Old Door – Wakan.

Wakan village is a very popular tourist attraction and this door must have been photographed hundreds of times: so thought I should add my two penneth.
I remember visiting this village long before it came onto the tourist route, probably 1987 if my memory serves me well. It sits about 2,000 meters above sea level in Wadi Mistal, tucked away in the Hajar Mountains. Famous for its apricot flowers which  are in full bloom between the middle of May & the end of August. It was and in some respects still is a drive that requires a 4×4 and some experience with off-road driving on tracks that can deter even the most determined tourist. A little like Jebel Shams / Jebel Akhdar; when visitors see the hotels marked on the map, they set off in the newly hired car and find the track is not what they expected. Many times I have seen people either lost, stuck in wadi streams or so frightened because the edge has a drop off on one side of 200 or 300 hundred meters. Resulting in me not being able to pass them when coming from the opposite direction and needing to guided them passed my vehicle. Unfortunately it is the lack of knowledge and information given by the hire companies and hotels.
One example was when camping high in the mountains and late one evening a  4×4 stops and my daughter and I get asked “how far is Muscat?” we both looked a little shocked because it was getting dark and the road that these people were about to travel was very dangerous even in daylight. We suggested that the map they had been given was not very good and Muscat was at least 3 hours away, the road needed great care in daylight and driving at night was not to be recommended. They had some discussions with each other and took our recommendation of turning back rather than going on and missing the edge of the road which would have been either a very long drop or crash into a rock face.
Despite the many tourist intrusions in recent years, the locals remain very welcoming, as happens in a lot of these traditional villages that have been added to the tourist map. Although I did despair sometimes, when I saw a total lack of awareness by some visitors of the cultural sensitivities of the occupants. It probably means that in a few years, the open & hospitable welcome that tradition dictates for visitors will be lost.

Looking at the above image – Wakan is the village left of centre and the track can just be seen snaking down the mountain on the right of the village.

Tawi Atayr: A sinkhole located in Al-Qarā Mountains Dhofar (more).

More from Tawi Atayr – unfortunately it was the wrong time of day, so shadows in the sinkhole were very dark. It was also before the monsoon hits, so everything is brown & tinder dry.
The metal rusted & broken frame seen on the last image, was for taking water from the bottom of the sinkhole during the summer months. During severe monsoon periods, this place can fill with water, then join the deluge that pours down Wadi Darbat towards the sea; such as when Cyclone Mekunu caused flash flooding earlier this year.

Getting there & seeing the place was great fun (even if rather precarious when venturing near the edge and away from the installed viewing area)  but needs must for photography, as long as one is sensible.

Tawi Atayr: A sinkhole located in Al-Qarā Mountains Dhofar.

 

Two images of a water run-off channel that drops into the Tawi Atayr sinkhole. The one on the right diffused, because I liked the look when printed. On the left I used a lens that has a slight softness around the edges: not everything needs to be ultra sharp.

Tawi Atayr: A sinkhole located in Al-Qarāʾ Mountains Dhofar.

The name roughly translated from Arabic means the “well of the birds” appropriate because it is populated by many birds whose song can be heard seemingly from all directions, when approaching the area of this sinkhole.
Its surface measurement is approximately 130m in a NE-SW direction and about 90m in NW-SE direction with a vertical depth of around 210m. Halfway down it narrows to an almost circular hole of about 60m in diameter.
Opinions differ as to its formation, either erosion exacerbated by fissures opened when the rock freezes or a collapsed cave system.
At the bottom there is a cave passage in a north-eastern direction, located at groundwater level and half-filled with water. To my knowledge, this passage has not yet been explored, it is possible that it leads to Wadi Darbat and the sea which is only 10km to the south.

Burton Agnes Elizabethan Manor House.

Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan manor house on the edge of the village of Burton Agnes, near Driffield. Built by Sir Henry Griffith in 1601–10 to designs attributed to Robert Smythson. Although the configuration of the house as it stands, does not follow his original plans, it is probably due to changes being made as the building was constructed.

The estate has been in the hands of the same family since Roger de Stuteville built the Norman manor house on the site; the Undercroft of which is shown in my earlier post.

In 1457 Sir Walter Griffith came to live there. The Griffiths were a Welsh family who had moved to Staffordshire in the thirteenth century and inherited the Burton Agnes estate.

The present Elizabethan house as seen here in this post, was built next to the original Norman manor house when Sir Henry Griffith, 1st Baronet, was appointed to the Council of the North.

Sand storm coming.

A follow-on from my earlier post of ‘Early morning light’ this greeted me one morning ! not a pleasant sight, it means everything gets a coating of sand, so no breakfast until it passes.

Sandstorms can last for a few minutes or several hours; the only way to deal with them if caught outside is either stay in your tent/vehicle or cover yourself and stay low hoping it passes quickly.
I’ve been caught by a few over the years, luckily I was either in my vehicle or tent so just waited them out. But on the odd occasion I was pleased that I carried a Masar or Shemagh as the Bedu traditionally use; it is not a fashion item when it comes to these storms, it protect eyes, ears & mouth.

 

Unicorn Myth.

A Jpeg file that I have of the The Arabian Oryx or white Oryx (unfortunately I have not found the original negatives yet: I have about 20 in a folder that I have yet to scan and catalogue) this is from my files of  November 2010 when I was down in the Huquf.

The Unicorn myth: From that well know online encyclopædia.

The myth of the one-horned unicorn may be based on oryxes that have lost one horn. Aristotle and Pliny the Elder held that the oryx was the unicorn’s “prototype”. From certain angles, the oryx may seem to have one horn rather than two, and given that its horns are made from hollow bone that cannot be regrown, if an oryx were to lose one of its horns, for the rest of its life, it would have only one.

Another source for the concept may have originated from the translation of the Hebrew word re’em into Greek as μονόκερως, monokeros, in the Septuagint. In Psalm 22:21, the word karen, meaning horn, is written in singular. The Roman Catholic Vulgata and the Douay-Rheims Bible translated re’em as rhinoceros; other translations are names for a wild bull, wild oxen, buffalo, or gaur, but in some languages a word for unicorn is maintained. The Arabic translation alrim is the most correct choice etymologically, meaning ‘white oryx’.

Farming – Wadi Al Hoqain.

Farming – Wadi Al Hoqain.

Date palms, sugar cane, the henna plant, along with animal fodder; all grown in this wadi, renowned for its abundance of water all year round.
There has been some form of settlement here from as early as the bronze age, maybe even earlier.
I have not been able to find any history about the fort, although commanding such a prominent place, it does surprises me that it doesn’t get mentioned – I’ve probably not looked hard enough.  🙂

Working my way through the book shown below, so with luck.

The countries and tribes of the Persian Gulf
By: Samuel Barrett Miles Pub. 1919.

Martini-Henry Rifle.

Martini-Henry Rifle. (I think it’s a MkII version – there were 4 types produced in its lifetime 1871-1889)
This type of rifle can still be seen all over Oman, either in use or as a dress item.

A breech loading single shot rifle using a falling block action and chambered for a .45 caliber round-nosed bullet, notorious for its heavy recoil. Having used a Lee-Enfield .303 and feeling the recoil from that if not held correctly, I would hate to think how much this gun hurt the shoulder if not tucked in and the thumb in the right place.
I remember around 1987, watching a man from the Jebel Akhdar trying to sell one at the old open-air Friday market in Nizwa. He was also carrying a bandoleer filled with various bullets, mainly .303 Lee-Enfield but he did have at least 3 of the type his rifle actually used.
That was when the enclosed Souk was still open and these rifles could be purchased without much difficulty.

On the left, a standard .22 Caliber LR cartridge. On the right, a rolled brass Short Chamber, Boxer-Henry .45 Caliber cartridge. Big !!!
Image from – martinihenry.com