Oman – A Snap Shot

The term ‘jewel in the crown’ has been well used but never more is it so apt in describing the Kingdom of Oman, the jewel in the crown comprising of the Arab states. Oman simply is the ‘essence of Arabia’.

Dominated by an interior of jagged mountains (jebels), vast desert and plains, Oman is a panoramic delight occupying the eastern bulge of the Arabian Peninsula, and until recently has been among the backwaters of world tourism. The country’s vast and varied landscape has almost a childlike innocence – unspoilt, unblemished and uncorrupted.

Geographically the country ranges from the fiord-like barren majesty of the Musandam Peninsular that plunges into the Strait of Hormaz in the north, to the lush, monsoon-laden tropical Salalah in the south. In between lays the vast sandy desert (Rub al Khali, the famed ‘Empty Quarter) and the fertile Batinah Plain.

Populated as early as 6000 years BC, few countries can boast to have suffered so little oppression. Only in the 17th century was Oman partially occupied by the Portuguese, and once expelled, the country has maintained self rule through the royal sultan family of Bin Said. Held back by years of over-conservative, inward thinking rule, Sultan Qaboos bin Said came to the throne in 1970 after disposing his father which began a renaissance that brought Oman from the dark ages into the 21st century. Today the country has great prosperity through its oil, copper, gold, marble & granite, and more recently tourism. With this wealth Oman has gently modernized the country without the show of flashy excesses as displayed by its neighbour, the United Arab Emirates.

Oman is made up of 6 regions and 2 Governorates. From the north moving to the south they are: Musandam Governorate, Al Batinah Region, Muscat Governorate, Dhahrah Region, A’Dakhiliyag Region, Al Wusta Region, Al Sharqiyah Region and Dohfar Region

Musandam Governorate

Remote and rugged, it is little explored and yet for divers, nature lovers and explores who make the effort, they will be rewarded with an unsurpassed opportunity to immerse themselves in the stunning diversity of fjords, hidden coves, coral reefs and an abundance of birdlife. For history buffs there are many old watch towers and mosques worth exploring and in Madha there is evidence of human settlement dating back to 3500BC. Rock paintings and other ruins also date back to the Iron Age. Musandam is now just awakening and a number of stunning environmentally resorts are being developed.

Al Batinah Region

Wedged between the Gulf of Oman and the northern Hajar Mountains, the coastal plain of Batinah is the most fertile in the country and also the most densely populated. It is in this plain that the majority of the crops are grown for the country’s demand. Sohar, dating back 5 millennia is the main town on the coast and worth a visit for its famous fort dating back to the 13th century. Nearby is Rustaq, once capital of Oman and renown for its plethora of ancient watch towers and forts, the most notable being Rustaq Fort. Being mostly a plain there are numerous wadis offering lush date plantations.

Muscat Governorate

Gateway to Oman is generally through Muscat, the capital. In general, Muscat presents a relatively homogeneous appearance of low (rarely more than five story), generally white buildings, with residential, government, and commercial architecture frequently recalling historic regional styles. Even though this city is on the brink of the Arabian Peninsula with extreme climate, it is remarkably green and main streets lined with trees, lush grass, flowers and shrubs link the districts and public areas.

Muttrah, the ancient port exudes a delightful old-world charm, with a bustling historically significant souk, set back from the famed Al Bahri Street (Muttrah Corniche). Here one can stroll easily along the waterfront and gaze at ancient styled dhows loading and off-loading cargo whilst shark fins cut the surface of the sea chasing fish! Best time to visit here is late afternoon when the suffused sunlight softens the majestic tapestry of colour.

Before leaving Muscat to explore the rest of Oman time must be spent visiting the number of museums, art galleries, beaches and in particular, the Grand Mosque and Sultan Qaboos’ palace, two visually stunning architectural masterpieces.

Dhahirah Region

This inland region which sits on the border with the United Arab Emirates is mostly an arid desert swathe intermingled with massive mountain landscapes. There is little reason to visit here except to see one of Oman’s most prized archaeological treasures – the beehive tombs at Bat, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  A number of ancient forts and citadels can be found in the region that was used to protect the water resources in wadis from invaders.

A’Dakhiliyah Region

More usually known as the ‘Interior’, the Dakhiliyah region is the centre of Islam in ancient Oman. With such history it is not surprising its abundance of fortifications and historical edifices. With sheer mountain massifs, precipitous gorges and vibrant traditional crafts this region is a very popular tourist destination within Oman. In particular the ancient town of Nizwa stands out as a ‘must see’ place to visit, with its formidable fully restored ancient fort. Nizwa was once a walled town and ancient capital of Oman. Today visitors can walk through the tiny streets and souks that make up the old quarter in the walled-off interior. All around the town lay date palm orchards and farms making the area visually lush. Another poplar site are the rose gardens of Al Jabal where in April thousands upon thousands of rose bushes in bloom cascade down terraces cut into a mountain to the gorge below.

Al Wusta Region

Rich in oil, Al Wusta stretches from the Arabian Sea on the east to the Empty Quarter in the west. For tourism the region is better known for its flora and fauna a haven for specialist study groups. Here the world-famous Arabian Oryx Sanctuary occupies 25,000 sq kilometers of desert expanse. On the eastern seaboard of Duqm are seldom visited breathtaking sandy beaches with spectacular promontories.

Al Sharqiyah Region

Spread across the north eastern area of Oman, this region encompasses the huge Sharqiyah Sands, more commonly known as the Wahiba Sands. The ancient town of Sur is the most prominent in the region, renowned for its centuries of trading and dhow building. Nearby lays the Majlis al Jinn caves, one of the biggest cave systems in the world. One cave alone can hold the equivalent of 6 jumbo jets! Another big attraction is the green turtles that come to lay their eggs during summer, the area of which is now being made into a conservation site. Perhaps though, the biggest attraction is the Wahiba Sands, a splendid region of extremely fine reddish brown sand dunes and desert life, A very popular area for ‘dune bashing’ in 4 x 4s, camping or taking camel treks.

Dhofar Governorate

Dhofar in the far south of the Sultanate with its unique monsoon season is climatically far removed from the rest of the country. With mist shrouded mountains, lush landscapes, stunning beaches, historical treasures and a wealth of flora and fauna, tourists aplenty flock here to immerse themselves in arguably the showcase of Oman. In antiquity, Dohfar was known for its Frankincense and today this has not changed as it supplies nearly 90% of this aromatic gum to not only Oman but to the world. Salalah is the regional capital and gateway to Dhofar. This quaint historical town, famed for its ancient shrines is the ideal place to base oneself to explore all the treasures of this region. Unlike other countries when monsoon is a season to avoid, monsoon is Dhofar spells the tourist high season where thousands of visitors (mainly from nearby Arabic countries) travel to the region for its dramatic mist covered mountains, rushing streams, lush vegetation and rich heritage. And whilst the interior is so visually stunning the coastline is a destination within itself with kilometer after kilometer of barren, unpopulated, pristine white beaches and turquoise sea.

Final Note

With Oman’s new found wealth of oil and tourism, rapid strides are being made by the Sultanate to become the next ‘new frontier’ in soft adventure and cultural tourism. Many beautiful yet tasteful ‘Arabic’ style resorts are in the planning that will bring to Oman all manors of tourists. There is also the development of the wetlands for sanctuaries of migratory birds plus the expansion and upgrading of Jiddat al Harasis Oryx Sanctuary. The time however to see Oman in its simplest and purest state is now, before tourism changes forever the face of this country.

Tips and Tricks That Will Surely Help You Make Your Travelling Memories Remarkable

There are not many instances in our life where we go out on a vacation with family or friends because of the compact itinerary we have limited ourselves to. So why not make those special moments conductive of rejoicing for a lifetime by following some simple tips and tricks of photography explained beneath.

1) Take multiple shots:
Everyone strives for that picture perfect click whenever a photograph is being snapped but unfortunately out of 100, we like or savor only a handful of clicks. Other photographs, lay down in our albums backup just for the sake of remembrance.

Therefore, it’s recommended to take multiple shots of the same picture so while sorting it out, you have a chance to opt for the best among them. Continuous shots is also an option that you try depending on your needs and deeds.

2) Camera type and its features:
Before you begin your trip, you should know everything about the camera, its type, and features you are willing to use. Because you will be handicapped for your entire journey if your camera broke up midway or you find out something very much unusual in it.

Smartphone cameras are also a great option nowadays as they are available with extensive features and are easy to carry compared to external cameras. But, if you are going to use smartphone cameras, make sure you have conclusive photography applications up on your sleeves to make your photographs elegant.

3) Take pictures with proper lights:
Background lights are very much important to click a wondrous snap no matter which camera you are using. By clicking photos with proper lights in the background will surely have a huge impact on the output and definitely, at the end, you will have an extraordinary click saved for your memories.

Natural lights can also be effective to give you better snaps, but make sure that the exposure level is managed or else output will be a bit dark.

4) Read and learn from every shot:
While you capture images, you should look out for all of those minute details that can make your pictures better than before and so it is your responsibility to learn from every of the shot you take.

Learn from your mistakes and be creative when you snap as photography is all about creativity. Your Photograph is an example of a shot that your eye has already captured.

5) Photo Stamping:
Photo Stamping is a remarkable way to add detail to photos, especially when you are on holidays or something related. The reason behind this is the 3 W’s question in your life which includes “When, Why and Where” were the photographs taken.

Adding details like date and time, signature and location on to the images can comfort you from stress that crop up when you memorize details of the snaps captured by you. And also, when you will be checking up all of those Images after your Journey is over, they won’t be an unknown entity to you.

Everything concluded, follow all these tips and tricks to make your memories with family, friends and loved ones stunning. Keep traveling and keep capturing beautiful images with its remembrance. Cheers!

The Fastest Route to Becoming a Travel Photographer

The life of a travel photographer is filled with adventure, and one of most satisfying profession for your perpetual wander-lust. It seems like it is one of the easiest skills to master, because all you need is a camera and a plane-ticket right? Well, it is not easy as it looks because this domain is swarmed by a millions of creative soul, and the competition is stiff.

This little guide contains the secret-sauce to become a top-notch travel photographer in no time. As you read through every word till the end, you’ll learn what it takes to become a rock star travel photographer.

1) Learn photography – Buy a camera and understand the nuts and bolts of how it works. Formal education is not necessary, when it comes to creative skills, talent is latent and with a little practice it shapes to fruition.

2) Travel and tourism courses – Although not a mandate, a diploma course in travel and tourism will act as a leg to stand on to prove your passion for the industry. When you know the ABC’s of travel and tourism, it shows your ability to fit in right away. It makes you stand out in a crowd, and more like a blue chip investment for the employer.

3) Pick a niche – What this means is, you need to stand out from the swell of creative-heads. Your unique perspective around the world should show through your portfolio. The idea is to create an insignia style where viewers look at your photos and say “Woah! I know who clicked that!” Niche photography comes in the form wild-life, people/culture or landscapes.

4) Don’t try to hit two birds with one stone – The path to becoming a successful travel photographer is rife with challenges. To say the least, it will test your mettle. You have two roads to be taken; you can either go for a distinct job that allows you to travel frequently or get into travel photography from the get-go. In my journey, I started out with the former choice, where I was sent off-site for my projects. You have to briefly assess what’s your position and take a call on how you’d like to start.

5) Create a portfolio and a blog – As a travel photographer; you must create a booklet of your best photographs in the form of an electronic booklet (PDF). Every client will take a glimpse of your portfolio before they hire you for a project. Along with it, a well-written blog will tell the story behind your portfolio that makes viewer connect with your pictures on an emotional level.

6) Get ready to sell your services – The one skill that really will turn you from good to great is to learn the art of selling. What’s the point of clicking breathtaking photographs and not getting paid for it? Snap photo’s as many as you can, but the bank lies in getting it sold to the right buyer. Squash your fear and cold-call NGO’s, travel institute, Magazines, Hotels or Government tourism board. The more you tell, the more you sell. The more you sell, the bigger your bank.

7) Learn the Art of Story-telling – Travel photographers are essentially people who tell stories through pictures. In order to become an influential photographer, story-telling is the life-blood to your growth. You’ll attract business in bulk if you can tell the tale by painting stories through both photographs and words.

8) Capture emotions and not only photos – This applies to every type of photography, not just travel. A click from Goa will justifiably be upbeat, but a photo from an orphanage will reflect the state of affair of the orphans. A common mistake made by newbie photographers is snapping photos without a purpose.

9) Practice patience – With the overwhelming pressure associated with travel photography, a lot of people become irritable and impatience. Some of most mesmerizing photographs come to life when it is anticipated or rather calculated. A beam of the first sun-rise over snow-lapped mountains or maybe calm blue sea with a gleam of sun-set does not come without patience and planning. Also, make your sure you fit in empty windows in between your itineraries to wander-about, sort of like planned-spontaneity.

Don’t believe the myth of 10, 000 photos needed to turn you into a travel photographer. It can be your first shot or 100th snap, what really matters, is that you keep your nose to the grindstone and you will definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.