Their big almond eyes were covered with makeup; their lips drenched with shining red lipstick, dark hair floating free.
They are young Iranian models, caught in a frame hanging on the wall of an art gallery, free only in a photo, and only in Dubai.
For many young Iranians looking for personal freedom, Dubai is the place to go.
The models were captured by an Iranian photographer in her 20s who wanted the world to know that young Iranians weren’t any different from young people around the world.
The only difference is that they live in Iran, and have to abide by the many restrictions set by the Mullas.
Parisa, the owner of the gallery, is herself a young Iranian, who has moved back to Dubai five years ago, where she opened her own business.
She travels around the world, and back to Iran every few months, looking for talented Iranian artists who cannot exhibit their work in their country.
“Dubai has become like a small New York for Iranians my generation”, she said with a smile. “Culturally, it is the most international city in the Middle East. And it is a city of opportunities, where all your dreams can come true.”
The story of Iranians’ existence in Dubai is not new.
There are 600,000 Iranians living in Dubai. Many of them have moved to the land decades ago, even before the UAE existed.
What is new though is that the trend of merchants, traders and businessmen - the traditional comers to Dubai - is starting to shift.
Young Iranians in their 20s, educated, liberal and tired with the restrictions in their country and the international sanctions that limit their movements in many parts of the world are finding Dubai as an ideal place to be.
And unlike other countries and cities, people in Dubai seems to care little about their nationality.
Parisa rejects the notion of “Iranophobia” usually promoted by some Iranians living in Dubai.
The climate of tolerance and diversity that Dubai has managed to build successfully has become a magnet for Iranians looking for place to realize their dreams.
What makes Dubai even more attractive to them is its cultural and social proximity to their Iran, minus the repressive laws and restriction applied in their homeland.
In Dubai, the Iranians models captured by the lens of the photographer, can go out looking the same way they look in their photos, which is unthinkable in Iran.