Oman (1)

Prior to 1970, Oman was, in many ways, still a medieval country. There were no more than 3 miles of tarmac road in the whole country, the gates of the capital, Muscat, were still closed between the hours of sunset and sunrise, and it’s exports were largely confined to dates, limes and frankincense. Oil had first been discovered as far back as 1956, and then in commercial quantities in 1962. Production began in 1964 and led irrevocably to massive changes, although these would not come about until 1970.

boat

This launch (Omanis never use the word Dhow) was on the shore at Yiti, just east of Muscat. It would most likely have been used for trading and was probably still seaworthy when I took this photo.

Mindful of these changes that had happened virtually overnight to other Middle Eastern states when oil had been discovered, the then Sultan, Said, was determined that Oman would not go the same way. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, his solution was to stash the proceeds in the royal coffers, whilst the country and its people remained poor. It was a situation that could not last for long, and in 1970 his son, Qaboos, overthrew the old Sultan.

Baushar Fort

Old fort at the village of Baushar, near Muscat.
baushar door
Carved wooden door in Baushar Fort

I lived there between 1985 and 1988, during which time the country was making large strides towards being a modern state, although many parts of the country still felt as though they belonged in another century. Around Muscat and along the Northern coast, there were new towns springing up, modern shops and hotels, main roads, and much of the development that might be expected. There did appear to be an emphasis on the building of facilities such as schools and hospitals, however, along with a good deal of restraint, which was a refreshing change from the way that many other states used their oil wealth.

pottery kiln 1

Pottery kiln at Bahla.

Bahla has good quality clay and produces large numbers of pots, which are thrown on simple foot-operated slow wheels and fired in large mud-brick kilns, which are fueled with brushwood.

Pots at bala

Newly-fired pots

Away from the towns, to visit most of the villages was like stepping back in time. Buildings were often still mud brick and palm thatch, and many of the traditional cottage industries were still followed.

falaj

Falaj.

The Falaj system of irrigation originated in Persia and was spread throughout the Arab world. I have even seen examples in Spain. The system consists of a series of underwater channels bringing water from where it arises, usually in the mountains, to where it is needed, where it is distributed by overground channels. These channels, both underground and overground, have been built on a very gentle gradient and show astounding technical skill, being built only with primitive tools, often very deep underground. Many of the Omani Falajes are reckoned to have been built by 500 BC.

dates

Dates spread out to dry near the town of Quriyat.

Dates are an important crop in Oman and were the main export until the discovery of oil there. They are still dried in the traditional way – in the sun.

shark boy crop

Boy on a donkey with sharks. The sea has also traditionally been a major source of food for Omanis. I passed this boy just outside Quriyat.

deserty desert

Coastal mountains, SE of Muscat.

For a long time after I finally left Oman, I harboured a strong wish to go back there. But recently I watched several videos on YouTube, which have cured me. Many of the places that I knew as small settlements with dirt roads and small houses, have become places of great wealth with wide boulevards, modern houses and cars, and tourist hotels. It is, no doubt, a development that is welcomed by the majority of the population, but it is not the Oman that I knew.

Oasis

There you go. A picture of an oasis.
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65 thoughts on “Oman (1)

    1. Thanks, Annika. Yes, when I saw the videos of Oman today, I knew it would be a mistake. Even though I would really love to travel through the mountains and desert there, it would not be the same as before. I think I would destroy the magic by doing so.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t get me wrong, Monica, I’m sure that it will still be an amazing place. The desert and mountains are utterly beautiful, the people are great and there is so much cultural history and so many old buildings. I’ve met a number of people who have visited since it opened up to visitors (I was there working – you couldn’t get a visa as a tourist in those days), and they have all loved it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Mick, although I have never been to Oman, from what I know it is still the only country in the peninsula that has strong and vibrant culture. While countries like UAE have done with with past Oman is better off, even today. it also has amazing natural beauty and exotic locations and resorts too. I know when you compare two different era, it’s but natural to pick better one.
    Thanks for sharing amazing write up with lovely pictures that show real Oman!
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Arv. Yes, what you say is very true. I was there for 3 years, and I only left because my company transferred me elsewhere. I would have happily stayed on for another 3 to explore more of Oman, and to enjoy the bits I already knew.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I yearn to go back to Oman TC, perhaps house sit for someone over the Xmas break, but like you, I don’t what my memories destroyed. Living in Oman for 5 years was probably one of the highlights for me. I will be to go back but pretend it’s a new country I’ve never been to.

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  3. Ingrid Potter

    It truly is a magical place. I lived there when jane was there and again in 1993 for six years. My two daughters were educated there and we still have friends there. There’s no other Arabic country like it I’m convinced of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ingrid. You must have been there when I was then, since I was out there the same time as Jane. Yes, it felt magical in so many ways. Although it was nearly 30 years ago now that I left, it still feels as though it was one of the major influences on my life.

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  4. I seem to be the only person on this thread who has never been anywhere near Oman! I’d be interested in seeing it, of course, but if it’s mostly wide boulevards and fancy hotels, it may be disappointingly similar to many other places where I have already been. I guess that’s just the way of the world, though. I can’t expect people to live in picturesque squalor simply for my benefit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Bun. I’m sure that it’s not all like that. It’s a very lightly populated country, and the huge amounts of desert and mountain scenery are still going to be fantastic. Most of the remoter villages will still be picturesque, I’ve no doubt. And, as I mentioned further up this thread, I have met people who have been there more recently, and they all love it. I would probably have a great time if i went again, but i would have to make sure I didn’t revisit the places i knew before.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Did you know of Dr Donald Bosch …his book “Seashells of Eastern Arabia” was the catalyst for my travel in Oman, I’ve been to some wonderful places in Oman, more posts to write but I just love the country…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I had one of his books when I was out there, although I’m not sure if it was that one. ‘The Family Bookshop’ in Medinat Qaboos was a happy hunting ground for lots of books on the history and the wildlife of Oman, but sadly I no longer have them all.

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  6. I’ve never been to Oman or even anywhere near there but the photos are just beautiful. Such a shame it has been spoiled. That seems to be ‘progress’, they say, and the way that the many places of developing (supply and demand, I suppose). I’m glad you saw the best of Oman but it’s sad when beautiful, treasured places like that are spoiled.

    You are a good photographer and writer, Mick – you should be writing for the National Geographic magazine. Ever thought of that? x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh, that’s ever so kind, Ellie. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near good enough for that. And now that a certain Mr Murdoch has bought it, I don’t think I’ll be reading it anymore (just to get a bit political).
      Anyway, sad, yes, but I’m not sure that I’d say it was spoiled; I understand that the sort of wild excesses that other places have suffered have been largely avoided. Had I not been there before, I would probably think it charming. There is a saying, though, ‘You can never go back’. But now that I’ve written this post, and had a few conversations, and thought about it (and yes, even dreamed about it!), I do wonder…

      Liked by 1 person

              1. Oh thank you. That’s very kind. I have quite a few more and will post a few every so often so as not to induce boredom. Some great ones I have given to the Tank Museum at Bovington of Tanks and soldiers etc etc

                Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely post…good to see what Oman looked like back then, thank you. I have been on a short getaway there last year, and loved it, I actually do like that it hasn’t ‘over-modernised’ as a country, like many other middle eastern countries, it gives Oman so much more character, which is sadly missing in other Arab countries. Hope to go back again someday to explore more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for visiting and the follow, Foodeva. I’m glad that Oman is being careful how it modernises. I certainly thought that it had more character than the other Gulf States that I visited (albeit very briefly), and I do hope that it holds on to that.

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