A loggerhead turtle scampers frantically towards the sea, her cumbersome shell not designed for beach sprinting, the dawn light now illuminating the protective cove but it’s not only the light that has stirred her into such inelegant action so much as the camera-phone wielding tourists in hot pursuit; coming out at night to lay her eggs it’s not only the foxes and birds she has to fear but now the modern scourge of the eco-paparazzi.
Ras al Jinz is the most easterly point of the Arabian peninsula in the Gulf of Oman, when the dawn light breaks here it does so before any other point in the Arab world, time and tide waits for no man, so it’s said, and neither do the turtles nesting on the beach. The tourists are a recent addition but otherwise life continues here much as it has done for hundreds of years, the turtles are of course protected, although many a local fisherman will tell of the succulent taste of its meat, my guide and driver sheepishly admits.
Ibn Battutah, the itinerant Arab traveller, landed on these shores more than six hundred years previously at a time when the maritime traffic of the Indian Ocean, Red and Arabian seas were dominated by Muslim traders. Dialects of Swahili and Baluchise among others are still spoken in the Souks of Oman, testament to the merchants that crises-crossed the seas, not only carrying silk and cotton but also the gifts of the Magi; gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Yet Oman is no antique backwater, whilst its history and traditions are still preserved and appreciated and its unique cultural identity fully intact unlike perhaps some of its brash noisy neighbours, over the last forty years sustained development and investment have transformed the Sultanate into a modern yet understated nation. The once impenetrable interior now easily accessible by road, although in some of the more remote regions only by 4×4.
Proud of their heritage and determined to protect it the Omanis are quick to point out the difference between them and the glittering gaudy high-rise Emirates; no buildings are over four stories high in Oman, the cities have plenty of modern shopping malls but equally every Friday cattle traders turn up to Nizwa souk with sheep, cows and goats in the back of pick-ups ready to haggle a deal, farmers lead their beasts around a circular dais where prospective buyers sit and inspect, occasionally an errant bullock bucking and causing the crowd to stumble back, Rials exchanged goats carried off cradled in arms like a baby, around the corner in the restored old souk rifles and the ceremonial daggers are bought and sold, Bedouin women with their distinctive face masks shop for fruit, a traditional way of life sitting easily inside a country of modern infrastructure.
Absolute power obtained via a coup is hardly unusual in the Middle East but when Sultan Qabous Bin Said al Said ousted his father in 1970 it heralded the beginning of a renaissance and when the Arab Spring promoted discontent and protest in Oman as it did all over the Middle East he did something no other regional leader did; he listened to grievances then responded with decorum and understanding, he implemented reforms and created jobs and made promises, the Sultan died in a year ago this month; his legacy is one of cohesive inclusion, and while his reign is hardly blemish free he is held in high regard.
The dynasty continues with his first cousin, Haitham bin Tariq al Said who in his short time in office has made efforts to continue reform and much needed economic diversification to keep Oman a rare oasis of tranquillity and calm, unless that is you are a turtle.
When the dawn light breaks along the coast of Oman the rest of the Arab world is still in darkness; modern and modest and with quiet humility Oman has much to be admired and as Ibn Battutah wrote; a beauty that is undeniable.
If you have enjoyed this vicarious journey do feel free to share and please do consider supporting my work via the Buy Me A Coffee link below.
Thank you for your much needed and ever appreciated support, stay safe and healthy.
Your stories are inspiring. Warm greetings !
Thank you 🙂
I always look forward to reading your posts. They are so personal and insightful and your photography really brings the articles to life.
Thank you Keith
I really appreciate you reading and taking the time for the nice comment
Hope all is good with you
Fascinating as always. I would like to know more about the reforms and the way of life there.
Thank you for this!
Thank you 🙂
Thanks for sharing Oman is a country I really want to visit one day .
I hope you do. Beautiful country and lovely people
Nice post. Brought back memories of my time in Oman (5 years in the 1970s). Sadly I have lost the few photos I’d taken in those days. A pity we didnt have digital cameras tgen.
Sorry you lost the images, I know the feeling.
Be wary of your digital files too-back them up and make copies, they can corrupt and go missing just as easily
Thanks John, digifiles all backed up (8Tb of originals and 8Tb bu on 6 drives🤪)
Great pictures and an inspiring story of a country that seldom make the news.
It is good to read about a country where injustices were addressed and people’s grievances were heard following the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Your story and photos make me want to visit Oman.
I do hope you have the chance to visit one day
I really loved your pictures. I had the chance to see the turtles also in Oman as I spent the night inside the reservois and the guides took me there at night, thus my pictures are pretty dark. Nice to see you managed to capture them at dawn.
Was a very fleeting window at dawn, the light was low and the turtles made for the sea at quite a speed so not time for creativity!
I expect you made the same circular tour I made, beautiful country
Such an interesting post. Always worth reading.
Thank you 🙂
Oh, John, once again, stunning!
I feel like I can smell Oman, I want to visit now. “Modern yet understated nation” sounds lovely.
Thanks again for a beautiful post! An oasis indeed.
I hope you are well! -H
Thank you Holly
So glad you found it enjoyable
As always, thank you for taking me along on your journeys.
My pleasure Rebecca
Thank you for reading
I really enjoyed this article. I found it very interesting and inspiring and hope to visit Oman one day.
Oman is lovely, I hope you can visit
Thank you, so glad you have enjoyed it
I have really enjoyed reading and am looking forward to reading more of what you write. Kindly check my page and follow.
We are together in this. I’ll appreciate
Beautiful writing and photos! Thanks so much for sharing 💜
Thank you Dinah 🙂
I really enjoy the way you bring me into your lens to see and connect the intricacies of life. Thank you.
Thank you for following along 🙂
Thanks for liking my poetry, I’m glad I found your blog! love reading stories set in other cultures. ☺️
It was my pleasure Emine
Glad you enjoyed my travelogue
Thank you for dropping in to my blog and leaving a like. I thought I would visit you in turn on this virtual journey. Arriving in Oman was at first a surprise but I immediately felt at home with the turtles. I really enjoyed your insights into a country and culture that I have not had the opportunity to visit. Your writing brought it to life for me.
So pleased you enjoyed it. Oman is lovely, perhaps one day you will have the opportunity to visit
John you’re such a gifted writer and this was such a pleasure to read. Thanks for liking my blog posts too, it’s nice to connect
You are too kind. Thank you for the nice words, it means a great deal
Thank you so much, your words give me much needed encouragement
Always interesting and informative. Cheers, Ian
Beautiful post! Thank you for stopping by our page, as well 😊😊
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Ian, it’s really very much appreciated
Three years living in Oman in the 1980’s, but sadly I never got to see the hatching turtles. A fascinating country, though, and closed to Westerners then other than those working out there.
I think probably during the 80s the turtles were on the menu!
It’s very much an open country these days for western tourists, worth a visit if you ever get the chance to go back.
Thanks for dropping by
Thanks, John. I contemplated a return visit about twelve years ago, but after watching a number of videos on YouTube and reading several articles decided I would only be disappointed. What I loved most about the country was the feeling it could have been fifty or a hundred years earlier; away from Muscat there much that of life could almost have been medieval, lived at a medieval pace. And although the majority of the Omanis would certainly want most of the benefits of the modern day, that wasn’t what I enjoyed there.
A great read and I love your photos! We visited Oman a couple of years ago and I was so impressed by the country and by what our guides, one in particular, told us about the Sultan and his approach to running the country. I wasn’t sure what had happened after his death soon after our visit so it’s good to know his cousin is continuing his good work. Our guide had been concerned that the Sultan, being childless, had made no public statement as to who would succeed him and he feared some sort of battle for power that would undo all that had been achieved.
Beautiful pictures and words. I was transported.
Love the movement in the photos. Thanks for the insight into a world I may not get to travel to. Dee
Thank you for reading 🙂
Such a beautiful sets! The way you see the world is really unique.
So very kind of you, thank you 🙂
Beautifully written you bring each destination to life thanks ❤️
Thank you 🙂 I appreciate your kind words
Your photo reportages are always top-notch.
I love this 💜
I’ve been here during the season they come back to lay eggs and was privileged to see the baby one’s rushing off to the sea
Thank you for bringing back those memories 🌸