Bizarre News: Kuwait Bans DSLR Cameras

engadget no dslrThe Kuwait Times, Gizmodo and Engadget have reported that the government of Kuwait has outlawed DSLR cameras.

“The Ministries of Information, Social Affairs and Finance (hello, 1984!) have collectively decided to ban the use of the chunky shooters in public places, except where it can be shown that it’s for journalistic purposes.” – Engadget.

The Kuwait Times Newspaper has rescinded this story. Go figure.

This ban reportedly affects tourists too, so if you’re headed to Kuwait for some relaxing time over the holidays, come prepared. I understand that compacts and camera phones have not been banned, so you can still get the shot…-ish.

I’ve read all I can on the topic this morning, but for the life of me I’m having trouble understanding. Why they hatin’ on the interchangable lenses? What about micro 4/3? Can anybody out there shed some light on this bizarre state of affairs for me?

88 Responses to Bizarre News: Kuwait Bans DSLR Cameras

  1. Austin Joffe November 24, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    you put a D on SLR… ;)

    • Jonathan Ridgely November 24, 2010 at 10:44 am #

      Yes Chase, Austin is right. You put a D on SLR after publishing a blog saying we should drop the Digital from photography :-)

      • John Rogers November 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

        He also said how you can get the shot-ish when he goes on about vision before gear and also with his best camera app

        • adrian November 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

          another jealous customer i see..

      • nick November 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm #

        Hey geniuses, he didn’t write the law.

        Kuwait has banned “digital single lens reflex cameras” thus he wrote DSLR. In this instance, the law doesn’t refer to all SLRs only DSLRs – for some bizarre reason.

        nonetheless, classy of you guys to jump down his throat about that

        • Austin Joffe November 24, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

          Correct you are, Nick.

          Although, I was not jumping down his throat, nor am I jealous. It was just an observation I thought would be funny to point out, That’s all. :)


        • marvin December 8, 2010 at 4:53 am #

          Where have all your sense your humor gone, my friend?!

    • Aws December 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      D is Digital
      Digital SLR

  2. Rabi November 24, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    The Kuwait Times is the only paper reporting it, and I have heard that it’s not an extremely well-respected paper. I would treat this as a rumor for now.

  3. TAK November 24, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    I hear DSLR’s steal souls in Kuwait…

    • Meredith Phillips November 24, 2010 at 9:38 pm #

      I’m not sure if your comment was serious or not…but either way it’s valid. i have heard about some cultures that are scared of being photographed because they say it steals your soul. I don’t know if Kuwait believes though. Probably not.

  4. David Peacock November 24, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    I’ve been puzzling too. It’s basically ignorance, and I mean that in the genuine sense. If anyone actually considered this legislation, they’d see how pointless it is on so many levels.

    1) People who want to quietly take shots for bad purposes don’t use big cameras in the first place.
    2) DSLRs aren’t exactly the only option.
    3) 35mm, anyone?

    It’s a bit like banning fruit because tomatos are sometimes rotten.

  5. Stuart Bailey November 24, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Haven’t got a clue. Strangest thing I’ve heard today!!!

  6. Michal Fanta November 24, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    What is the main reason for issuing a ban and why only on DSLRs? There is something missing. Don’t you think?

    • Michal Fanta November 24, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      I mean a piece of information.

  7. Andreas November 24, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    Although extreme, considering middle eastern attitudes explains the ban (if the reporting is accurate).
    I have seen the problem in a Greek based photo-forum where members post “portraits” of unsuspecting men, women, and children. I am sure that this is wide-spread among amateur forums — specially in the middle east.
    Now, if you take into consideration how strict many Arabs are with the females in their families as well as their children, then it is understandable.
    Q: Do I agree with it? A: Hell no.
    Q: Would I ever visit Kuwait? A: What exactly for?

    • Michal Fanta November 24, 2010 at 10:36 am #

      But you can keep posting images – only DSLR is banned, not a compact or phone camera.

  8. ted November 24, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    here’s another article on the issue:

    totally weird move … it just doesn’t make sense. i guess they’re afraid of super-zoom type pictures, which is something they know a regular p&s can’t do???

  9. Chris November 24, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Funny thing is if it is about super zoom lenses the quite frankly my point and shoot has more zoom than than my DSLR, with a 18-55mm lens! Really they didn’t think it through!

  10. Ben Fullerton November 24, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    Very odd indeed. Makes me think of the common argument against gun laws. It keeps them out of the hands of everyone except those who has ill intent, who will find a way to get them.

    As someone already pointed out, the people who have nefarious reasons for taking pictures, will find a way to do it. And the only people who will be effectively prohibited, are the people who have no ill intentions, and just want to document a vacation or make art.

    Lame to the max. I hope it is unsubstantiated, as someone up above presumed.

    Thanks for posting, Chase!

  11. Anonymous November 24, 2010 at 10:59 am #


    This is total crap..i cant understand this myself..what is there to hide…then again its sells them out where ever things are…

  12. Valeriy Veduta November 24, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    LEICA M9!

    Its rangefinder not SLR! And full frame!

    • Austin Joffe November 24, 2010 at 11:03 am #

      Now we’re talking!

    • Todd Gardiner November 24, 2010 at 11:25 am #

      Valeriy, I wouldn’t want to have to explain the difference to a police officer that is charged with enforcing this law. A some of the Sony Cybershots also have barrel lenses but don’t have interchangability. I don’t think the policeman is going to pull out a list of specifically banned model numbers.

      • Valeriy Veduta November 24, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

        I hope you wouldn’t. never.

  13. Spencer Leamer November 24, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Maybe the powers that be in Kuwait have realized the negative affect that digital SLR’s have on expectations and standards of the photography industry. If Islamic leaders were concerned about photographs of themselves and people of importance being hung on walls and posted on forums and blogs around the world; Why wouldn’t they ban ALL digital camera devices?

  14. Don Honimar November 24, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    My guess would be their fear of lenses being hollowed out and made into pipe bombs or the fact that their have been several US spies arrested in recent history close to the 7 active US Millitary Bases located in Kuwait.

  15. jurgenlis November 24, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    What about google maps or google street view? Hasn’t google already listed every nook and cranny, even in that part of the world?
    Kuwait 1.04 Beta needs a rapid upgrade to Kuwait 2.0 …

  16. Steve November 24, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    I bet it’s a combination of paranoia of weapons smuggling and reports that things are smuggled in look a like lenses and cameras. Not that I’ve tried but I bet you can stuff a lot of swag into a hallowed out 800 mm lenses.

  17. Thom Gourley November 24, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Fear of a Photographed Planet! Of course, everyone is carrying a camera on their phone these days. I have been harassed here in the States for shooting high rise office buildings, as though the reflective distortions on that glass facade are holding information that terrorists can use.

    So although the Kuwaiti paranoia is a little disconcerting, we haven’t been exactly open here in the good ole USA. I would probably get less reaction here in Utah if I strapped on a sidearm than to carry an SLR with a telephoto attached.

  18. Matt November 24, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    The logic is actually pretty simple. Some of the official government assignment photographers have lost work to microstock so the Kuwaiti government is trying to decrease the supply of undervalued images to keep prices high.

    • Spencer Leamer November 24, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

      Now that makes some sense! Whenever there is a photo-conspiracy…follow the money.

    • Jack Chauvel November 24, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

      Haha that made me laugh Matt.

      I am shocked, I would hope it would be reconsidered in the future.. every country has great potential for photography… especially of the land.. and you know.. the land was there before the people ;)

  19. jetgreen1 November 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    We worked so hard to “Liberate” these guys!

  20. Carlos Bruno November 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Doesn’t matter SIR JARVIS.
    I sincere wish explode Kwait. And explode Iran. And all those freak countries …
    All countries have the government and treatment that they deserve … BECAUSE U.S. of AMERICA is getting a freak country also with this BULLSHIT about to use the 1st amendment to protect PEDOPHILES selling book at your distributor AMAZON.COM.
    Mother fuckers using the name of a beautiful forest …

    OK … how about forget grown up stupid people … YES STUPID because they don’t change their destiny because they don’t want … and WE have to waste time with those LOSERS? a
    What about try to save the future of our little HERE, before AMERICA became a chaos:

    • nick November 24, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

      the above poster is crazy, and I hope his comment is deleted.

    • Daf November 25, 2010 at 1:47 am #

      Amazon have already retracted that book.

  21. motzo November 24, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I think its because of the whole gps system stuff, I bet you kuwait does not have the 360 drivearound google maping. I did not check but I bet 20 bucks they do not.

  22. Ziv November 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    I suspect this is more about security than anything else. You can pack a lot of plastic explosive into a full size camera body and 200mm f/2 lens.

  23. M Christopher Holloway November 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    Seriously why so shocked? Have you not been harassed by firemen, police and security guards for taking photographs, right here in good ole “I have my rights” USA, yet? I have. Heard it all too, from the sublimely stupid to the down right threatening. And at serious news worthy events. It’s strictly paranoia and it’s also crept into American culture like a disease. Fear that an image will turn into an embarrassing moment on Internet, crippled by an overpopulated lawyer driven lawsuit happy sub-economy.

  24. Mark Millar November 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Is the differentiation between the big body (D)SLR and “point and shoots” any different at MSG, the ACC, Yankee Stadium, or U2 concerts?

  25. Adam November 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    I’m not completely up on my Muslim tradition, but isn’t photography forbidden? I think that is why you tend to see ornate design instead of paintings and portraits in Muslim culture. Let that thought settle in a bit. My (our) vocation is against God. What does that make me (us). Would life be better without visual art of people? Again, I’m not the expert here on this religious and cultural stuff. Please correct me if you know your chops here (nicely).

  26. Kenneth Aston November 24, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    Here is the original article as it appeared on 20 November 2010

    Not sure when this “ban” was put into effect and the whole photography community here is questioning it. I photographed the Redbull Flugtag event

    at the Marina Mall in Kuwait and if you look at the crowd you will see cameras everywhere and how will they enforce this law?

  27. eddie November 24, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    After we saved their ass from Iraq, they should be thankful for our American style of freedom of press and drop this erroneous law. Really, if a man wants to carry his Hasselblad and 47′ Octabank around, well dag nabbit he should be able to.

  28. john November 24, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    And what about film camera ? :D

  29. Sean November 25, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Shot on a DSLR in Kuwait:

  30. Athoob Abdullah November 25, 2010 at 2:12 am #

    Hi, I’m a Kuwaiti photographer, today many reports have confirmed that the cam-ban is just a rumor. It’s not true,
    I hope that you update the post.

    Many thanks


  31. altaf November 25, 2010 at 2:18 am #

    Hi chase,

    i’m from Kuwait. untill this moment its not clear wheather a rumor or not! this news in bieng spread in facebook + twitter & blogs. nothing official from the national news papper & TV.

    there is astory says a guy went to Kuwait times news papper and and told them about an old law that is not implemented!…..and made a international propaganda from it!

    we are waiting for the goverment toclear it out:(

  32. Khaled November 25, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    I’m from Kuwait as well. It is just a rumor. I’ve searched for any official source of this ban and couldn’t find any. The ban that those ministries put in action is ONLY for photographing their own buildings. I went to the beach (Shuwaikh Beach) few days ago and took some photos in front of the police station there and no one asked me to stop.

  33. Hashem November 25, 2010 at 5:33 am #

    SLR or DSLR are big and some it violates cultural and social values, and it may violates security measures. speaking of personal experience as an Egyptian citizen- feel free to relate egypt to kuwait on the basis of region, religion or culture..!
    if you’re not a tourist and shooting outdoors , you’re attracting attention. trying to make a photo of a palace from the kingdom era in Alexandria, an officer in the guard post gave me permission to do shoot whatever i want. when the location was a 5 star hotel ,a guard said photos are prohibited.!! entering a shopping mall with a dslr, security personnel warned me about possible problems!!! meaning i might be shooting interiors and a girl step in the frame. either her man or father will beat the hell out of me. thinking i’m taking pictures of her for indecent purposes!!
    believe it or not a group of photography students with a tutor were arrested in the streets of Cairo , brought to the police station and were forced to sign a paper they weren’t even allowed to read it’s content!!
    so basically if you’re not a tourist,journalist, look like a student.. you’re considered a terrorist,spy or perv .
    with all that being said , you can still use a DSLR in Egypt and shoot outdoors.

  34. Nauman November 25, 2010 at 5:34 am #

    Hey chase i am from kuwait. the guys over there are bit crazy about taking photos i remember myself taking a photo of the bridge which connect Kuwait to an island called Bubyan. i have to take two security heads with me to do some shots down there and believe me that bridge is absolute amazing. i guess there is loads of other issues to be resolve than photography. its a shame.

  35. Carlton Ward November 25, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    Funny how these laws pop up in the fanatical religious countries.
    I received lots of irritating looks when shooting in Turkey (which I consider Islamic-Light) and after
    snapping a shot of a farmer on a horse drawn wagon coming down the street which I thought would be a unique & characteristic image depicting the lifestyle & charm of that area – I heard a crack behind me as the farmer tried to hit me with his whip as he passed by.I took the photo as a wide angle shot and he was at least 60 yards away from me so there was not a lot of detail of his face.
    Many places in Europe have areas that they dont allow tripods and I will share this useful tip – take the ballhead off the tripod and set the flat bottom on the floor or table and use a remote shutter or timer.

    • Vaclav Stepan November 28, 2010 at 5:02 am #

      You would receive much the same looks even in Europe, just in different situations. As for Prague, you can play with street photography in the center (crowds of tourists everywhere), but in most other places you’ll get an angry look (or worse) if photographing without asking for consent first.
      Had the farmer wanted to hit you, he would have done that :-)

  36. Mike BN November 26, 2010 at 12:44 am #

    I’m a photojournalist in the Middle East and I made a few calls – so far there’s no real evidence of what prompted this but I’ve been in the region for close to 10 years now and when random decisions like these come to light it’s usually for something really really awkward. For instance in Saudi Arabia four wheel dirt bikes are technically banned but if you buy a new one you can get a license for it. The issue at stake here is that a few years ago a high ranking saudi prince was hopped up on whatever assortment of drugs (usually cocaine and alcohol), went into a fit and drove his four wheeler into a wall by accident and died from the his injuries. So if this follows the same kind of logic then I bet some Kuwaity nobility had her picture taken by someone and then claimed she didnt give them permission so now all SLR’s are banned. Furthermore some people have commented about the stealing souls thing – that is true but not necessarily relevant for Kuwait since it is the most liberal and progressive nation in the region. That logic is still pervasive in Saudi, hell I’ve been to jail at least 3 times being accused for “stealing virtues of women using electronics” now as nefarious as that sounds it was for street photography of women in their abaya’s (full body coverings). This would never happen in Kuwait.

  37. Danie Nel November 26, 2010 at 1:07 am #

    Hi – I’m not sure if someone has pointed it out yet, but in fundamentalist Islam capturing the likeness or something on heaven or on earth (and by Islamitic law – we are from God) is considered sacreligious (spelling? An RC’s?) and thus frowned upon. In this case, especially that of the face.

    I was in Libya last year, where the Islam religion is waaaaaaay more relaxed than in Kuwait and the Middle East (even with Kadaffi in charge :) ), and although nobody minds a pic, all woman you photograph will turn their backs and refused to show their faces, and it’s covered by a veil anyways. It is considered very bad form to photograph women, and men, especially when in their ceremonial garb, don’t like it either. They respond very well to being asked though (the men). I was warned by the tour-guide that photographing woman might get me beat up by a husband and his mates :) I ended up shooting a documentary on doors!

    I would imagine the Kuwait government (if indeed this rumour is true) is more concerned with public propriety than any sinsiter cloak-and-dagger stuff. Now why they would have DSLR’s banned, and not other types of camera gear, I’m not sure. I however know that in general Middle-East media has a bit of an issue with journo’s taking pics of families and people there and publishing it elsewhere, for infidels (that’s you and I who are non-Muslim) to gaze at, when it’s clearly considered improper in their culture.

    Anyways, my 2 cents worth.

  38. Mohamed Ghuloom November 26, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    I am living in Bahrain therefore I don’t know what is going on in Kuwait, but Muslims generally are very strict on people taking photos of their mother/wives/sisters/daughters.

  39. Noureddine Taleb November 27, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    It’s a RUMOR!!

    Actually photography in Kuwait is a very popular hobby practiced by the people there from a very long time. So I think some photographer from “Kuwait Times” might have had some bad personal experience with the security, so he made this up.
    As for taking pictures of the public in Middle East countries, I saw the same thing happen in many other countries. I lived in the States for 8 years, and I’ve been to many European countries too. Honestly saying, some people don’t feel comfortable when taking pictures of them there as well. Same thing happens when you take a picture of a governmental property, you’ll have someone coming to you.

    I feel some comments are exaggerating regarding photography in the Middle East.

  40. Bob November 27, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    Kuwait News now has a retraction posted, at

    • Ben Fullerton November 27, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      Glad to see that this was untrue!

      Also glad to see that the Kuwait Times is such a reputable news source…

  41. Yousef al salem November 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    im kuwaiti , me and my friends we are taking picture and nothing wrong with it , we cant use tripods in some places but nothing about the DSLR

  42. chris bernard November 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    This report stemmed from erroneous chatter. There is no-such ban. Have a read :

    • Cordelia August 6, 2011 at 9:09 am #

      Times are canhingg for the better if I can get this online!

  43. David Stringham November 27, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Hey, that looks my camera, only it’s red, not white. Probably the reason it said DSLR, is that not too many people think of non-digital SLRs.

  44. BotSO November 28, 2010 at 12:22 am #

    The story has been retracted by the Kuwait Times:

  45. immo November 28, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    I didnt get it! Some newspaper wrote there is a ban, other there is not. Does anybody know whats going on for sure?

    • Vaclav Stepan November 28, 2010 at 4:46 am #

      Kuwait Times published an unverified information that the ban is in effect. No other source confirmed that.
      Now they just take this back and apologize for publishing nonsense.
      So just forget about it…

      • immo November 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

        Tank you for the summery :-)

  46. Nicole Kilstofte November 28, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Hi, this is my first time visiting your site. have one more followers now :) , thanks

  47. Shilo Watts November 29, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Whom ever takes a “relaxing vaction” to Kuwait needs to have their brain housing checked. Kuwait should have NEVER been liberated from Iraq!

  48. George November 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

    On Saturday, November 20, 2010 the Kuwait Times published an article titled ‘Multi ministry camera ban frustrates artists’ in which incorrect information was provided. The newspaper regrets failing to verify the information. The article wrongly stated that a ban on DSLR cameras was implemented by the Ministries of Information, Social Affairs and Finance. This information is false. In a follow up investigation, it was proved that no such ban has been issued. We regret this error and deeply apologize for any inconvenience caused.

  49. Dani Gorgon November 30, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    This news appeared in a daily in UAE too.

  50. Dani Gorgon November 30, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    That news was an error.

    check it out:

  51. Tim Drumm December 1, 2010 at 7:28 am #

    I wonder what their logic is behind this…

  52. Mark December 1, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Kuwaiti Ban on DSLR’s was a hoax it has been revealed.

  53. jeff December 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Looks like leica m9 sales just went up….

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    I love your work and this blog but maybe some update to the post would be informative to let people know this was a false alarm.

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