The Sabkha of Al Ghabria, the Western Region of the UAE, is amongst the world’s most dangerous, and inhospitable landscapes. Al Gharbia includes the famous Liwa Oasis, on the edge of the Rub Al Khali; the massive Empty Quarter of the Arabian peninsula. This area is famous for it’s dramatic sand dune landscape. But closer to the coast is another type of landscape, not often talked about; the Sabkha, or salt plain.
Sabkhas are inter-tidal, and inland, saline desert flats devoid of vegetation. On first sight they appear to be without any life at all, and of little value for humans because of the lack of fresh water and absence of grazing for livestock. Consequently they have, historically, been regarded as wastelands.Studying and spending time in the Sabkha leads one to question the way we perceive and consequently value natural landscapes. Closer examination of the Sabkha reveals an infinite variety of surface texture and colour, and many complex variants of geological, physical and chemical factors that have created this subtle palette.
The distinctive Cyanobacterial mats that form on the coastal strips of the Sabkha offer, as yet, untold potential in the fields of human health, global ecology, energy-production and more. But probably most significantly, Cyanobacteria was amongst the earliest life-forms on Earth and, as one of the first photosynthesizing organisms, is credited with changing the early carbon-rich atmosphere of the young planet into an oxygen-rich one, which facilitated the development of diverse, and sophisticated, life forms, including us.
This project was included in my solo exhibition The Anthropocene in 2016 at GPP Gallery, Dubai.