Prize-winning Photo Captures Essence of Abu Dhabi
The Man in the Hindi Cassette Shop. Alyssa Yu / Class of 2019

This intriguing image titled The Man in the Hindi Cassette Shop is described by the photographer as "the embodiment of Abu Dhabi — bringing together the old intimate charm of the city as well as its multicultural spirit." The story behind the picture and its eventual acclaim starts with a chance encounter between the talkative shop owner and a student with a camera.

NYU Abu Dhabi's Alyssa Yu, Class of 2019, snapped the photo while wandering around a souk just off Hamden Street in downtown Abu Dhabi earlier this year. She later submitted the image to the Abu Dhabi Through Your Eyes photo competition and won top prize in the student category. The panel of judges, Yu said, described her image as having beautiful visual narrative and "depicting daily life in Abu Dhabi through a different perspective of the city."

Yu explained the story behind the award-winning photo and why she — and the contest judges — believe it captures the essence of Abu Dhabi:

"I had spent five hours walking aimlessly around Hamdan Street, taking photographs of construction workers, shawarma shop vendors, and barbers, when, from a dark alley at the back of Al Ahalia Hospital and illuminated only by a warm yellow light from the right wall, came the sound of the lilting Arabic language coming over a radio that lulled me right in.

A few steps closer brought me to this enclave that sold Hindi cassette tapes and introduced me to the most spectacular man. This photo was shot at the very moment I had seen him and he had noticed me and subsequently motioned for me to come so he could give me a tour of his narrow store lined with cassettes on both ends that extended all the way in."

Prize-winning Photo Captures Essence of Abu Dhabi
Yu accepts her award for best student photo. Submitted image
quote

He told me his name was Nadeem. He proceeded to show me his 8 passports through the years since arriving in Abu Dhabi 43 years ago and setting up his cassette shop in the Central Souk. He is the embodiment of Abu Dhabi — bringing together the old intimate charm of the city as well as its multicultural spirit.

Alyssa Yu, Class of 2019

"He told me his name was Nadeem. He proceeded to show me his 8 passports through the years since arriving in Abu Dhabi 43 years ago and setting up his cassette shop in the Central Souk. After the fire, he moved to Al Ahalia hospital where he sits everyday striking up conversation with anyone who passes by—through the years allowing him to pick up over 8 languages.

He is easily one of the most jovial men I have ever met — effervescent and constantly laughing (his belly would move up and down as he did), sometimes at jokes only he seemed to be privy to. He is the embodiment of Abu Dhabi — bringing together the old intimate charm of the city as well as its multicultural spirit."

Yu said her prize includes: Nikon D330 camera, cash, and a free flight and hotel room.