted these walls

while others screwed on every light switch plate
and others now check the circuits knowing
wires expand and contract with each use cycle
or simply wear out, like memories, like books

where maybe they imagined us

asking where are we now?
asking where are they now?

Artwork by Sir James Jebusa Shannon, ‘Reverie’, 1898