On April 8, 2020, Bachir Moukarzel's footage of an empty Sheikh Zayed Road went viral.
The Dubai drone photographer is known for posting some of the most unique and awe-inspiring aerial shots of the city.
But it was the sight of its most famous highway, usually bustling with people and cars, completely empty that resonated with people most. At the time, new restrictions had recently been implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Now, in 2021, the artist has returned to the same spots, this time to capture how much the city, and its roads, have changed in a year.
His new footage, taken in January, shows Palm Jumeirah, Sheikh Zayed Road and other parts of the city, all of which are now bustling with life again.
"It was such a nice feeling," Moukarzel tells The National. "In April 2020, you could park your car on Sheikh Zayed Road to fly the drone – it was that empty. But now, it is back to what it looked like before the pandemic. It's incredible to see that people feel confident about going out."
Moukarzel's work unsurprisingly slowed in 2020, with fewer shoots, no gatherings and not much production work happening, but by October he could see the city coming back to life. By January, he felt things were back to normal.
“This comes at a time when many other parts of the world are still having lockdowns. It really highlights our recovery, that what we’ve been doing here is so great. For sure, it’s thanks to the actions of the government as well as the people. We’ve been following the rules, getting vaccinated – and this is the result.”
He made sure to specifically capture the new footage during daytime hours, to really show the contrast between 2020 and 2021 and depict a new day, “full of light”.
“Of course, things are not completely back to normal – there are rules everyone has to still follow, and precautions that have to be taken. But I’m proud of us. We were all in the same boat and we've come this far together.”
Who is Bachir Moukarzel?
Moukarzel moved to the UAE from Lebanon in 2002, studied finance at the American University in Dubai and has been working for the Rotana Hotel Group for the past 11 years.
He started dabbling with drone photography as a hobby about five years ago, but it has since become a big part of his life and he has received global accolades, including first place in the urban category of the International Drone Photography Contest in 2017.
In October 2020, his photo of the Dubai Frame won in the construction category of the first Aerial Photography Awards, with hopefuls from 65 countries participating.
More of Moukarzel's work can be viewed on his Instagram page