An article in National Geographic titled, ‘Water, The Age of Scarcity Begins,’ gave Al Attar the impetus to undertake a project investigating the way that the most precious natural resource in the desert is often given away for free as an act of charity.
Grounded in the UAE, Sibeel Water brings attention to the tradition of community water taps positioned outside local palaces, mosques, family homes, and factories. In Arabic, sibeel translates to ‘an act of giving.’ The water coolers outside the homes are donated by families, mainly for construction workers. In industrial areas, like Al Quoz in Dubai, these simple fountains are positioned outside factories and sometimes hidden down alleyways or behind overgrown wild bougainvillea blossoming with bright bursts of pink.
In contrast, Al Attar also shot an ornately tiled bench with multiple taps stationed in front of a mansion in Um Al Quwain. People who don’t have a water source of their own frequent the space and queue with large jars. At one point, the crowds grew so large that the owner of the home was compelled to schedule specific hours for community water collection in order to ensure availability for everyone in need.
By choosing to shoot the simplest to the most ornate of taps, Al Attar references the compulsory act of charity incumbent on all Muslims regardless of their financial position in society. Many of the images were captured using large format 4x4 film that is expensive, only comes in packs of ten, and has to be mailed to Germany for printing, constraints that added pressure on the artist to shoot with careful consideration.