Ali Zaraay, photographer in residence at the Cité internationale des arts

An exceptional photographer is one who looks for an interesting story or who adds to that story.

As a documentary photographer based in Cairo, Ali Zaraay has created an anthropological body of work about his country, in which he has captured not only the Egyptian uprising, but also local everyday life in an innovative way. Keen to evoke the country's cultural and social problems, he tries to emphasise the need for collaboration, as well as the importance of interactive installations and public exhibitions. Since July 2023, he has benefited from the residency programme run by the Institut français at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris. 

Published on 27/09/2023

5 min

An Egyptian visual artist and documentary photographer based in Cairo, Ali Zaraay was a student in the international documentary and photojournalism programme at the Hochschule Hannover 2020. After a year studying liberal arts at CILAS, he then worked for nine years as a press photographer for various Egyptian newspapers. Witnessing the Egyptian uprising in 2011 led him to discover his passion for photojournalism. From then on, he became interested in covering everyday Egyptian life in a new way. His journey has taken him to the North, South, villages and towns of Egypt to work on projects evoking the country's cultural and social problems. 

Since 2015, Ali Zaraay has been working on a long-term project with the Bedouin nomads of Egypt, which he has turned into a web documentary. He is currently interested in interactive installations and public exhibitions, while engaging in conversation and creative production. He recently founded "Safena 7" to provide a space for collective, critical and multidisciplinary discussion around photography and the visual arts in Egypt. In July 2023, he began a residency at the Cité des Arts in Paris. 

Ali's current work is concerned with change in the city, demolition, construction and displacement. He believes in the importance of contemporary multimedia tools such as collage, installations, video, sound and web documentaries, as a complement to photography. Through his project on the Bedouin nomads of Egypt, he adopts a shared anthropological approach, working with them directly rather than merely as subjects. 

Ali Zaraay seeks to highlight the importance of collaboration, and today shares an art and design studio in Cairo. His work is characterised by a desire to portray the everyday life of Egyptians, and to showcase youth and the current generation. He frequently expresses his regret at seeing a portion of the art world remain superficial and content with a classy viewpoint. The artist deplores a reality that fails to take into account the tastes of the general public. 

Ali Zaraay's photographic work has been highlighted by the Everyday Egypt account, which is very popular on Facebook and Twitter. It captures and shares moments from the daily lives of Egyptians. Along with twenty-four other photographers, he took part in the Everyday exhibition at the second edition of the Cairo Photo Week festival in Egypt. 

In 2021, he created the exhibition Land of Unrealized Dreams with photographer Ahmad Gaber, chronicling their separate journeys during the Covid-19 pandemic. After moving to new cities, they each captured the period in a series of images depicting isolation and estrangement. He is in residence in Paris from 10 July to 4 October as part of the residency programme of the Institut français x Cité internationale des arts with his project Edit #7, on the representation of the city. 

  • 2011


    Ali Zaraay witnesses the Egyptian uprising and discovers a passion for photojournalism.

  • 2015


    He begins working on a web documentary about the Bedouin nomads of Egypt.

  • 2021


    He creates the Land of Unrealized Dreams exhibition with photographer Ahmad Gaber.

  • 2023


    Ali Zaraay begins a residency at the Cité internationale des arts in Paris.

L'institut français, LAB