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Ramesh Shukla, one-time Royal photographer, who has been not only taking pictures of the Rulers of UAE, but has been documenting UAE throughout the years. 28th February 2019 Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Story: Anjana Kumar/ Gulf News

Dubai: Ramesh Shukla, the Indian photographer behind some of the UAE’s most iconic photographs, has added another feather in his cap – the Expo 2020 Dubai passport carries a picture he took of his favourite UAE leader, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Shukla’s name appears as the photo credit for Sheikh Zayed’s image in the passport, millions of which have been printed for Expo visitors who like to get them stamped at every country pavilion they visit.

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Ramesh Shukla is proud that his photo of the late Sheikh Zayed has appeared on the Expo 2020, Dubai passport

Shukla did not reach his milestones overnight, of course. He has been a loyal resident of UAE for the last 56 years, capturing the essence of the emirates and its leaders.

As the UAE celebrates its Golden Jubilee, Shukla told Gulf News about the moments dear to him, both in memory and on film.

‘We became one family’

He said: “I have lived in the UAE for 56 years, my dreams have come true. But what still holds close to my heart is the seven emirates coming together in a Federation to form the UAE. I remember that we needed permits to get to other emirates. From Dubai to Sharjah a permit was required. When the UAE was formed we became one family and that was a very big occasion for expatriates and citizens of UAE.”

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Royal Photographer & Artist Ramesh Shukla poses with his famous picture of the seven shaiks during the union. Picture taken on 1st December, 2016. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Coming to Sharjah on a boat

Shukla arrived on a boat in Sharjah back in 1965. It was three years later that his talent was recognised. Shukla at the time was a freelance photographer and one day he landed the assignment of his life. It was the first camel race held in Sharjah and the leaders from other emirates were to attend. “I still remember I bought a bicycle to help me get to the emirate. It cost me 18 Indian rupees [which were used here at the time]. From Dubai, I cycled to the race and back. It was a defining moment in my life.”

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iconic picture of UAE’s leaders that he captured in 1971

A simple brief

Shukla recalled his brief was to click pictures of the Sheikhs attending the race. “I took many pictures. I was super excited. That night when I reached home I could not wait to develop the pictures. When they were published, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was impressed. He autographed one of the pictures I took of him and said that I was a ‘fannan’ [an artist].”

That was then

Today, that same picture appears on millions of copies of the Expo passport. “I feel humbled. What can I say, it is a celebration of love and loyalty. The UAE is home to me, the leaders are like family. We are one and we are united,” he said.

“Back when I took my first picture of the founding father, no one imagined the UAE would be formed. Today, as the nation celebrates 50 years of the federation, it is a very special moment for me. From the time when I did not have electricity in my home to now living a life in the emirates with all modern facilities, is a major achievement.”

Shukla has captured the visionary leaders of UAE in both their milestones and candid moments.

Whether it is Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, leading an impressive line-up of camels (1970) or the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the late Ruler of Dubai, opening the Dubai museum (1971); or another candid frame of the late Shaikh Rashid sipping a glass of tea – all of the shots have left remarkable memories.

More memories to be made

“On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of UAE, I wish the Rulers more success for the next 50 years. The UAE is a country that has made its mark on the international map. There is only more good to come out of the nation’s vision. Expo 2020 Dubai has so far been a stupendous success and is another feather in the cap of the nation. Kudos to the UAE as it goes on to achieve much more,” he said.