How Neon Became a Status Symbol and Lit Up Saudi Arabia's Nights

By Matt Hill on at
"Neon is a sign of luxury and modernity here," explains photographer Céline Stella in the intro to her new book, NOUR, a collection of striking photos from the city of Jeddah that shows how humble tubed lighting has well and truly taken over the Saudi Arabian nights.

From street kiosks to shop spaces to communal fixtures and fittings, even domestic interiors and courtyards, they glow like freshly drawn lightsabers against the dark desert, a beautiful buzz that's half all the fun of the fair, half Hotline Miami brooding. Shops even go by the names of Neon City and Crazy About Neon.

"Just a hundred years ago, there wasn't any electricity here," continues Stella. "This is why we find it everywhere; not just in the surrounding desert, but in people's houses and businesses. It feels like a status symbol or lucky charm."

NOUR is the first book from No UFOs, a new London-based independent publishing house started by editors Justin Quirk and Alex Rayner (full disclosure: I used to work with the former), looking to specialise in limited-run, high-end tomes for photographers and artists.

The £35-a-throw hardback first edition of NOUR certainly doesn't scrimp on the plushness, the 150 editions all printed on Amadeus Primo Gloss using a four-colour process on a Heidleberg CD74. And if you really want to geek out on the production values, it's bound in durable but recyclable Winters Wibalin Buckram and foil stamped, and there's even matt and gloss drip-off varnish so the images pop.

Yeah, yeah, very clever guys, but can you get it on Kindle, yeah? [No UFOs]