SOAS University of London

2018 Middle East in London Photo Competition Winner Announced!

11 December 2018

For the sixth year in a row we have hosted our Annual Photo Competition, inviting our readers to submit their photographs of the Middle East. And every year the breadth and quality of the images submitted provide stunning – and sometimes intimate – glimpses into the current affairs, history, culture and humanity of the region.

This year it was Jan Darmovzal’s image of the Qadisha Valley in Lebanon that won first place. Three additional photographs won commendations. We are grateful to all who took part in the competition and chose to share their individual lenses with us. If you’re interested in taking part in our next competition, visit our website during the summer months for the details.

Hidden Mysteries of Qadisha Valley

Winning photograph ‘Hidden Mysteries of Qadisha Valley’

Jan Darmovzal has a deep interest in Middle Eastern countries, especially Lebanon, Palestine and Iran, as he wishes to uncover their true beauty and share it widely. Qadisha Valley is located in the north of Lebanon, next to the road that bypasses the mountains separating the Mediterranean coast from the Bekaa Valley. Just above the valley is Bcharre, a village predominantly populated by a Christian Monastic community in otherwise a very religiously diverse country. Apart from religious diversity, Lebanon is also home to significant natural diversity. In this photo, snow-capped mountains dotted with the Lebanese natural symbol, the cedar tree, are contrasted with the deep valley and its blooming flowers scented with the sea breeze.

Traditional Fisher Village in Oman

Commendation photograph ‘Traditional Fisher Village in Oman’

Lucie van der Beek started taking pictures when she was gifted with a small digital camera at the age of 11. Choosing to study International Development at university gave her the opportunity to travel to places she had never thought to see; so she decided to document her journeys with photography, which allows her to showcase the lesser known parts of the Middle East region. Right after taking this picture, the clouds unleashed a torrent of rain that flooded the entire village. Kids played in the water while she and her friend tried to get back on the road to avoid being stranded for the night.

The Reader

Commendation photograph ‘The Reader’

This photo is an example of how Amira Elwakil sometimes takes candid photos of individuals while considering the politics of that process, especially the question: am I exoticising them? This is not an easy question to answer and as a result her photography includes fewer photos of individuals. Here, the caretaker of Cairo’s colossal Al-Rifa’i Mosque (not immediately identifiable) guides our eyes to the outside world with its sunlight and washing lines, yet simultaneously blurs the distinction between inside/outside. Here the subject is hopefully seen as a guide, rather than an object to be examined.

Love With No Fear

Commendation photograph ‘Love With No Fear’

Mumtaz Md Kadir is new to photography. She enjoys capturing scenes depicting life and colours, and she is especially interested in portraying Middle Eastern countries and societies – to provide an alternative narrative to a region that is often misconstrued. This photo is taken at Aida refugee camp in Bethelehem, West Bank. The camp is located adjacent to the separation wall and between two Israeli military posts, making it susceptible to frequent raids. Despite the tough living conditions, these Palestinians live their lives with hope and togetherness. The juxtaposition of a harsh physical environment and warm human connection, as evident in this photo, shows how important love and unity is in times of difficulty.