Down by the water, girls in chadors take pictures of each other at sunset on Kish island. 

DOWN BY THE WATER, island diaries

Iran sits on one side of the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian sea. It’s considered the world’s most important throughway for oil – 30% of the world’s seaborne traded oil goes through the strait but despite of its natural riches, the inhabitants along the Persian Gulf are amongst the poorest in the country.

5 kilometres off the mainland, southeast of the port city Bandar Abbas, lies Hormuz, once upon a time the main port in the strait, visited by Marco Polo who praised the island where tens of thousands had settled. For centuries, the countries on both sides of the Gulf were in good relations and people travelled the region without passports. Today the population is below 10000 and unemployment is high ever since relations with Oman soured during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Before, locals would go to Oman in the morning and return at night with smuggled goods to sell in the mainland city of Bandar Abbas.

The island Qeshm, 60 kilometres away, is a free trade zone where paperless Pakistani ship builders keep up the tradition of wooden ship construction, side by side with traditional islanders and where youngsters from the mainland travel to feel a bit freer, away from the watching eye of the Islamic republic on the mainland.

The Persian Gulf separates Shia Iran from its Sunni neighbours in the west. The majority of its inhabitants are not Shia like in the rest of the country, but Sunni muslims of Arab origin who simply call themselves Jazeera, islanders.

Down by the water is an exploration of life on three islands in the Persian Gulf.

Two wooden ships at port.

View from the Portuguese castle. Once upon a time Hormuz city was an important harbor, until Persian King Shah Abbas reconquered the island and decided to move the principal port to the mainland since he did not trust the islanders.

Taher’s commissioned work for the museum in Qeshm city: a miniature Lenj on display in the bedroom he shares with fellow Pakistani workers, behind the shipyard.

View on a shipyard on Qeshm island.

Sahar with her walking stick, in the salt caves.

A broken wall with faded murals of martyrs from the Iran-Iraq war.

Mrs. Sharifi and her daughters wear traditional face masks typical for the Hormuz straight. Women began hiding their faces with masks when the island became a Portuguese colony. The masks would make them less attractive to foreign men.

View on a camp on Hengam island. Youngsters from the mainland have pitched their tents here since SEPAH (Islamic revolutionary guards) decided to close down the camping on neighbouring island Hormuz.

Early morning in Bandar Langeh, a port city which connects to Kish island.

Working instruments in the shipyard.

Local men in traditional clothes watch as an assistant prepare for the dolly, during a documentary shooting on Qeshm island.
Local men in traditional clothes watch as an assistant prepare for the dolly, during a documentary shooting on Qeshm island.

A mother holds up her son for him to watch the view as a boat from Bandar Abbas approaches Hormuz.

People board a small boat which will take them across from Qeshm to the mainland

Jhina on the porch

An obligatory picture of the spiritual leader in a broken frame.

Sahar walks through an abandoned film set.

Hippies wash up by a fountain in the salt caves.

A worker gives a final polish to a wooden ship in Laft port.

N. hides his face behind a wooden board.

View from a Lenj in construction as a storm approaches.

Taher climbs down from a Lenj in construction.

Wokers unload goods from a wooden ship at port, arriving from Dubai.

Workers unload goods from a Lenj ship at port.

A Camel guide stands next to his animal, waits for tourists to come his way as the sun starts setting on Kish island.

Taher’s sketch of the wooden ship he builds in Qeshm shipyard

Mr. Sharif’s sketch of the wooden ship he builds in Qeshm shipyard

Timeline and expenses for the trip from Pakistan to Qeshm island as noted by a Pakistani shipbuilder.

Palmtrees lights up at dusk on Kish island

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