My Salam

Qatar’s migrant labourers hit the catwalk on Instagram and Tumblr

Khalid Albaih

Qatar based activist and cartoonist Khalid Albaih. Image source: Facebook.


Men in blue jumpsuits. They’re a very common sight in the Gulf countries. You see them at the construction sites, getting on or off buses, sometimes taking a rare break under a tree or a bridge. These immigrant workers live in labour camps and manage to get a day off each week.

The last thing you’d connect them with is style and fashion, right?

Khalid Albaih is changing all of that. Two weeks ago, the Qatar-based political cartoonist launched DohaFashionFridays on Instagram and Tumblr to celebrate and showcase migrant workers in Doha who have a taste for fashion. Described by its founder as a cross between Humans of New York and street-fashion blogging, DohaFashionFridays is already getting some great reviews.


Migrant workers in Qatar

Migrant workers featured on the Instagram page of Dohafashionfridays


On a Friday, the only holiday for migrant labourers, Khalid, his photographer friend Aparna Jayakumar and a few other companions visit Doha’s Corniche area to meet the stylishly dressed labourers and invite them to be featured in the project.

“We ask them many questions, including who they are, how long they have been in Qatar, [whether] they like the job, and about fashion. Every time we ask about fashion they say ‘Yes, we like fashion.’ They may not look like people [who appreciate] fashion, but they follow it, … they have fashion icons, and this is what I am trying to highlight.”

Khalid works at the Qatar Museums Authority as the Head of Public Art and is currently in the US on a fellowship programme. He told My Salaam that he always wanted to create a forum to showcase the style, fashion, taste and conversations of the men toiling to build the impressive skyscrapers in Qatar.

“I am very proud of Doha’s quick development from a small town to one of the best cities in the world, and the role played by migrant workers in building this city is not insignificant,” he said.

Khalid, who has lived in Qatar since he was ten, has a genuine passion for celebrating the labourers’ lives and highlighting their problems. “They are people with one day a week to look good, and they make the most of it. Some of these guys look like models,” he said.  

The Instagram page, which now has more than 300 followers, shows the first of more than a dozen men who have already participated in the project.  But Khalid has bigger plans for the project. His next move is to step aside and develop it into a community project with more contributors and activities. 

“I am trying to get more designers, photographers and fashion bloggers to go out and meet the workers and start a conversation about their issues. It’s just not only about photographs, it’s about starting a conversation,” he said.

“It’s about having a story, but it’s also about fashion and celebrating individualism.”


Khalid Albaih
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Seban Scaria