Saturday, January 16, 2010

Abandoned Buildings in Tarif, Abu Dhabi

Abandoned Tarif-3-2
This post features photography from an abandoned group of buildings in Tarif in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  Tarif lies along the UAE coastal highway 11 approximately 100km West of Abu Dhabi and about one third of the way from Abu Dhabi to the border with Saudi Arabia.
Abandoned Tarif
I do not know for certain the history of this site.  However, I can give you a reasonably good guess based on my observations.  The buildings appear to have had an initial purpose, experienced re-use for a second purpose, and finally met its demise.
Abandoned Tarif-2
My guess is that the buildings were first used as some form of military installation.  Among other clues, the original guard gate and some of the physical security components remain.  Proximity to other newer related facilities provides additional clues.
Abandoned Tarif-2-2
It appears that when the military left the site, it was then used as a worker camp for immigrant laborers working on any one of the many construction projects in the immediate area, or in the Emirate.
Abandoned Tarif-2-3
While most of the buildings are in shambles and clearly have not been inhabited for a number of years, some appear to have been used as recently as the last few years.
Abandoned Tarif-3
So now we press on with a discussion of the photography.  Shooting and processing these photographs was a real challenge for me.  My normal approach to photography is much a matter of trying to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  In other words, by looking for unique light, an interesting angle, or an uncommon perspective it is possible to make something appear unusual and appealing although it is fundamentally ordinary.
Abandoned Tarif-4
I say this was a challenge because when making photography in what amounts to an abandoned village, everything that passes in front of your lens is far from the ordinary.  Not having a clear strategy for how to approach this, I simply proceeded with what felt natural…shoot a lot!
Abandoned Tarif-4-2
If you have not guessed the subject of the previous photograph, it is a car.  This small format does not help, but even at full size, your only clues are a shock poking out here, a seat belt hanging out there, and the remains of a passenger seat impossibly compressed.
Abandoned Tarif-5
I have two people I would like to thank for this wonderful day of shooting (over 600 photographs).  Adam Backer is a regular reader of the blog and graciously invited me to join him for a trip to Tarif.  Adam is a talented photographer, and I encourage you to visit his site; Adam Backer Photography.  Also along on the trip was Mohammed Hasif.  Mohammed is new to photography and is progressing rapidly.  It was a pleasure spending the day with both of them.
As you might have guessed, after a day that included over 600 shutter clicks, these photographs represent but a small part of the entire day.  I will share a few more shots in second entry to be posted soon.  Stay tuned!
Have fun and go make some great photography!


  1. I would like to thank you for the efforts that you have made in writing this article.This is exactly what I need,Thanks a lot.Keep blogging.

    Bloom Gardens

  2. Thank you for posting these pictures - lots of memories. The camp was founded around 1960 by the concession holder -Abu Dhabi Petroleum Company as a base camp for onshore oil exploration . I lived there from 1964 to 1966 -in a caravan adjacent to the barasti (palm thatch) building you show - that was the bar/ recreation centre . The concrete buildings were the mess and 'senior' and guest accommodation. In 1966 the company moved its HQ to Abu Dhabi town and stated building camps inland on the actual oilfields - thus Tarif oil camp began to decline - I think if closed around 1975 - there was for a time a police post there. I left Abu Dhabi in '76 - have visited a few times since but did not have tome to revisit Tarif - so thanks for the virtual trip. If you want to see a picture of the bar in use in 1967 then visit : - - the picture on the header is taken in the bar -I'd forgotten about the stone fireplace !

    Gerry Mudd

    1. Thanks so much for the comments Gerry. It is wonderful to hear your story of this place from someone with firsthand experience.



  3. those are magnificent Craig, thank you. if by any chance you have GPS co-ords or directions there I would be most interested to visit the site, I love old ruins and the feelings they emit. I live in abu dhabi. thanks, Andrew (