Dhofar – Adenium obesum.


From my book ‘Plants of Dhofar’  this is Adenium obesum (name corrected to ‘Obesum’ the error pointed out by  Spinosina – thanks. Mea culpa for not reading the whole description on page 30 of the book) more commonly known as Desert Rose.

A plant that was treated with fear and a lot of respect in days gone by: Snakes were believed to get their poison from it and getting close would result in painful eye inflammation if care was not taken. The sap from the bark was used for medicinal purposes as a topical salve for inflammation of joints or limb paralysis. It is poisonous if eaten by animals, so the sap could be used as a fish or arrow poison.

The person collecting this bark should carry something iron and pray out loud while approaching the plant,  strip the bark as quickly as possible then depart without looking back; never return to the same area until a reasonable period of time has passed.
The bark was  pounded then put in warm water to soak, a small piece of iron included in the mixture made it more powerful and stopped the ‘evil eye’ of malcontents or evil spirits interfering with it.

Early fishing boat construction – Dhofar.

These are examples of a traditional method of sewn-boat construction (no nails) which is no longer carried out in Dhofar: the last person with this skill, died in the 1990’s, although a few still live in the Musandam. (Seminar of Arabian Studies 40)

Archæological evidence from the al-Balid site, of timbers re-used as building materials when boats were no longer sea worthy, indicate that this method of construction in Dhofar is very old.

All the materials come from the Coconut palm – wood, cordage & wadding, with a covering derived from fish oil. The tools used being saw, adze, chisel & hammer, along with a good eye for a straight line & curves – undoubtedly very accomplished carpenters.


ErosionRillenkarren – Erosion of rock during Oman’s wetter phase.

The technical description from my geology book says:

Rillenkarren.- Are forms of dissolution on the surface of the rocks that consist of small channels separated by sharp crests configuring a network of tight more or less parallel gullies next to each other. Its Genesis is linked to the dissolution of the rock by the sheet of water that forms on it as a local run-off.


More from Al Baleed.

Al Baleed.


Al Baleed or Al Balid (from the Jibbali Arabic for ‘town’) is what is now known as the Al Baleed Achæological Park & Frankincense museum.

This extensive site described in great detail by Dr Paolo M. Costa, working with the Ministry of Heritage & Culture between 1976/86 can be found in The Journal of Oman Studies Vol:5. [The Study of the city of Zafar (al Balid) ] unfortunately I have not been able to find a link for this publication – Oman does not seem to make these publications easily available on the internet.

Al Baleed (Zafar, the city where the name Dhofar comes from) was an ancient port located near what is now Salalah. Recent excavation has shown that the site was inhabited from around the 5 millennia BCE. It continued its development in the late Iron Age through the Middle Ages until it fell into decline for a number of reasons; the reduced need for trade in Frankincense & then its horses. The silting-up of the harbour didn’t help: As the deep water receded, the big trading vessels were not able to dock. Arab and European historical references indicate that it was rebuilt several times from the early 10th century CE until its decline around the middle 1200s CE.

The city & its ‘Great’ mosque with over 140 pillars, minaret & associated outbuildings was still in use until the 17th centenary CE.

Marco Polo described the city as prosperous and one of the main ports on the Indian Ocean trade route. Although like a lot of other places (Masirah for instance) that he is supposed to have visited, it could be just word of mouth as the saying goes. Ibn Battuta visited this site in 1329 and commented on its beauty. In 1846, HJ Carter wrote about the city, pointing to its architecture and grand mosque, which he described as exceptional; he is now questioned for being rather ‘picturesque’ with his description of what was there when he visited. Reports from Miles (1880) and Bentes (1890) are also available describing their visit to Al Baleed.

Considering that the site was robed of stone for many years; it is only because of H.M the Sultan and his desire for the protection of Oman’s heritage, that there is anything left of the site. Fortunately, a lot of building structures and artefacts lay beneath mounds of rubble & sand; so with the on going archæology, more is being discovered every year.



Pictographs – Dhofar.

All images have been colour shifted to try & enhance the art for viewing – several being very faint and smudged through weathering & age. As can be seen, these pictographs are a form of rock art that is totally different from that found in northern Oman. It portrays images of the camel interspersed with horses and their rider: there are clusters of dots & lines seen as well; the significance of these is not known, although it has been suggested by some, probably notational.
Domesticated by humans in southern Arabia, the Camel seems to have arrived around 3,000 BCE and following a 2010 discovery of artefacts dated between 6590 and 7250 BCE in south-western Saudi Arabia, which appeared to portray horses, they arrived much earlier.
The age of this art is not really known but probably first or second millennium BCE.
This is only a small representation of the art found in Dhofar: it would need more time than I had available for a comprehensive presentation.

Ubar ?

Ubar ?
Ubar again.I have another post somewhere about this place they claim is The lost City of Ubar: known by various other names (Wubar, Wabar, Iram of the Pillars and Atlantis of the Sands mentioned by Lawrence of Arabia) but the more I visit, the more I think it lives by reputation & reality is something quite different.

It certainly held some significance for the Frankincense trade route but; looking at the site with mark one eyeball, it is small compared to Khor Rorī or Al Balid on the coast: a lot of wishful thinking going on me thinks.
Freya Stark sums it up.

When the explorer Freya Stark consulted the works of Arab geographers, she found a wide range of opinions as to the location of Wabar: “Yaqut says: “In Yemen is the qaria of Wabar.” El-Laith, quoted by Yaqut, puts it between the sands of Yabrin and Yemen. Ibn Ishaq… places it between “Sabub (unknown to Yaqut and Hamdani) and the Hadhramaut. Hamdani, a very reliable man, places it between Najran, Hadhramaut, Shihr and Mahra. Yaqut, presumably citing Hamdani, puts it between the boundaries of Shihr and San’a, and then, on the authority of Abu Mundhir between the sands of B.Sa’d (near Yabrin) and Shihr and Mahra. Abu Mundhir puts it between Hadhramaut and Najran.”

I paraphrase:   With such evidence, it seems quite possible  to find Wabar in opposite corners of Arabia.

Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

Trilith - Dhofar.Bronze Age Trilith – Dhofar.

This unusual row of stones is one of Oman’s more enigmatic archaeological finds: found in eastern Yemen & South West Oman,  C.400 B.C.E – 300 C.E.
The stones are usually found in groups of 3 to 15 (although longer rows have been seen) about 2 or 3 foot high and standing on end, forming a tripod structure with sometimes a capstone. Placed along side & parallel with Wadis or tracks; mostly stood on bedrock.
They are not burial places because they seem to be always placed on a hard rocky surface and that is about all anyone can be certain of. The construction period has been reasonably well confirmed by Carbon-14 dating, from ash remains of wood fires that seem to have been used within the structures.

The fence has been placed for their protection; a lot of sites can get damaged through ignorance or just basic theft of the stone as building material.

P.S I can thank Freyja my daughter who noticed these while we were driving some way off on the main road.

My Nikon 35Ti camera.

Nikon 35Ti Quartz Date compact camera, introduced in 1993. giving the ultimate in analogue technology (almost) more of this later

The titanium metal casing covers the motors and camera’s microelectronics, the top incorporates a unique, analogue display system. It shows all the important camera settings and the scales give a quick and easy guide during use. The Command Input Control dial, full 3D matrix metering and a superb f2.8 35mm lens, all add to the control over picture making that this camera gives. There is one caveat to this statement: the Iso is only set by the film canister coding (not changeable by the user, unless modification of the films DX coding) why this was done I have no idea.

There was another problem on early models of the 35mm but not the later 28mm cameras: the flash was difficult to control as it only had two buttons ‘on or fill’ switching off permanently meant a menu function needed to be selected (a forerunner of the nightmare found on some digital cameras) mine has the newer three button selection method not often seen when looking for one of these cameras in the used market.

A couple of other things it can do (not used by me) it will imprint data on the film !! not in the space between frames as seen with most professional SLR data backs. It can modify the framing for a form of panoramic image (crops top & bottom of the 35mm frame) a novelty and not worth using.

It also looks nice – like a well crafted piece of 50’s engineering, the Weston Euromaster meter from the 70’s is another; if you have not seen or used one then Google it.

Ruins – Birkat Al Mouz.

Enough of the sarcasm about the new WordPress reader: back to what passes as normal on this blog.


Ruins hidden behind some of the modern houses in the main thoroughfare of Birkat Al Mouz.

Ruins that most people miss when they visit this town: there was not two as I have seen mentioned, but three occupied areas until modernity arrived.
In his book “Across the Green Mountains of Oman” Colonel S B Miles says that in 1876 the population was about 3000 & the settlement is divided into three distinct hujrahs (sic) sections, Belonging to Sezzid Hamad and the other two to the El Amair & Beni Riyam tribes respectively.


The Jebel this morning.

the-jebelA quick stop on my way to Birkat Al-Mawz (Birkat Al Mouz) this morning.
I’m afraid there are going to be more posts about ruined villages in the next few days: I spent this morning going around the three abandoned areas of Birkat Al Mouz.


These abandoned villages were important stopping places on the camel route between Muscat and Al Buraimi. A camel In caravan can make about 20 miles a day and Al Buraimi was at least 350 miles by dirt track from Muscat; a long trip of many days, needing plenty of rest stops en-route.
The village (now town) of Al Buraimi was an important juncture between Oman proper & the Persian Gulf  ‘Arabian Gulf for some – depending on which map you look at and its age.

Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.

A great jazz version of the well-known  Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo: taken from the album Concierto by the Jim Hall sextet.
With a glass of Chateau Musar:  A red wine from grapes grow in the Beqaa Valley Lebanon.
Please click the link for the wine & get an interesting insight into a family run vineyard that has gone through great travails keeping this wine in production.

Testing a Nikon Df at night – Muttrah.

I have been testing a Nikon Df with its D4 sensor: these images were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f1.8AF G lens set @ f5.6.
All hand held at Iso 3200 apart from the water feature which was 10000 Iso (that is the correct number of zeros !) other than a little noise reduction & a small amount of sharpening, nothing else was done.
Raw NEF images converted to Tiff Adobe RGB then Jpeg s.RGB but no colour correction; the white balance was set on Auto 1.
All taken last night and never again, far more people than I like when out with my camera.

I don’t think I could do this using a film camera without many trials & tribulations.

Retouching prints.

retouching-imagesRetouching prints.

As you can see, I have a bad habit of taking over the dinning room table when retouching photographs: side light from the windows is good (my excuse anyway) which is a must.

As most of my work is on matte fibre papers (even my inkjet prints are matte papers mostly) I can use a number of different spotting mediums.
Spotone dyes are (were) the best IMHO but Marshalls are now the only archival liquid dye I know of. Two other methods can be used with good results: a range of artist quality pencils & the Edward Weston use of ink & gum arabic.  For this I use Japanese ink stick and varying amounts of the gum arabic; depending on how glossy the paper surface is.

Ink jet prints will sometimes get the odd white or pale spot that went unnoticed on the screen (especially in high-key images) they can be retouched using the same methods used for fibre prints. Yes I know I could just reprint, but sometimes I won’t notice the fault for several days.
It could also be that I have developed a parsimonious reason; the cost of Ilford fibre paper is not cheap now, neither is good inkjet paper. If the retouching is done well enough, it will never be noticed when the print is behind glass.

Two things from the above: a tip from my wife (an artist who uses both watercolour & oils) is, look at the image upside down in a mirror. The other being, leave a print where you can see it on a daily basis: both remove the image from the minds eye, one then looks at it with a fresh mind-set.

New lens – Nikkor 25-50mm f4 zoom.

Nikkor 25-50mm f4.Nikkor Ai 25-50mm f4.

A new addition to my manual focus Nikkor collection: The Nikkor Ai 25-50 f4 zoom lens.

Click lens image below for Nikon site.

As of May 2017: Nikon seems to have taken down their Nikkor 1001 Nights Tales – this is very sad because it had so much interesting information about the design and production of many lenses. I hope this is just for the duration of their 100th anniversary; it would be very short-sighted of them if it is gone for good.
Update 20 Aug 2017: it looks like all the tales ending with No.60 are back.

One of Nikon’s early professional zoom lenses, which should complement my ‘F’ camera quite nicely. This lens was manufactured in 1981 and by the end of that year was changed by Nikon to an Ai-s version. For some reason the second-hand price for the Ai-s version is more expensive than the Ai, there is no real reason for buying the later version unless one owns a Nikon FA camera, even then it is questionable as the internal construction of both lenses is exactly the same. All Ai / Ai-s lenses fit on every Nikon SLR camera, be they manual or AF with one caveat; some of the cheaper AF cameras will not meter with manual focus lenses (check your instruction manual). The only warning I would add here is ‘non Ai lenses’ made for the Nikon ‘F’ will damage most other cameras, with the exception of the F3, F4 & the Df !

See this link for camera compatibility: https://www.nikonians.org/reviews/nikon-slr-camera-and-lens-compatibility

This lens has some very nice qualities;  although long discontinued, it is without colour aberrations and images are sharp from corner-to-corner, light fall-off being very low even wide open. It will attain peak sharpness at f/5.6 and holds well even when stopped down to f/16 which delivers very good results.
Looking forward to cooler weather  😎 so that I can get out & about with it fitted on both film and digital cameras.


A bit of unabashed advertising: I must take this opportunity and introduce my wife’s E.Book.
If you have children who like reading or being read to and enjoy animal adventures, then I am sure they would enjoy this book.  If interested then click on the book cover for an Amazon link.

Three young animals meet after a very bad storm, in an ancient oak tree. A Siamese, a crow and squirrel. They become friends, until one of them with a sibling is taken to a new home by people who have never had cats before. The crow hearing the confused cries of his friends follows the car, thinking to rescue the Siamese kittens. At the journey’s end there is a stray tomcat lurking in a nearby hedge and nearly captures the crow. The stray is adopted by the humans and named Scarecrow.
Prior to this an older squirrel Twigleaf, fell into the river and got swept away, not far from the oak, which is his home.
There is open warfare between the Siamese kittens – Aqua and Tangsun her brother and the ginger tom, who misses his real family, recently returned from abroad. He had gone out within a few days and got lost in the storm, unable to smell his way back. The kittens new owners, cannot cope with the animosity, secretly preferring the tom, punish the Siamese. They become ill with parasites Scarecrow had picked up while he was a stray. Eventually Scarecrow and the kittens call a truce, the tom finds his old family and the Siamese escape, having all sorts of adventures manage to return to their mothers place just before a spring snow storm.

My Canon Pro9000 printer – update.

I am a very happy bunny…………………………   🙂

Just back from UK with a new print head and my printer is back up & running. It would seem that Canon were aware of problems with the original Pro9000 mk1 head; Pt No:- QY6-0055-000 and replaced it with a QY6-0076-000 which fits both the 9000 Mk1 & Mk2.
Amazon had Canon 0076 heads at about 98 pounds sterling, a lot less than was being asked for the original 0055 heads !!! so on advise I took the chance of buying one and lo & behold the printer is back fully serviceable.



Dead printer.

I have been using a Canon Pixma Pro9000 mk1 printer for a few years now: it has died…. Dead, given up the ghost – not a happy bunny !!!!

This printer has given sterling service & contrary to popular opinion, could produce some very nice B&W prints; provided a careful choice of paper was made and it was correctly profiled.

It would seem from the fault code indications that the print head has quit: every time I try doing a cleaning function it flashes ‘printer says no’. Gone through all the suggestions found on the trusty internet, no luck.
This printer looks like new and has always been kept covered when not in use; never had any problems, until now. I should have known, as the Canon agent tempted fate when I was buying new ink “gosh that’s an old printer, why not buy a new one” hummm.
What is it with electronic items these days, it’s a constant battle against new operating systems, drivers, spares & a barrage of being told new is better. Try telling that to my Nikon F or F2SB, new is not always better – just different & usually far more complicated when faced with scrolling through menus just because a function needs changing.
Things just never last: Don’t get me started on saving the planet  “ You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”

Gosh I am having a rant: probably because I have seen the price of a new print head; that is if a supplier has stock ! Two thirds of what the whole printer cost me. Ho well, there is always the Darkroom  🙂

I am on my way back home in a few days so will search and see what Canon UK says.

Nikkor 43-86 AIs zoom.

43-86 AIs Nikkor Sno-1037665Soft at the edges even at f8.

43-86 AIs Nikkor 43mm @ f5.643-86 AIs Nikkor – 43mm @ f5.6.

Hummm…. Distortion is as bad as people say ! but for general use it’s probably ok – just no architectural images: I don’t want to hear  it can be corrected in Lightroom !!! this is a film camera lens. Distortion like this is almost impossible to correct in the darkroom.

This is one of the last made, with a Sno: 1037665 which is an improved version. I wonder why Nikon thought it was ok, although the construction is of a very high standard which is missed with most of the AF lenses foisted on us these days.

Further reading about this lens.

In the Nikon article below, the operative word is “skilfully”

Nikon in their Nikkor – The Thousand and One Nights series (very interesting for those who use Nikon) do acknowledge its limitations :  http://www.nikkor.com/story/0004/

“While there is no denying that its performance does not match that of its contemporary fixed focal length lenses or the latest zoom lenses, the 43-86mm instigated the development of the whole standard zoom lens genre, and deserves our esteem as the lens which more than any other popularised the use of zoom lenses by allowing the man on the street to experience the convenience and joys of zoom photography. It is still an eminently usable lens which if used skilfully can provide a unique and evocative quality unattainable with today’s lenses.
This lens, with its trademark array of coloured, engraved lines indicating depth of field over the zoom range decorating the lens barrel, is definitely one of the great lens to bear the Nikkor name”.