Charcoal Workers of the UAE


These are the migrant workers who I photographed unloading bags of charcoal at Port Khalid in Sharjah, in the UAE. The men, from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, work in, often, extremely hot temperatures lugging coal from the holds of wooden dhows onto trucks. Their sweat mixes with the soot to turn their skin and clothes black as soot. The UAE is a major importer of charcoal which is used in shisha pipes. Charcoal is produced in East Africa, mainly Kenya whose forests are being decimated by the trade. The United Nations has banned its export due to its catastrophic effect on the environment and because the Somali-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab have profited from it. A recent United Nations report claimed that Kenyan companies and the Kenya Defence Forces are leading participants in exporting charcoal through Kismayo and that Al Shabaab is also benefitting from the trade despite no longer controlling Kismayo Port.

I photographed these pictures in 2012 and 2013. Since 2014 I haven't seen charcoal arrive at Port Khalid but it is believed to arrive in the UAE at other ports.

David & George