Watch: Dubai-based Pakistani photographer chronicles 50 years of his life

Shaukat Ali Rana at his residence in Mirdif: Capturing a successful journey. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Shaukat Ali Rana came to the UAE as a young child of eight 50 years ago. He grew as the city of Dubai grew in leaps and bounds. He came to Dubai following the footsteps of his father Mohammad Rafi Rana when he joined the British Bank of Middle East (BBME) in 1966 at a grand salary of Dh450 and later joining Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) office in Dubai.

Shaukat Ali Rana’s father Mohammed Rafi Rana at the Jumeirah Cinema. Image Credit: Supplied

Soon in 1968, Shaukat, accompanied by his two brothers and four sisters, besides mother Naseem Rafi Rana, flew in from Lahore via Karachi to Dubai.

In the five decades of his stay, Rana feels he is an integral part of the success story of UAE, particularly Dubai. Starting from the grassroots, the Rana family consolidated their position in the country.

Shaukat Ali Rana with his brother Liaqat Ali back in the day. Image Credit: Supplied

Born to be a photographer

Shaukat, who studied in the Pakistan Islamia Secondary School in Oud Metha, was born to be a photographer

He was fond of photography from his early days and had begun chronicling al important events at the tender age of 11. “When UAE was formed and the first UAE national day was held in 1971, I was only 11 years old, but we went to Abu Dhabi and captured the celebrations on my box camera. In those days, going to Abu Dhabi from Dubai was as good as going to a faraway land. After a four-hour ride in a car on a single carriage way and at times sandy road, one had to wait in a queue at the border, show the passport to gain entry into Abu Dhabi. On the first national day, the wait was worth it and we thoroughly enjoyed the celebrations,” recalled Rana.

Shaukat Ali Rana in Abu Dhabi when he was a youngster. Image Credit: Supplied

In the early 80s when he completed his high school, Rana set up his photography centre in Deira deciding to make a career of his hobby, which he had been passionately pursuing over the years.

Rana threw a firm anchor into life in the UAE community, because this was the place he called home from the age of eight. He got married to Fouziya Fathudeen, a young Kuwait national girl at the age of 25. “I built our own house in Mirdif in the late 80s,” recalled Rana of a time when most of Midrif was a desert.

The house of Shaukat Ali Rana in Mirdif in the late 1980s. Image Credit: Supplied

Flourishing photo centre

Around the late 1970s, he set up the Shaukat Photo Centre on Yousef Bakar Road Deira. In those days, the studio was popular with people as few owned cameras and would flock to him for family photographs and development of photos films. Rana began with basic box camera and quickly learned to adapt, expand and diversify his business to meet the needs of a dynamic market place.

Shaukat Ali Rana says he is eternally thankful to the UAE. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Rana recalled, “I had all the cameras required and the equipment. I imported chemicals and the paper to develop pictures in my dark room and to re-sell in the market. People were fascinated with photography. Later we had the Polaroid camera that provided a photograph in 10 minutes. I had that at my studio too and customers flocked to have their Polaroid picture taken,” he recounted.

Fast changing field

As the history of photography evolved so did Rana’s business. His secret of survival in a fast changing business was adapting to the need of the hour, selling expensive photography paper, photography equipment to finally importing wooden and aluminium extrusions and accessories to the picture framing industry, the Rafi group has evolved over the years. His vision and hard work paid off and today three generations of the Rana family have already established their credentials in their family business.

First, it was Shauakt Photo Centre, which expanded into trading in photo paper, chemicals, and then to Rafi Photo Store LLC, later evolving into today’s Rafi Group which consolidates all the diverse businesses of distribution of well-known brands in photography.

Shaukat Ali Rana with his three sons Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Ayub and Taimur Shaukat Ali Rana. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The business is run by his three sons – Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Ayub and Taimur Shaukat Ali Rana. His only daughter Warda is settled in Kuwait. They oversee several market supplies and trading assignments.

A keeper of records

A committed chronicler of history, Rana has made several scrapbooks and albums. Every single piece of paper ranging from the first driving licence his father got in the early seventies to his own driving licence he earned at the age of 18, as well as the first currency notes minted for UAE and copper coins jointly issued by the UAE and Qatar currency board. Many important testaments of history have been saved very carefully in the scrapbooks. Every important photograph and newspaper clipping has been included in the scrapbooks.

A committed chronicler of history, Rana has made several scrapbooks and albums. Seen above is his driving licence which he received at the age of 18. Image Credit: Supplied

Not only this, he continues to retain the old hand-held bulky phones, pagers, box camera, like an antique collector.

Indebted to the UAE

With roots that now run deep into the fabric of the UAE society, Rana regards UAE as his first home and has only gratitude for the country that adopted him and gave him his home.

The permit that was needed to travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied The yesteryear Dh1 note in Shaukat Ali Rana’s collection. Image Credit: Supplied

“I have no relatives back home, my parents moved here, my earliest memories of my childhood and important years of character building were also spent here. To me, the UAE and Dubai is home, as it is to my children. I am blessed to be on this land and know one thing: In this country, if you are willing to work hard and be sincere and honest, you are bound to be recognised and honoured. I found my happiness here and am so proud to see the UAE take such a quantum leap in growth and development in these five decades. I have only words of gratitude, blessings and congratulations for its benevolent and visionary rulers who transformed this desert land into a land of prosperity,” said Rana.

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