I shot this picture as my contribution to an online feature called “30 Days of Faith”, published by the UNHCR on its website. The feature offered a glimpse into how refugees observe Ramadan so far away from home.
Before taking any pictures, I sat down with Mubarak for an hour or so. We had a long chat about his life story. It was important for me to know who he was. That also gave me the opportunity to build a level of trust. Mubarak had been studying to be a nurse in his native Somalia when al-Shabaab militants tried to forcibly recruit him. Fearing for his safety, he fled through Ethiopia and Sudan to Libya, where he paid for a place on a smuggler’s boat to Malta.
He was eventually granted humanitarian protection by the authorities and now works as a freelance translator in the centre where he lived on his arrival. Every sunset during Ramamdan, Mubarak would join more than 100 other asylum-seekers in the island’s main mosque for a free Ramadan meal offered by the Islamic Centre. Mubarak dreams of being able to return one day to Somalia to work as a doctor.
When we then went to the mosque at the Marsa open centre, he asked his colleagues if they minded me taking some pictures. I had to work quietly, discreetly and respectfully. I asked Mubarak to forget I was there, and to behave and do the things he would normally do every day at the mosque. It was classic fly on the wall stuff.
Canon EOS-1D X
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
Focal length 16mm