One thing Dubai has plenty of, other than malls and restaurants, is adrenaline-inducing activities.
From jetskiing and seaplanes to hot air ballooning and theme park rides, the city is jam-packed with white-knuckle adventures popular with tourists and residents alike.
And it turns out there’s one royal who particularly makes the most out of an exhilarating sport that’s big in the city.
No, not HH Sheikh Hamdan (although he’s been known to dabble in it too).
Rather it’s his sister, HH Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is quite the sky-diving expert according to her friend, photographer Juan Mayer.
Mayer, who’s also quite the whizz at jumping out of planes, has been snapping the royal’s adventure pursuits for some time.
“I met her back in the early days of skydiving when she was starting out in the sport,” says Mayer, who’s also released his own book of skydiving photography called Ultimate High.
“As she got more advanced we started collaborating on projects, such as one for National Day where for the first time in history, wingsuiters jumped with flags sewn on to their suits. We’ve also done many big wingsuit formations as well as freeflying jumps from balloons.”
Mayer describes the fast-paced sport as “like no other”, revealing that both he and the Sheikha started off with a tandem jump – where divers are strapped to an instructor.
The pair both fell in love with the sport and, since meeting, have made more than 1,000 jumps together.
Mayer describes Sheikha Latifa, daughter of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as one of his favourite subjects to photograph in the air, thanks to her dedication and energy for the sport.
“For me as a photographer/skydiver I really can feel in my photos when someone is really passionate about what they are doing,” he says. “I can really see [the Sheikha’s] passion for the sport in every single jump. Also she is always creating new ideas and new projects.”
The photographer, who’s completed more than 11,000 skydives in his career, says his favourite thing about the sport is that “it’s always evolving and there are so many different specialities that you can never stop learning”.
But despite his experience, he’s no stranger to a few hair-raising close calls.
“There have been canopy malfunctions, or near collisions, but it’s part of the game and it’s important to stay focused in those situations,” says Mayer.
For those keen to get into the sport, you can’t really beat Dubai as a location, the photographer says.
“It’s a very unique place to jump because you have the city, desert and sea all in the same place. So, whoever is coming here to jump for the first time can enjoy all of it in just one skydive.”
However it’ll take a lot more than one dive to look as relaxed as Sheikha Latifa in the air, with her freestyle poses taking years to master.
“It’s a very challenging discipline,” says Mayer, revealing that the royal might look like she’s casually balancing in the air, but really she’s freefalling at 200 kilometres an hour (or sometimes even faster).
“It’s a mixture of gymnastic moves mixed with skydiving to create a totally unique sport.
“I’m really thankful to HH Sheikha Latifa for being such a passionate skydiver, but also for trusting my photography and giving me the opportunity to do what I love.”