Research trip to the United Arab Emirates – Camels and Salukis

I’ve just come back from a week long research trip to the UAE and have fallen in love with this amazing place! It has spectacular landscapes, fascinating wildlife and warm, friendly people. It was an informative and very memorable trip to a part of the world I didn’t know terribly well beforehand.

Big Boys Toys Expo

Whilst in Dubai, I visited Big Boys Toys, the region’s premier luxury lifestyle expo. It showcases “the world’s most unique and luxurious products and services from an amazing lineup of the world’s most innovative manufacturers.” Offering a platform for sporting, aviation, motoring, nautical, technological, digital, and health goods, it also attracts exhibitors from the art world, so I was keen to visit. I really enjoyed wandering around the show and seeing the range of incredible things on offer.

modern art in Dubai

Back in England, I rarely get time to visit art galleries, so I was really excited to get the chance to explore the emerging arts scene in the UAE. In Dubai, I visited the Gate Village in the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) and the district of Al Quoz, known for its contemporary art galleries. It gave me a great insight into the vibrant artistic life of the region and I saw some really inspiring work – including a desk cast out of concrete! In Abu Dhabi, I went to see a potential new dealer who has just opened a new showroom that covers over 5,000 square meters. I couldn’t help thinking how perfect the space would be for a life size bronze camel or two!

Hamish with camels

Talking of camels, I couldn’t go to the UAE without seeing one of my favourite animals in its natural habitat.  I spent a fantastic day at the Camel Reproduction Centre in Dubai. Scientific director, Dr Lulu Skidmore, showed me the breeding program. I loved getting up close with these incredible Ships of the Desert. They are such expressive animals, their faces are so full of character. They are inquisitive too. Once or twice I turned to see a train of them following me around to see what I was up to! I began work on a camel head while I was there. I also took lots of photos for reference with my new Leica SL. That will really help when I get back to my studio and finish the sculpture.

camel head sculpture with camel

Hamish with camels

I am really pleased with my new camera. The Leica SL is a fantastic bit of kit and takes beautifully crisp photos. I do wish I’d familiarised myself a bit more with it before my trip though. It isn’t easy to figure out how to get the best shots when time and fading light are against you. Consequently, I definitely didn’t get the best from it. I know there is so much more it can do! However, I think you’ll agree the pictures I did get are great!

camel eye

About an hour out of Dubai, I visited a private kennel where they breed the magnificent saluki. These graceful animals are a sculptors’ dream. They are the ultimate dog to sculpt, because you can really see anatomically what is going on underneath! Originally bred for hunting in the desert, the saluki is built for speed. They are graceful and streamlined with long narrow bodies and fine features. I was inspired to begin sculpting one and look forward to getting back in the studio to finish it off.  Obviously helped by more photos of the dogs taken with the Leica.

Sculpting Saluki dog

In my next post, I’ll tell you more about my time in the UAE. I had an amazing trip to the deser. I slept under the stars and had lots more encounters with Arabian wildlife…