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After a taxing first day in Wadi Mistal and Mussanah, we quickly head into the Al Hajar mountain range, which includes Oman’s highest peak Jabal Shams. These brown and rugged peaks rise into the sky like a barrier and separate the coastal plains from the desert plateaus in the west. As soon as we cross into the first Wadi, the paved street disappears abruptly at a river. We come to a stop and I wonder shortly, if this is our first shooting location. But then the drivers put the vehicles into four wheel drive and take off into the river bed, which at this time of the year, contains only a trickle of water.
Still, water splashes in all directions as our convoy makes it’s way deeper into the mountains, following the river as it winds its way through narrow valleys. Eventually, the river road ends as well and we have to cross the peaks on dry land in order to reach the little village of Al Hamra, still separated from us by a couple high and rugged peaks. The road now consists of loose gravel, and sneaks it’s way up the mountains in sharp twists and steep inclines. Everyone in the car grips the handles tightly and is secretly thankful for the metal roll cage, but our driver Said proves that he knows what he’s doing.
This is pure, unadulterated nature. As far as my eyes can see, there is not a paved road in sight, only rock, low shrubs and tiny settlements here and there, usually located conveniently near a water source with olive, fig and fruit trees growing in little clusters. I try to take photos, but the road is so rough that it shakes my brain into a pulp an makes it impossible to hold the camera steady enough. Not that taking photos out of car windows is generally a good idea anyway.
Crossing the mountain range takes several hours and it is early afternoon when we finally make our way down towards Al Hamra in the plains below. The town is one of Oman’s better preserved traditional villages, filled with mudbrick houses, rubble-strewn winding alleyways and a green oasis below. It’s like stepping into another time and this feeling is amplified by the traditional show the locals put on for us. Sure it is staged and there are a few tourists stumbling into photos, but I enjoy this more touristic side of Oman as well, especially since it is a great chance to photograph women in traditional dresses, who are usually very unwilling to have their photo taken.
Apart from the women and children mingling in impossibly bright dresses, there are horse races through the streets and a swordfight with two men, wearing dishdashas and muzzars, circling each other with blades and conical shields.
Enjoy day 2 of Oman in Focus: