For take-off the cabin lights are dimmed and daylight drifts in, reflecting off passengers’ clothes and pooling as washes of colour on the pale plastic wall. When we leave the ground and rise above the cloud, sunlight streams through the windows and, as the plane banks steeply south, runs the length of the cabin in a flurry of shadows, a whole day passing in a second.
At sunset the sky is violet. Snowy mountains float below us in a sea of cloud and another plane drifts silently by.
Midnight. In the sleepy, blue cabin, a man stretches his arm into the air; his hand is large, a swollen lump laced with scars. Glowing towns blossom out of the darkness beneath us, to be engulfed by it again at their edge. Roads run from them, tentacle-like, bright, into the deep desert. Street lights are sulphurous, burning with a slow, fiery energy: Some blaze brighter, beacons in the night, one of them for each town.
The city is sparse, between outcrops of development there is sand; some for just a block, at other times all the way back into the desert. New developments are zoned along the islands that run up the coast – Yas is the entertainment island, Saadiyat the cultural island – but here, in the city centre, the dominant architecture was built in the 8os and 9os.
Wide artillery roads divide the blocks and between them cars are parked door-to-door, buildings are foiled with solar-reflective glass – jade, magenta and mint – but their shimmer is dulled by dust. In their shadows shops are closed and older buildings are empty. The only signs of life are those left by workers; two wet mops against a railing; socks drying on an electricity line; a game of chess abandoned on a building site, overlooked by two broken chairs. Amongst the cranes swoop desert doves, their delicate bodies dressed in russet coats, their crowns stained with claret, and their breasts burning red.
Born in Wales and based in London, Nick Seaton studied architecture before becoming a photographer. He now writes, photographs and produces moving-image work for editorial and commercial clients.
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