Many generations before anyone had dreamt up the concept of 3-D, high-definition, flat-screen television, people were experimenting with mirrors, light and shadows to create visual entertainment.
In fact, it can be argued that pre-historic cavemen who made shape-shadows with their hands by the light of a flame were the first to experiment in such a way. And if you track the evolution of these hand movements into shadow theatre and its successors - magic lanterns, thaumatropes and the wonderfully hypnotic phenakistoscopes - you will find the seed that developed into the image-saturated world we live in today.
This is the story that unfolds in the Dubai Moving Image Museum (DMIM), a new space in the Tecom area that houses the personal collection of one man who has been obsessed with the development of the moving image for nearly four decades.
"It all started 36 years ago, when I bought a zoetrope at the Portobello Market in London," explains Akram Miknas, the founder of the museum. "Shortly after, I went to Germany where I found a kinora. Since zoetropes portray early hand-drawn animation and kinoras display early photographic images in motion, I realised that there was a strong link between the two and began exploring the subject further."
Miknas, who was born in Lebanon but holds Bahraini nationality, is the chairman of the Middle East Communications Network (MCN) and has had a successful career in marketing and advertising.
He says the two passions link perfectly. "I have always had an interest in photography. I then went into the advertising business, where visual communication is key and I further realised just how significant images can be and the many ways in which they can be used."
This interest turned into a lifelong obsession, which saw Miknas travelling around the world collecting items specifically related to this niche genre, and has culminated now in the museum. The DMIM is one of only three museums in the world dedicated to the moving image and, despite the 350 pieces on display, it contains only part of Miknas's vast collection.
"I had a goal from early on to develop my collection fully in order to create the museum," he says. "I hope that visitors will discover and understand the development of man's fascination with the moving image and also understand the value of the moving image in modern communication."
Even if visitors have no prior knowledge of the subject before entering, the museum has been arranged and created in a way that is engaging and interactive, and with the added benefits of the museum manager Mandy Aridi's informative tour, you are bound to come away enriched.
"What is really unique about this museum is that we represent every single aspect leading up to the advent of cinema in 1895 but that is where we stop," she says. "We also move chronologically by concept, not necessarily by date, so there are some pieces that go beyond 1895 but they were still concepts that began before the advent of cinema."
The treasures of the museum begin at the entrance, with a row of fun-house mirrors and some original seats from an old French cinema, and follow through to some perfectly preserved shadow theatre sets from 19th-century Germany and France.
The oldest piece in the museum is a Dutch peep-show viewer from 1750. It is a large expandable box with image slides inside that are viewed through a magnifying glass. The images have holes cut out at specific spots and would be lit with a candle or an oil lamp from behind; so depending on the changing light, you get a day and a night view.
"They have an exaggerated perspective and a great depth of field because they wanted people to feel as if they were inside the image," Aridi says. "This was the beginning of 3-D."