Oman is a stunningly beautiful country with a rich history and bountiful heritage set in a breathtaking landscape. As an ancient seafaring nation, Oman has always been open to the world, and is now becoming increasingly popular with discerning travellers and tourists. Since the accession of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said in 1970, Oman has thrived, adopting the best features of modern technology while at the same time keeping its own heritage and unique culture very much alive.Within this diverse terrain and culture exists a treasure trove of ceremonies and celebrations, a heritage of colour, pageantry and values.
This photographic essay of national, religious and traditional ceremonies provides an insight into their splendour and significance. The book begins with a spectacular account of the country’s National Day celebrations commemorating the birthday of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. The austere Military Show which includes a parade of military vessels and artillery is complemented by the colourful scenes of the Student Show, in which over 25,000 of the nation’s children perform in traditional Omani dress.The photographs capture the experiences of the entire country but yet reveal those of the individual. The account of the religious festival al Mawlid depicts congregations in mosques and public places listening to recitations from the Qur’an and Al Sirah al Nabawiyyah (the life of the Prophet) together with the image of an overwhelmed participant performing in a spiritual dance; while photographs of a traditional Omani wedding reveal the nervous groom amidst the joyful procession which leads him to his bride.
Abdulrahman Alhinai’s vibrant photographs provide a personal insight into the many celebrations, ceremonies and events that take place in Oman each year and reveal that while embracing the modern world Oman remains proud of its traditional identity.“With a fascinating text and such marvellous photographs, this is an ideal gift for a keen traveller – or a keen armchair traveller.” - Surrey County Magazine
From the Forward to Oman: The Land, The PeopleAt Sultan Qaboos University we welcome students from all over Oman, and although each of them knows their own cities, towns or villages intimately, it is probably true to say that many of them haven’t yet travelled throughout the country, nor have any deep experience of the heritage and landscapes from the different regions.
We are fortunate to be living in the Sultanate of Oman. It is an ancient land with a rich and fascinating heritage, and a landscape that is as diverse as the people who live in it. For thousands of years, Omanis have lived and worked in occupations that are still practiced today, and have enjoyed their unique cultural customs that will live on through the passage of time as they are passed down through the generations. Our people are historically renowned for their maritime prowess, their trading abilities and, perhaps most famously, for their generosity and hospitality to travellers and visitors — a great asset in today’s push for increased tourism.
Yet, this country of ours is changing, as it must. The outside world is discovering what we think of as ‘the world’s best-kept secret’ in terms of the tourist industry, and as increasing numbers of visitors flock to our shores to savour the mysteries and delights of the exotic East, we must remember our traditions and make a commitment to preserve them for our descendents. We all welcome the delight of visitors and the amenities that the modern world has to offer, yet we must be able to touch the past in order to be successful in the future. SQU has made its commitment to both Oman’s history and its progress in all it undertakes through our primary function as a world-class educator, but also through our expert and professional staff and as a progressive institution that believes in the importance of the country’s historical heritage. I believe the University is in a unique position to fulfil its role in this regard, and we are helped and supported in our endeavour by the wisdom and vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has always shown a strong allegiance to the past, present and future.
This book, with its outstandingly beautiful photographs by Abdulrahman Alhinai, shows the Sultanate as it is today, but these visions also strongly reflect yesterday and tomorrow. This has been a long and challenging project for Abdulrahman, who has travelled to almost every mountain, wadi, village, city and desert in the country and has photographed men, women and children as they go about their daily lives and during their festivities and celebrations. He has shot tens of thousands of images, but we believe that those showcased here give a broad overview of Oman and its diversity. What SQU is particularly proud of is that Abdulrahman, during the course of his photography for the book, won three major awards: the FIAP silver medal from the International 27th Monochrome Biennale in China, the Sultan Qaboos Prize for Creativity in Photography, and 1st place and gold medals in the Al Thani Photography Award 2008, Middle East and Arabia General Section.
So we’re confident that you’re in the best creative hands possible.
All that is now left for me to say is ... enjoy Oman and its people through the eyes of Abdulrahman Alhinai!
Ali bin Saud Al Bimani
Sultan Qaboos University
From the Introduction to Oman: The Land, The PeopleI am proud to be an Omani and feel very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to travel all over this great country, from the far north of the Strait of Hormuz to the southernmost village of Sarfayt, and everywhere in between in my quest for ‘the perfect photograph’. I also feel honoured and very privileged to have been supported by Sultan Qaboos University in this important national project, enabling me to spend time discovering the far corners of the Sultanate and meeting many generous and hospitable people.
The project seemed to me at the beginning to be a hard and long road because of its magnitude and the physical size of the Sultanate. The mountains and deserts seemed a particular challenge despite the fantastic network of roads that now make travelling much easier. Our land has many faces: within a few hundred kilometres you can enjoy city life or the sparkling airs of Jabal Akhdhar; you can see the sunset in Sharqiyah or visit the ancient architecture of our forts and castles; you can experience the traditions of village life or the tranquillity of an oasis.
The Omani people, of course, have many different characteristics. From the youngest baby to our revered older generation, I’ve found smiling faces, rich cultural traditions and optimistic outlooks for the future. I realise more than ever that our exuberant and multitudinous youth holds the key to the future of Oman in their enthusiasm, and are just waiting to release their full potential. And what a special treat it is to sit with an elderly man, who has seen and experienced all life offers, and to hear his stories and share his fulfilment for a moment.
My real forte is photographing people, and I must admit to a slight apprehension when we decided to include landscapes in these books, but I’ve always enjoyed taking on something new and found that when I started to look at the land through a photographer’s eye I discovered a whole new world. Our land is a visual wonder but it needs a huge amount of patience to do it justice in a picture, so I had to completely change the way I thought about taking photographs and had to learn to find the best angles or wait for the best light. Weather is always a major factor a photographer has to take into consideration, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve come away from a location empty handed because the air was too hazy and visibility was not what it should have been. When it rains the air becomes beautifully clear, which is why you often see photographers rushing to their favourite spots after a downpour. The best time to take pictures in Oman is limited to a few months of the year, namely November to the end of March, and to certain times of the day, so those limitations are another obstacle. It’s also risky at times and physically demanding, but photographing landscapes for this project has taught me a lot and given me a special understanding of the skill, and for that I am immensely grateful. It is my hope that these photographs will go some way to preserving Oman’s beauty for forthcoming generations, just as our forebears did for us through the tales that were passed down by them.
I never cease to be amazed at our unique and beautiful landscape, and the proud and noble people who live in it, managing to retain some of their ancient traditions in our modern world. Visit even the remotest tiny settlement and you will experience overwhelming hospitality, leaving with the warm memory of sharing an unforgettable hour or two.
I’ve taken tens of thousands of images for these books and have loved every moment that I captured with my camera, but a photographer is never satisfied and although I’ve tried to cover everything, I know that realistically it is just not possible. Perhaps what I’ve enjoyed most is the increased sense of love and intimacy I now feel with the people and land of our magnificent nation, and my sense of achievement when I realise that the moments I’ve frozen in time will be shared with people throughout Oman and with visitors from around the world.
Abdulrahman bin Ali Alhinai