Monday 31 January 2011

Contrasts with Muscat 2 - # 26/2011

Midday in Muscat.

This isn't typical. The flowers and the nicely laid out public park are typical, but this is the only sleeper I ever saw. He obviously isn't worried about sunburn on his feet.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Contrasts with Muscat 1.1 - # 25/2011

London suburbia (vintage 1935); winter. Enough said.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Contrasts with Muscat 1 - # 24/2011

Now that I'm back in Richmond I thought I would play a little game making comparisons. It won't last long but it will give me time to "bed-in" again.

I like this house - or rather the two (white behind, brown in front). Unfortunately poor camera management means that the image is not as crisp and sharp as it should be. (I was experimenting and forgot to reset the camera, and perhaps I should have attached my polarising filter, but I was too lazy - "Oh, the heat, the heat, Carruthers. This damned eternal heat. Why did I ever sign up for this service?").

Anyway, these are two "patrician houses"; the small brown one carefully restored to celebrate the old style, and the one behind, in the typical Omani "fortress" style with what looks like a Portuguese style balcony, reflecting the 17th century Portuguese influences in Muscat - I'm guessing. I'm going to try and contrast them with similar houses here in Richmond.

The houses are in a tiny spot, called Kalbuh, close to the main harbour area called Mutrah.

Monday 24 January 2011

Muscat Moments 27 - # 23/2011

.......and goodbye to Muscat.

Sunday 23 January 2011

Muscat Moments 26 - # 22/2011

We're close to the end of Muscat Moments. There are only a few more days to run.

This pleasant tray of traditional coffee pot, bowl and wicker fly cover for plates of food is on display at the castle of Nakhal. Doesn't it look pretty?

Saturday 22 January 2011

Muscat Moments 25 - # 21/2011

Goats seeking shade.  As we come down from the jebel back to the hot semi-desert low land plains we find an ingenious system of shelters for people waiting for taxis.  Along the highways that sweep past the villages there are shelters to provide shade. There are no buses as we understand them in Northern Europe, but taxis patrol the highways.  You can phone or just wait for a taxi to magically materialise.  This is afterall the land of Sindbad the Sailor and the Arabian Nights tales. The goats find these shelters extremely useful. Goats are not daft!!!  And goat's milk and meat are vey good.  And their hair makes nice garments and decorative knick-knacks. I like goats.

Friday 21 January 2011

Muscat Moments 24 - # 20/2011

The last quick snap from the "jaunt in the jebel":  a village lady in colourful traditional clothes carries a bundle of crops on her head towards the aged 4.0 litrewhite Toyata pick-up. In the foreground is a white plastic water tank looking like a a typical Omani watch tower with its crenelations around the top.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Muscat Moments 23 - # 19/2011

"A jaunt in the jebel - 2"...................a close up view of the terraces showing the thick, green crop. On the right the water distribution channels and in the background the harsh rocky crags and precipices of the mountain range.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Muscat Moments 22 - # 18/2011

"A jaunt in the jebel"...........a village at around 2,200 meters high in the Jebel Akhdar (the Akhdar Mountain chain): over the years the villagers have laboriously constructed a huge series of terraces on which they grow their crops.  There is plentiful moisture and running water is distributed via an ingenious system of water channels that serve the terraces. Today, main sewerage and mains water pumping systems are being installed under the narrow alleys between the houses. Electricity comes via a chain of pylons built across the ridges and gulleys of the mountains. Mobile phone reception is perfect.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Muscat Moments 21 - # 17/2011

"The village at the end of the world" son brought his rock-hard Jeep across the desert from's a lovely multi-lane highway built to the best standards.

However, this fishing village is accessible only by a rough-riding Jeep or by sea. But they have electricity and school and the road is maintained, if rough. They are by no means cut off, and a fishing skiff could quickly reach Muscat.

Omanis are friendly, outgoing seafarers and by tradition like contact with foreigners (provided you respect their pride as Omanis).  They graciously invited us to sip Omani coffee and eat dates - delicious sweet and sour/dates and coffee.  Over coffee we discussed international football, the cost of cars and the price of buying a wife.  There was a long contemplative silence after Christopher reckoned £500,000 as being the cost of a wife in England..........which then exploded into a loud burst of exceptionally raucous laughter and back slapping. After the usual photo-call we were graciously lead back to the Jeep and waved on our way.  Riding away in the Jeep we were thinking.........Hmmm, just like men all over the world!!!

Monday 17 January 2011

Muscat Moments 20 - # 16/2011

Surfin' Oman...............just like anywhere else, but hotter.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Muscat Moments 19 - # 15/2011

Looking down into Old Muscat from the old town gate fortifications. The buildings are not so "old" but the surroundings and site are impressive.  Today the watch towers vie with the mobile phone towers on the mountain peaks.  The Sultan has decreed that there should be no high rise buildings to spoil the views.  Muscat is a "low level" townscape - and very much better off for that. 

Saturday 15 January 2011

Muscat Moments 18 - # 14/2011

Sunset behind the mountains that cradle Mutrah, the port of Muscat. The fort and the watchtowers take on a special form.

Friday 14 January 2011

Muscat Moments 17 - # 13/2011

Night shot of the Corniche at Mutrah, the Port of Muscat.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Muscat Moments 16 - # 12/2011

Fishers they grill fishermen in Oman?  And, they collect sawdust.  I love to read the shop signs and speculate on what might be meant.  Of course, the true meaning is clear, but the English is nevertheless amusing.  The fish market is nearby, so collection of sawdust and preparation of cooked fish are to be expected. In the background you can see a watch tower on the hill top; part of the old fortifications.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Muscat Moments 15 - # 11/2011

Oh, look! It's another colonade! Sorry, but this one was impossible to resist (I know it's rather a cliche, but.....).   This one is purely decorative and no doubt outrageously expensive, but on a hot day - 50 degrees C - you would love it.  It's part of the Sultan's palace.

Monday 10 January 2011

Muscat Moments 14 - # 10/2011

The vegetable trader: early morning on the beach at the tiny fishing village of Al Musanaah, an Indian trader has brought down a van load of fresh green vegetables and he already has a customer.  Behind them is a magical demon's cave...........the marine engine repair shop, as oily and exciting as an engine repair garage anywhere.  

Sunday 9 January 2011

Muscat Moments 13 - # 9/2011

Inside the souk at Mutrah (the port area of Muscat) it is surprisingly cool thanks to old traditional construction methods that naturally encourage ventilation and shade.  It's the original "shopping mall" but without the need for electric air conditioning. Although thick with people, and hot outside, it's fresh and inviting.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Muscat Moments 12 - # 8/2011

Take pity on Menton DP where the sunshine has disappeared and the grey clouds reign.

Here is the fishermen's beach at Sur, 2/12 hrs south of Muscat.  There is also a dhow construction yard building dhows to the traditonal designs that are still perfect for modern-day cargo trading in the region.

Friday 7 January 2011

Muscat Moments 11 - # 7/2011

Let's drop into the fish market at Mutrah, the port of Muscat.  As far as I can make out the fish is all caught by the small white skiffs - 4 men with lines or a small net.  Oman is a small country and fish is only eaten in the coastal areas where it is natural food.

In my opinion the giant European industrial deep sea fishing industry is seriously questionable.  

Thursday 6 January 2011

Muscat Moments 10 - # 6/2011

I don't want to bore you with too much "architecture", but I want to show some more colonade studies, and dwell on the pleasing form of the Arabic arch. Here's another very attractive use of the technique at a mosque near where I'm staying.

People shots will be coming again, but mosques and landscapes and townscapes must have their outings as well.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Muscat Moments 9 - # 5/2011

Down at the driving school: two Omani ladies appear to be "sorting out" an Indian lady. Unlike Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive cars, the Sultan of Oman wishes women to play a full and useful role, reaching their maximum potential in education and work.  Although long dresses (sensible in the extreme heat) are normal, veils are rarely seen in the towns.  Driving school cars carry the distinctive zebra stripes.  Driving standards are OK, but, shall we say "somewhat different" from North European standards - especially at night when young men go crazy and drive expensive, powerful cars in a very dangerous manner.

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Muscat Moments 8 - # 4/2011

The Arabic arch and the long shady colonade set the scene for this "Happy Families" shot. An Omani family enjoy the cool late night air and are walking the colonade for pleasure. Typically, as far as it seems to me, the Father is carrying the baby, (or happily pushing the buggy). This night shot is hand-held so a bit skew-whiff, but nice nevertheless.  We are down in the old Muscat harbour area known as Mutrah; a fine natural anchorage used for millenia by sea-farers on the Indian and Arabian seas.  

Monday 3 January 2011

Muscat Moments 7 - # 3/2011

The rather soothing and definitely pleasing form of the Arabic arch leads us forward into the great castle at Nakhal.  Oman is full of forts and strong points, hinting at the turbulent times in its long history. (Not a perfect photo - more of a snap - but as usual the harsh contrasts in light and shade force compromises that would need a full lighting crew to balance out.) After several attempts this was the shot that best captured the effect of the natural light on the arches.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Muscat Moments 6 - # 2/2011

Let's stay with the fishing for a bit longer.  Here you can see the fibre glass skiffs driven by powerful Yamaha outboards.  These have replaced the traditionally build skiffs sewn together with coconut and palm string.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Muscat Moments 5 - # 1/2011

Landing the Indian trader discusses the catch with the fisherman who is wearing a typical Omani turban.  The fish will be walked up the beach to the market. The blue Arabian Sea forms the background.

Wishing you all a very good 2011.........