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Cairo Scene – Nov 14, 2016
Because how else will you find a high quality, licensed-for-use photo of Santa at the pyramids for all your holiday cards this year?
Google a picture of an Egyptian farmer in his gheit, or someone making 3eish baladi in a traditional forn, or a fara7 sha3bi. What do you find? Dinky images of terrible quality that may not even have the slightest bit of relevance to what you’re looking for. Step two: try restructuring the search six or seven times using every synonym you can think of in hopes that – in some obscure corner of the Internet – someone has posted a decent photo that may possibly hint at your original search. A few hours later, you’ll likely find one image that possibly fits your requirements, but you can’t just snag it off Google and use it as your own when there’s a photographer who bent over backwards to make that picture happen. Cue even more hours trying to contact the original photographer and see if you can use their shot because, you know, human decency and respecting intellectual property.

Finding authentic, high-quality, licensed-for-use images that actually represent Egyptians (or anyone in the MENA region, if we’re honest) has been borderline mission impossible, but we recently met a man who “saw the gap in the market, and the market in the gap.” Cue Omar Abouzeid and his brainchild, Meashots.com, that’s gearing up to be the largest hub of stock images in the region.

Egyptians are a very particular crowd, so we come across situations where we’ll need the most outright obscure photos in existence. Really, how are we expected to find a high-quality, licensed photo that so thoroughly represents the fact that the pound is getting destroyed against the dollar to the point that they had to float the pound? How would you even Google that?! “As someone who worked in production, I know how difficult it can be to get an image like a time lapse or a unique photo from anywhere in Egypt – and those who do have those photos, it takes forever to get it from them,” Abouzeid says, acknowledging the conundrum. “It’s not worth the time and effort you put into obtaining it when you can have your own exclusive image.”

With this perpetual dilemma in mind, Abouzeid set out to “create the ultimate hub for stock images in the region” that currently hosts over 100,000 images and counting by contributors from all over Africa and the Middle East. “If a photographer is willing to shoot a particular area or certain themes, we offer equipment and photo shoot sessions for those who come up with creative ideas to enhance our library,” he shares. The MENA region abounds with amazingly talented photographers able to capture the essence of moments and places, but their work sometimes falls under the radar – that, or they suddenly find it plastered all over the Internet with other people claiming they photographed it. Bridging another gap, Meashots.com looks at the nitty gritty of the photography world in the Middle East, hoping to introduce photographers and videographers to the business model of stock photography and videography, while simultaneously introducing businesses to buying stock images instead of doing the search-six-times-on-Google-with-every-keyword-they-know thing, or setting up crazy expensive shoots. Maybe now local dental offices will stop using photos of token blondies with eerily white teeth that don’t look the least bit Egyptian, no matter how hard you squint.

Instead of the obnoxious Google search, the Meashots.com platform is set up kind of like Tumblr, using tags and keywords to combine things like ‘santa’ and ‘the pyramids’, because Ross-and-Mona holiday cards are overrated and so not Egyptian. From hotshot CEOs looking to create a billboard to ordinary people who just desperately need a good picture to accompany the blog post they spent far too many hours toiling over, Abouzeid’s new goldmine of photographic genius highlights the poetic chaos and genuine beauty of these places we call home – a representation that has the potential to skyrocket our tourism industry. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Egypt after seeing such teeba on a farmer’s face as he beams over the fruit of his labour? This shot alone made our hearts grow three sizes, and we already live here.

Beauty abounds in this strange region of ours, often punctuated by moments of sheer craziness and hilarity. We’d be hard pressed to Google an image to capture it all.

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