Winning By Loosing

This post was a bit of a bittersweet for me to write.

There is good and bad news in here, a failure and a coexisting success. This, after months of obsessive questioning is about me knowing why….

No worries, I am not about to take you into the deepest/darkest place inside my head, that’s a very dangerous place even for me to go to, I will simply share with you glimpses of a memory, some photos and some good news, at least for me it is….

3 weeks ago I received an email from the Editor of the Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine, informing me that I won the People Category of their Facebook photography competition, marking the launch of their Middle East branch, which is based in Dubai.

Except for arguments and chess games against Angel, I never win anything, so imagine my shock at being contacted by one of the world’s most prestigious travel publications, telling me that they have pronounced a photo that I took a winner!

Not only that, but also I landed first in a category that is not entirely under my radar of interest, portraits are not usually my thing! Landscapes are my thing, clearly I am wrong…

photography exhibition

With the winners, at the VIP exhibition launch

photography exhibition

Announcement and exhibition at the Radisson Royal Hotel, Dubai

shaikha al khayyal instagram feed

From my Instagram feed

You can view the other winning photos here

My winning photograph is currently displayed at the Lonely Planet exhibition that was launched in a VIP event last week, at The Radisson Royal Hotel in Sheikh Zayed Road, until 7th March.

This is a big one for me, who would’ve thought? I am beyond ecstatic about it.

I expected a different kind of bills and whistles from our Kilimanjaro adventure, during which I took this photo, but I certainly didn’t see it resulting of award winning photography.

We went on that trip to chase a dream, to reach the highest summit in Africa, whatever was the significance of that achievement for us at the time, it was something that Angel and I wanted to do together and for each other. Unfortunately, the dream went suddenly sour; my biggest regret was that Angel’s dream was also destroyed by my physical malfunction. I still don’t know how to make it up to him.

For months I searched for the reason behind my unforeseen letdown, I nearly died trying, and my near death experience disappointingly didn’t come with a surge of enlightenment, nor was I able to overcome the accompanying emotional trouble so easily.

Yes, I do realize that such things just happen. I understand that I was basically not destined to do it, which is totally acceptable. I am nonetheless a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, yet this particular time I wasn’t able to wrap my head around it.

When we returned to Moshi Town at the foot of the mountain, we had to kill the rest of the time that was scheduled for climbing; we spent most of it exploring the area on foot after getting much needed rest. At some point it appeared to me that I am now there instead of at the top of the big hill because I was supposed to see what I saw, and meet the people that I met, but that didn’t put off the fire of doubts that was burning away inside me.

At this point I would like to point out that I was momentarily distracted from my grief by the amazing people photography opportunities that were made available to me, Moshi turned out to be a portrait heaven, I got shutter happy…


This guy actually asked me if I was going to sell his photo and make money out of it, then kept going. He never stopped to get the answer.

moshi tanzania africa

moshi tanzania africa

collecting supplies from the waste dump



moshing tanzania africa

moshi tanzania africa

moshi tanzania africa

moshi tanzania africa

moshi tanzania africa

Have you noticed the quizzical glares some of my subjects are giving me?

My first instinct was to think that the people were uncomforted by my camera directly pointed at them without obtaining permission, but the place was swarming with other tourists doing exactly the same, and no one complained about it. furthermore, a couple of the subjects actually asked me to photograph them, some even asked for money in return for a photo of their kid or spouse, so I didn’t want to overthink it.

The other girl in our group came forward with the question, a European female that is not accustomed to intensive public gazing, unless provoked by an act of public indecency, and even that goes by unnoticed sometimes in her part of the world!

She pointed out the elephant in the room, she asked our guide about the real reason for which I am being suspiciously observed by the locals, The guide explained that the people didn’t understand why a black woman with a cornrowed head is walking around dressed in trousers, with 3 white people, acting all foreign and touristy, and taking photos of them. Their women just don’t do that according to him…

moshi tanzania africa

At that exact moment, while I tried to comprehend the mentioned fact, the lady in my winning photo crossed us, she seemed in a hurry to get somewhere, yet when she was few feet ahead of us she looked back over her shoulder and shot me the same interrogative look. For a second I was aggravated, I was totally screaming “What you looking at woman?” in my head of course. My reaction was to lift up my camera, point it at her and shoot her back.

Before leaving to Zanzibar, I managed to come to terms with my defeat in Kili, I decided to leave it alone as long as it does the same, that didn’t come to effect immediately obviously, but I gradually accepted it.

When I received the news about winning, the whole matter got a bit clearer to me; unless I am entirely wrong I now know why I failed. Because I had to learn. I had to be a piece in my own game, I had to actively play a role in the writing of the story of my own life, search for the sign, be sure…

Adventuring, wanderlusting, thrill seeking, risk taking, etc…are all part time passions of mine. In fact such sweeping sentiments often develop as a side effect to my hunger for exploring. My true heart though is caught inside a small black box, a dark room, a small (or a big) frame. It is in every (good) photo that I have ever taken and the ones that I am learning to take.

Unless my subconscious is freely improvising in a desperate attempt to part ways with the pain, let it be known that I failed because I had to take that photo, I had to get a lead, I had to know, I had to win…

Alright alright, I promised not to take you there, so let’s just leave it at that happy note :), I think….

2 thoughts on “Winning By Loosing

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